Copying text from a terminal

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Most mature terminal emulators permit users to copy or save their contents.

General approach

In graphical terminal emulators, contents are typically selectable by mouse, and can then be copied using the context menu, Edit menu or a key combination such as Ctrl+Shift+C.

Terminals without CLIPBOARD selection

Some emulators do not support the CLIPBOARD selection natively, and copy data to the PRIMARY selection. For them xclip may be used:

$ xclip -o | xclip -selection clipboard -i

The above command reads data from the PRIMARY selection and writes it to CLIPBOARD selection.

Other clipboard managers such as autocutsel provide automatic synchronization between selection buffers.

Intercepting commands’s output

Use tee to intercept the output of a command.

$ command 2>&1 | tee output-file

After the command is executed, output-file will contain its output.

Accessing Linux terminal backlog

The backlog of a native terminal named /dev/ttyN may be accessed via /dev/vcsN. Hence, if one is working in /dev/tty1, the following snippet will let store the backlog in a file output-file:

# cat /dev/vcs1 >output-file

Comparison of common emulators

Tango-inaccurate.pngThe factual accuracy of this article or section is disputed.Tango-inaccurate.png

Reason: Some "No" entries in this table may be wrong. (Discuss in Talk:Copying text from a terminal#A cheatsheet for common emulators: "No" entries factual accuracy)

Unless the Key combination column states otherwise, the key combination is Ctrl+Shift+c.

Emulator Select to PRIMARY CLIPBOARD
Key combination Context menu Window menu Select
atermAUR Yes No No No No
etermAUR Yes No No No No
germinalAUR Yes Yes Yes No No
Guake Yes Yes Yes No No
konsole Yes Yes Yes Yes Optional
lilyterm-gitAUR Yes Yes Ctrl+Delete Yes No No
lxterminal Yes Yes Yes Yes No
mate-terminal Yes Yes Yes Yes No
mltermAUR Yes No No No Yes
pantheon-terminal Yes Yes Yes No No
PuTTY Yes No No No No
qterminal Yes Yes Yes Yes No
roxtermAUR Yes Yes Yes Yes No
rxvtAUR Yes No No No No
sakura Yes Yes Yes Yes No
st Yes Yes No No No
Terminator Yes Yes Yes No No
terminology Yes Yes Yes No No
Termite Yes Yes No No No
Tilda Yes Yes Yes No No
tinyterm-gitAUR Yes Yes No No No
urxvt Yes Yes Ctrl+Alt+c No No Optional
xfce4-terminal Yes Yes Yes Yes No
xterm Yes Optional[1] No No Yes
Yakuake Yes Yes Yes No Optional

Special cases

putty

The xclip approach works for putty: one just has to remember that the xclip invocation should be done on the local computer (in another terminal), not on the remote machine to which putty is connected.

urxvt

Selecting text to CLIPBOARD requires the selection-to-clipboard perl extension. See Rxvt-unicode#Cut and paste for details.

xterm

Access to the CLIPBOARD selection in xterm requires additional steps.