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Clipboard integration

From: Unix for Mac OS X Users

Video: Clipboard integration

On the Mac you're probably with the concept of the Clipboard. You're inside a document in one application, you select some text, you copy it, you switch to another document or another application, and you paste it there. Well, in Unix we don't have a global clipboard like that. But we can make use of the same one that the Mac Finder uses. And we can use it within Unix or we can use it to ferry data back and forth between Unix and the Finder. To do it we'll use a pair of Mac-only Unix commands called pbcopy and pbpaste. The pb stands for Pasteboard. Now when you're going to select something and copy it in the Finder, you use your mouse to select it.

Clipboard integration

On the Mac you're probably with the concept of the Clipboard. You're inside a document in one application, you select some text, you copy it, you switch to another document or another application, and you paste it there. Well, in Unix we don't have a global clipboard like that. But we can make use of the same one that the Mac Finder uses. And we can use it within Unix or we can use it to ferry data back and forth between Unix and the Finder. To do it we'll use a pair of Mac-only Unix commands called pbcopy and pbpaste. The pb stands for Pasteboard. Now when you're going to select something and copy it in the Finder, you use your mouse to select it.

But in Unix we don't have a mouse. I mean of course I have the mouse here. That's the Mac OS allowing me to work with Terminal. But in Unix itself, it's all command line. So in order to select something we're going to need to have input. And we've already seen how to work with input in Unix. So let's say for example that I hit ls -lah. If I just hit Return, that'll go to standard out. But instead what I can do is pipe that output as input into pbcopy. Now that same text that would've been output is on my Clipboard.

We can see that if we just switch into TextMate real quick. We'll open a new document and paste it in there. This can be really handy when we're working in Unix and let's say we're trying to pull out a couple of columns out of our us_presidents tab separated values file. Well, we can find everything that we want. Now we certainly could select this and then we could scroll back up the page, but that might be a lot. Instead, a much simpler way would just be to simply take that and send it to pbcopy. Now without any output and without having to switch and use our mouse to copy the text, we've got it on our Clipboard. We can switch to the Finder and we can paste it in there.

And we can use our other techniques for directing input, so pbcopy and let's pipe in our lorem_ipsum.txt file. Now the entire contents of that file are on the Clipboard. We didn't open it, we didn't have to scroll up at the Terminal output and select it and then copy it, fill up our Terminal window. All we did was take the contents of the file, put it on our Clipboard so we're ready to do something with it. Now the companion to pbcopy is pbpaste. So we just do pbpaste by itself. It outputs whatever is on the Clipboard to the standard out. So there we are.

We see it in the Terminal window. We can instead direct that output. We can for example, send it to a file, so clipboard.txt. Now that content is in a file. One nice trick that I like to use with directing output from pbpaste is to create an alias. I'll call it pbsort and from that what we'll do is we'll say take whatever is on the Clipboard and paste it, pipe it into sort, and then pipe the results of that back onto the Clipboard. Replace what's on the Clipboard essentially with now the new sorted version. Now remember, aliases that you want to keep around you'll need to put in your bashrc file.

But this will serve our purposes. Let's say that I have a list: monkey, zebra, lion, tiger, and bear. I'll take that, send it in to translate to convert the commas into new lines so each one will get its own line, and then I'll put it on my Clipboard. Now I'll just call my pbsort and now it's sorted. pbpaste, you can see it, or we can switch into another document somewhere else and paste it in there. Now the original list doesn't have to start in Unix either. We could, for example, copy this, put it on our Clipboard, switch over to Unix, and regardless of what directory we are in, we just type pbsort. Boom! My Clipboard is now sorted.

We come back into whatever application we were working in and we paste the sorted version back in. The last trick that I want to show you is how to use multiple clipboards. Have you ever wished that you had more than one clipboard when you were working on the Mac? Well, it may surprise you to learn that Mac OS X actually has four clipboards. It has the general Clipboard which we've been using here and then it has one called find, one called font, and one called ruler. The find one you may have bumped into before because it's whenever you do a find in something like your web browser for example. You do a find there, it puts it on the Clipboard, and then when you switch to another application, you do a find there, you may see that same value pop up, and you may have wondered how did it get that, how did it have that same value that was in that other application? Well, it's because it was on the Find Clipboard.

From Unix we can actually directly access these. So for example, let's say we have First, and we'll send that to pbcopy, and then we'll specify the clipboard we want with pboard followed by either the words general, font, find, or ruler. So general is the one we've been using. Let's now echo "Second" and let's pipe this to pbcopy, but this time the Pasteboard that we'll use will be the find. Now if we just say pbpaste, which one will we get? Well, we get the contents of the general one.

