Copy/Paste data from clipboard using the terminal in mac os

Problem

You are inside the terminal and wish to interact with the clipboard of the Operating System. This post is about using the terminal in Mac OS to perform copy and paste actions with some real-world examples.

WRITE INTO CLIPBOARD
pbcopy
READ FROM CLIPBOARD
pbpaste
EXAMPLES – copying

Copy a text file into clipboard. Suppose a given text file named key.txt having the following content:

485w09587430958723094785320

If you wish to copy the contents of the file into clipboard and the file exists in the current path, the command is as follows:

pbcopy < key.txt

The contents are copied into the clipboard. This means that, e.g. in a web browser, these data can be pasted by using the classic shortcut: (Command) ⌘ + V or from the menu Edit -> Paste.

Copy typed text into the clipboard using pipes

echo "some typed text to be copied" | pbcopy
EXAMPLES – pasting

Simply paste the clipboard contents into the terminal

pbpaste

Something more interesting, let us assume you copied some URL and wish to perform a curl.

URL copied: https://programmerabr.wpenginepowered.com/

curl `pbpaste`

the above will print on the console all the source code of this blog’s home page.

Similarly, copy a URL from the address bar of the web browser (or type it in double quotes like below), curl it and then save it to a file. One way of doing it is as follows:

echo "https://programmerabr.wpenginepowered.com/" | pbcopy
curl `pbpaste` > /tmp/programmerabroad.html
open /tmp/programmerabroad.html

Running the above 3 lines of code will simply save the webpage into a temporary file and open it using the default web browser. We can extract this piece of code and use it as a script to save automatically the web pages from copied URLs.

Conclusion

Knowing the existence of these two commands can be really useful and helpful. These commands exist equivalently in other operating systems like Linux or Windows. They might differ in name but conceptually they can be used in the same way.


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