In a GUI file manager it is possible to select a few files, press Ctrl-C (which supposedly copies come info about the files to clipboard), then navigate to another folder and press Ctrl-V, which will then copy the files into that directory.

As an experiment, after copying files in the file manager, it is possible to switch to a text editor - pressing Ctrl-V there pastes a list of absolute filenames. The reverse process (copying a list of files from a text editor and pasting them to a file manager) does not work, which is supposedly due to different target atoms

The goal of the exercise is to be able to copy some files from command line, for example

find ${PWD} -name "*.txt" | xclip <magic parameters>

then switch to a file manager and copy them all to a directory using File->Paste.

So, the question is: What parameters of xclip (or other program) do I need to specify so file manager recognizes the selection as a list of files and enables its Paste menu item?

Alternatively, is there a low-level tool which would allow to inspect the contents of X selection and see what data it currently contains?


Yes, basically, you'd need to offer the CLIPBOARD selection either as

  • text/uri-list with the content being

  • application/x-kde-cutselection or x-special/gnome-copied-files with content copy\nfile://$path1\nfile://$path2\0 or cut\nfile://$path1\nfile://$path2...\0

With xclip you can achieve this with something like

find "$PWD" -name "*.pdf"| xclip -i -selection clipboard -t text/uri-list

I've also found this loliclip command that looked promising, but though I could retrieve the values, I wasn't able to store them and have them retrieved from loliclip by pcmanfm successfully.

You also should be able to implement it in a few lines of perl-tk.

  • Ok, after some tinkering the text/uri-list variant worked for me - I'm able to copy stuff from command line and paste files into Dolphin file manager. It doesn't even require file:// prefixes, which make the command to work fine with find. I've edited your question to add the command which works for me in KDE - can anybody test it in Gnome or elsewhere? – Sergey Nov 1 '12 at 22:33
  • Thanks for the edit. It looks like the file:// is not necessary with pcmanfm either (though pcmanfm does include it itself). I suppose some special characters (at the very least LF) should be URI-encoded though. – Stéphane Chazelas Nov 1 '12 at 22:47
  • Yes. I can confirm you need to use file:///new%0Aline for files that contain a newline characters, though any other character (including non-ASCII in any encoding) seems to be fine (with pcmanfm at least) – Stéphane Chazelas Nov 1 '12 at 22:57

why not just make find do it for you?

find ${PWD} -name "*.txt" -exec cp {} /full/path \; && gnome-open /full/path &

EDIT: from what I understand from man xclip: it handles text only, not files or directories.

  • Mostly because it's an experiment, although I think the "copy files to clipboard now, decide where you want to paste them later" would be a useful way to do things. – Sergey Nov 1 '12 at 22:10

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