But if we say pbpaste with pboard find, now we get the contents of the second one. It can be a really handy way for you to juggle data. If there is something on your Clipboard that you don't want to lose, well, you can just switch it to another Clipboard. Just pipe it off of one Clipboard onto the Ruler Clipboard let's say, and then go ahead and do the regular copy/paste you need. When you're done you can issue another command that will pipe it back from the Ruler Clipboard onto your general Clipboard and you won't lose the data. I think you'll find that using pbcopy and pbpaste will really enhance the way you work with the Clipboard.

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This video is part of

Image for Unix for Mac OS X Users
Unix for Mac OS X Users

82 video lessons · 26212 viewers

Kevin Skoglund
Author

 
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  1. 3m 57s
    1. Introduction
      1m 14s
    2. Using the exercise files
      2m 43s
  2. 32m 2s
    1. What is Unix?
      7m 27s
    2. The terminal application
      4m 23s
    3. Logging in and using the command prompt
      5m 19s
    4. Command structure
      5m 22s
    5. Kernel and shells
      5m 25s
    6. Unix manual pages
      4m 6s
  3. 15m 58s
    1. The working directory
      2m 49s
    2. Listing files and directories
      3m 59s
    3. Moving around the filesystem
      4m 58s
    4. Filesystem organization
      4m 12s
  4. 1h 4m
    1. Naming files
      5m 41s
    2. Creating files
      2m 19s
    3. Unix text editors
      6m 39s
    4. Reading files
      5m 35s
    5. Reading portions of files
      3m 27s
    6. Creating directories
      2m 40s
    7. Moving and renaming files and directories
      8m 32s
    8. Copying files and directories
      3m 7s
    9. Deleting files and directories
      3m 38s
    10. Finder aliases in Unix
      4m 10s
    11. Hard links
      5m 30s
    12. Symbolic links
      6m 36s
    13. Searching for files and directories
      6m 32s
  5. 34m 58s
    1. Who am I?
      4m 3s
    2. Unix groups
      1m 52s
    3. File and directory ownership
      6m 41s
    4. File and directory permissions
      4m 27s
    5. Setting permissions using alpha notation
      6m 49s
    6. Setting permissions using octal notation
      3m 49s
    7. The root user
      1m 57s
    8. sudo and sudoers
      5m 20s
  6. 52m 34s
    1. Command basics
      4m 4s
    2. The PATH variable
      4m 13s
    3. System information commands
      3m 40s
    4. Disk information commands
      6m 8s
    5. Viewing processes
      5m 0s
    6. Monitoring processes
      3m 36s
    7. Stopping processes
      3m 19s
    8. Text file helpers
      6m 50s
    9. Utility programs
      7m 28s
    10. Using the command history
      8m 16s
  7. 20m 39s
    1. Standard input and standard output
      1m 24s
    2. Directing output to a file
      4m 13s
    3. Appending to a file
      2m 44s
    4. Directing input from a file
      5m 28s
    5. Piping output to input
      4m 40s
    6. Suppressing output
      2m 10s
  8. 41m 28s
    1. Profile, login, and resource files
      9m 11s
    2. Setting command aliases
      6m 59s
    3. Setting and exporting environment variables
      4m 54s
    4. Setting the PATH variable
      6m 10s
    5. Configuring history with variables
      6m 17s
    6. Customizing the command prompt
      6m 5s
    7. Logout file
      1m 52s
  9. 1h 25m
    1. grep: Searching for matching expressions
      5m 21s
    2. grep: Multiple files, other input
      4m 28s
    3. grep: Coloring matched text
      2m 57s
    4. Introduction to regular expressions
      3m 22s
    5. Regular expressions: Basic syntax
      3m 19s
    6. Using regular expressions with grep
      5m 20s
    7. tr: Translating characters
      8m 17s
    8. tr: Deleting and squeezing characters
      5m 30s
    9. sed: Stream editor
      7m 45s
    10. sed: Regular expressions and back-references
      7m 8s
    11. cut: Cutting select text portions
      7m 42s
    12. diff: Comparing files
      4m 35s
    13. diff: Alternative formats
      4m 30s
    14. xargs: Passing argument lists to commands
      7m 25s
    15. xargs: Usage examples
      7m 59s
  10. 42m 25s
    1. Finder integration
      4m 45s
    2. Clipboard integration
      5m 5s
    3. Screen capture
      3m 42s
    4. Shut down, reboot, and sleep
      3m 34s
    5. Text to speech
      2m 36s
    6. Spotlight integration: Searching metadata
      3m 41s
    7. Spotlight integration: Metadata attributes
      4m 24s
    8. Using AppleScript
      5m 23s
    9. System configurations: Viewing and setting
      5m 51s
    10. System configurations: Examples
      3m 24s
  11. 1m 26s
    1. Conclusion
      1m 26s

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