Instead of using the following command:

cp {source file} {dest file}

I want to be able to copy a file into the clipboard, and paste it somewhere else, in another directory. something like this:

/usr/local/dir1# cp {source file}
/usr/local/dir1# cd /usr/local/dir2
/usr/local/dir2# paste

Is it possible?

3 Answers 3


I think you should do something like the GUI applications do. My idea for doing this is to write two functions for Copy and Paste, where Copy writes path of files to be copied to a temporary file and Paste reads those paths and simply calls cp command. My implementation (to be put in .bashrc file) is like below:

function Copy {
    touch ~/.clipfiles
    for i in "$@"; do
      if [[ $i != /* ]]; then i=$PWD/$i; fi
      i=${i//\\/\\\\}; i=${i//$'\n'/$'\\\n'}
      printf '%s\n' "$i"
    done >> ~/.clipfiles

function Paste {
    while IFS= read src; do
      cp -Rdp "$src" .
    done < ~/.clipfiles
    rm ~/.clipfiles

Better scripts could be written for implementing this idea, I tested my own and it works very well for files and folders (I don't know how xclip could work for copying folders!!)

For example:

/usr/local/dir1# Copy a.txt *.cpp
/usr/local/dir1# cd /usr/local/dir2
/usr/local/dir2# Paste

/usr/local/dir1# Copy *.h *.cpp b.txt subdir1
/usr/local/dir1# cd /usr/local/dir2
/usr/local/dir2# Paste

/usr/local/dir1# Copy a.txt b.txt 
/usr/local/dir1# cd /usr/local/dir2
/usr/local/dir2# Copy c.txt d.txt
/usr/local/dir2# cd /usr/local/dir3
/usr/local/dir3# Paste
  • 1
    This works like a charm!
    – B Faley
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 13:55
  • 2
    I like this idea. And with little modifications, you could even implement a "cut" function too. Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 16:03
  • @Gilles Could you please explain why you replaced echo with printf?
    – B Faley
    Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 14:53
  • @Meysam To work even under shopt -s xpg_echo. Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 16:46
  • 1
    @Meysam printf is portable and safe while echo is not. The Wooledge wiki mentions this briefly.
    – jw013
    Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 21:59

i suggest xclip. i use it all the time for this. but you don't need a script. just use functions.

i see no need to use these scripts, in particular, because if you are doing what i think you are doing, you will find the scripts already mentioned (on the helpful linux tidbits blog) annoying because they prompt you for input wherever possible, just to use them, contrary to the unix philosophy.

i suggest just writing some functions into your .bashrc:

clip2file () {
  xclip -out -selection clipboard >> $@
  echo -e "\n" >> $@

file2clip () {
  cat $@ | xclip -selection clipboard

to use these, you need to apt-get install xclip (Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, etc.) or zypper in xclip (openSUSE, other .rpm-based systems) or some equivalent. the program should be available on whatever system you are using.


You can use the xclip command for this. You can download bash scripts from this link and put aliases for bash cp2clip and bash clippaste into your .bashrc file.

  • @what do you mean by aliases?
    – ixtmixilix
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 11:24
  • i meant keep the files in your home directory and put two aliases in your .bashrc alias cp2clip = 'bash /home/<username>/cp2clip.sh' and clippaste='bash /home/<username>/clippaste.sh' so you can use these anywhere. To read more about aliases you can see man alias or linfo.org/alias.html Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 11:30

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