Getting Screen's Copy Buffer Into X's Copy Buffer (on Linux)

Type "c-a b" in gnu screen after updating your .screenrc (See Description below).
This command will let you just type c-a b (which means press 'ctrl' then 'a' then 'b'), and screen will save your copy buffer to /tmp/screen-exchange, and then execute xsel to copy the contents of that file into the system's X clipboard. 1. Install Conrad Parker's xsel from 2. Add these lines to your .screenrc # Add cool line to make copying to x clipboard possible. # This binds C-a b to copy screen's copy buffer to the system clipboard. bind b eval writebuf 'exec /bin/sh -c "xsel -i -b < /tmp/screen-exchange"' 'exec /bin/sh -c "killall xsel"' 3. Restart screen. 4. Test it by typing c-a [ to enter copy mode. 5. Select some text using vi movement keys (h, j, k, l, etc...) and starting your selection by hitting the space bar, moving with vi movement keys, and then ending your selection with the space bar. 6. Type C-a b, and screen will use xsel to copy your screen copy buffer to the system's X clipboard buffer. 7. Then you can paste the screen copy buffer into any X program. Note: If you're using Mac OSX, you can use pbcopy instead of xsel. Also Note: The second exec in the .screenrc file, which runs killall on xsel, is necessary, because even when you redirect a file to xsel, xsel waits for you to press ctrl-c to kill it, and have it stop waiting for more input. Since xsel forces screen to wait, and I don't want to press ctrl-c, I send the equivalent of ctrl-c with killall causing xsel to write /tmp/screen-exchange to the X clipboard, and then exit. It's a hack, but it works. If you know how to get this to work without a lame hack leave a comment explaining how.
Sample Output
Filter running: ... /bin/sh -c xsel -i -b < /tmp/screen-exchange

By: deeelwy
2009-05-23 02:10:12

What Others Think

As long as you want less than a screenful, there's always select in your terminal and then paste with middle-click.
bwoodacre · 678 weeks and 3 days ago
@bwoodacre, screen's copy function is much more powerful - it allows block copying so you can copy a block of text without all the hassle of the margins, line numbers etc. This command is great! I use Ratpoison window, so I prefer using the keyboard to the mouse.
harryhaller · 671 weeks and 1 day ago
If some find it doesn't work with their WM, then they should try: xsel -i instead of xsel -i -b since the -b puts into the clipboard, and without the -b it goes (by default) into the primary buffer. On my WM, Ratpoison, the primary buffer is used instead of the clipboard. Read man xsel. There are also other programmes such as xclip and xcb which might be used as well as xsel - though xsel does the job fine. Pity we have to do the C-a b - I wish there was a way to put it straight into the buffer/clipboard without the extra step.... ;-) A very good command - thanks deeelwy!
harryhaller · 671 weeks and 1 day ago

What do you think?

Any thoughts on this command? Does it work on your machine? Can you do the same thing with only 14 characters?

You must be signed in to comment.

What's this? is the place to record those command-line gems that you return to again and again. That way others can gain from your CLI wisdom and you from theirs too. All commands can be commented on, discussed and voted up or down.

Share Your Commands

Stay in the loop…

Follow the Tweets.

Every new command is wrapped in a tweet and posted to Twitter. Following the stream is a great way of staying abreast of the latest commands. For the more discerning, there are Twitter accounts for commands that get a minimum of 3 and 10 votes - that way only the great commands get tweeted.


Subscribe to the feeds.

Use your favourite RSS aggregator to stay in touch with the latest commands. There are feeds mirroring the 3 Twitter streams as well as for virtually every other subset (users, tags, functions,…):

Subscribe to the feed for: