Ubuntu – How to pipe terminal standard output (stdout) to the clipboard

clipboardcommand linepipe

For example,

Say I want to list the contents of a folder and directly paste them into a chat window for a friend to see.

I realize I could do ls > filename.txt to create a file (filename.txt) with those contents; I'd then have to open or print the file and manually select and copy the text block (which can be annoying/tedious.) I clearly could also select and copy the output of ls directly from within the terminal window.

It would be much faster/easier to simply pipe standard output to the clipboard.

What terminal command allows me to do this?

Best Answer

This can be done with either xsel or xclip command line utilities. Since neither program comes with Ubuntu by default you'll need to first install them via Ubuntu Software or the terminal. Here's how in the terminal (but remember you only need one of these two.)

sudo apt install xsel
sudo apt install xclip

Note: If you're using Ubuntu in Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) see this other answer instead.

Now some examples. If you want to copy the output of ls to the clipboard here's what you'd do:

With xsel:

ls | xsel -ib

With xclip:

ls | xclip -sel clip

This can of course be utilized for other terminal commands as well. Let's say you want to paste your network info into a help forum.

With xsel:

sudo lshw -C network | xsel -ib

With xclip:

sudo lshw -C network | xclip -sel clip

Make this even easier with a new bash alias!

Edit your ~/.bash_aliases file (if it doesn't exist yet create it first with touch ~/.bash_aliases)

Then add one (depending on which program you decided to go with) of the following:

alias copy='xclip -sel clip'


alias copy='xsel -ib'

Then save and close.

Now (after restarting your terminal) you can send standard output to the clipboard just by piping it to 'copy' (or whatever you decide to name your new alias)

For example:

ls | copy