Copying text from a terminal

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

A cheatsheet for 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 "Notes" column states otherwise, the keys combination is Ctrl+Shift+c.

Emulator Selection → PRIMARY Selection → CLIPBOARD
Automatic Keys combination Context menu → Copy Window menu → Copy Notes
atermAUR Yes No No No No
ETermAUR Yes No No No No
germinalAUR Yes No Yes Yes No
guake Yes No Yes Yes No
konsole Yes No Yes Yes Yes
lilyterm Yes No Yes Yes No Ctrl+Delete
lxterminal Yes No Yes Yes Yes
mate-terminal Yes No Yes Yes Yes
mltermAUR Yes Yes No No No
pantheon-terminal Yes No Yes Yes No
putty Yes No No No No
qterminal Yes No Yes Yes Yes
roxterm Yes No Yes Yes Yes
rxvtAUR Yes No No No No
sakura Yes No Yes Yes Yes
st Yes No No No No
terminator Yes No Yes Yes No
terminology Yes No Yes Yes No
termite Yes No Yes No No
tilda Yes No Yes Yes No
tinyterm-gitAUR Yes No Yes No No
urxvt Yes Optional Yes No No Ctrl+Alt+c
xfce4-terminal Yes No Yes Yes Yes
xterm Yes Yes Optional No No [1]
yakuake Yes No Yes Yes No

Special cases


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.


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


Access to the CLIPBOARD selection in xterm requires additional steps.