Is it possible to copy a file in unix without showing the contents of the file? I don't want to see vi or cat

I want to copy them to the clipboard to get the information to be pasted to my notepad

I can't copy the file from this server to another because of access restrictions

Best Answer


If using X11 (the most common GUI on traditional Unix or Linux based systems), to copy the content of a file to the X11 CLIPBOARD selection without displaying it, you can use the xclip or xsel utility.

xclip -sel c < file


xsel -b < file

to store the content of file as the CLIPBOARD X11 selection.

To store the output of a command

mycommand | xclip -sel c
mycommand | xsel -b

Note that the data should be stored using utf-8 encoding or otherwise the paste won't work properly If the file is encoded using an another character set, you should convert to UTF-8 first, like.

<file iconv -f latin1 -t utf8 | xclip -sel c

for a file encoded in latin1 / iso8859-1 .

xsel doesn't work with binary data (it doesn't accept null bytes), but xclip does.

To store it as a CUT_BUFFER (those are still queried by some applications like xterm when nothing claims the CLIPBOARD or PRIMARY X selections and don't need to have a process running to serve it like for selections), though you probably won't want or need to use that nowadays.

xprop -root -format CUT_BUFFER0 8s -set CUT_BUFFER0 "$(cat file)"

(removes the trailing newline characters from file ).

GNU screen

GNU screen has the readbuf command to slurp the content of a file into its own copy-paste buffer (which you paste with ^A] ). So.

screen -X readbuf file

Apple OS/X

Though Apple OS/X can use X11. It's not by default unless you run x11-based applications You would be able to use xclip or xsel there as OS/X should synchronise the X11 CLIPBOARD selection with OS/X pasteboard buffers, but that would be a bit of a waste to start the X11 server just for that.

On OS/X, you can use the pbcopy command to store arbitrary content into pasteboard buffers.

pbcopy < file

(the file's character encoding is expected to be the locale's one). To store the output of a command

mycommand | pbcopy


Most shells have their own copy-pasting buffers In emacs mode, cut and copy operations store the copied/cut text onto a stack which you yank/paste with Ctrl-Y , and cycle through with Alt+Y

zsh CUTBUFFER/killring

In zsh , the stack is stored in the $killring array and the top of the stack in the $CUTBUFFER variable though those variables are only available from Zsh Line Editor (zle) widgets and a few specialised widgets are the prefered way to manipulate those.

Because these are only available via the zle the execution of commands is a little convoluted

zmodload zsh/mapfile
zle-line-init() {
  if [ -n "$FILE_TO_COPY" ]; then
    zle copy-region-as-kill $mapfile[$FILE_TO_COPY]
    unset FILE_TO_COPY
mycommand | pbcopy
mycommand | pbcopy
zle -N zle-line-init
file-copy() FILE_TO_COPY=$1:A

The zle-line-init special widget is executed once at the start of each new command prompt. What this means is that the file will only be copied at the next prompt For instance, if you do.

file-copy file; sleep 2

The file will only be copied after these two seconds