I use the command line a lot, even though I am on a graphical user-interface like Windows or macOS. And since I’m lazy, I write a lot of scripts to perform repetitive tasks. The downside of command-line is that there is no standard way to interact with GUI features. I stumbled across a command in macOS, recently that allows command line programs to copy/paste between the clipboard that we’re so used to using.
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macOS has two commands,
pbcopy, which “paste” from the pasteboard to
stdout and copies from
stdin to the pasteboard, respectively (macOS calls their clipboard the “pasteboard”). For the command-line, these will only transfer text content, naturally. With these commands, then, you can pipe or redirect content as you would with any other command-line filter.
Say, you are in your browser and want to copy the URL from your browser and use it in a command on the command-line, after copying the URL from the browser, you could run a command like:
curl `pbpaste` pbcopy
Then paste into a text editor to see the raw output returned by the URL. (For the uninitiated, those single-quotes (
`) are backwards single quotes).
Windows and Cygwin
Cygwin Equivalent For Mac
On Windows, I use Cygwin. This provides the same kind of command line capability as macOS and Linux, so rather than learning an operating system specific command-line syntax, I use Cygwin on Windows for consistency with other systems. Having found
pbcopy, I figured (and hoped) there was similar functionality in Cygwin. There is, but it works differently. Instead, they implement a clipboard device at
/dev/clipboard. So, it isn’t a command, but we can create a couple of aliases to make the device act like it:
if [ -e /dev/clipboard ]; then
alias pbcopy=’cat >/dev/clipboard’
alias pbpaste=’cat /dev/clipboard’
With those settings, you can use pbcopy/paste commands in the same fashion as in macOS and write scripts that will work in both environments.
The Cygwin DLL currently works with all recent, commercially released x86_64 versions of Windows, starting with Windows Vista. For more information see the FAQ.
The most recent version of the Cygwin DLL is 3.2.0.
Install Cygwin by running setup-x86_64.exe
Download Cygwin For Mac
Use the setup program to perform a fresh install or to update an existing installation.
Keep in mind that individual packages in the distribution are updated separately from the DLL so the Cygwin DLL version is not useful as a general Cygwin distribution release number.
Support for Cygwin
For all Cygwin-related questions and observations, please check the resources available at this site, such as the FAQ, the User's Guide and the mailing list archives. If you've exhausted these resources then please send email to an appropriate mailing list. This includes observations about web pages, setup questions, questions about where to find things, questions about why things are done a certain way, questions about the color preferences of Cygwin developers, questions about the meaning of the number 42, etc.
Please send notification of technical problems (bad html, broken links) concerning these web pages to the Cygwin mailing list.
Please do not send personal email with 'quick questions' to individual Cygwin contributors. The Cygwin mailing lists are the places for all questions. Really. I mean it.
32 bit Cygwin
Address space is a very limiting factor for Cygwin. These days, a full 32 bit Cygwin distro is not feasible anymore, and will in all likelihood fail in random places due to an issue with the fork(2) system call.
Therefore we recommend using 32 bit Cygwin only in limited scenarios, with only a minimum of necessary packages installed, and only if there's no way to run 64 bit Cygwin instead.
You have been warned. If you're still sure you really need a 32 bit Cygwin, and there's absolutely no way around it, you may run the setup-x86.exe installer.