Vim and the Clipboard

I am a heavy vim user and want to be able to copy and paste from the system clipboard so that, for example, I can edit my posts in vim and then paste them from firefox in here. I should also mention that I prefer to use terminal not gui versions of vim which influences the solutions recommended below.


Use pbcopy and pbpaste. These are two very useful Mac OSX terminal commands that give access to the system clipboard. To use from vim pipe your selection (using ‘!’) through them, e.g. to copy the whole document to the clipboard:



Method 1: similar to Mac OSX trick using xclip (sudo apt-get install xclip) and then pipe through that. Specifically:

:%!xclip -i -selection clipboard

Method 2: If you have xterm-clipboard enabled in your version of vim (not the case in the default version of vim installed, you’ll need vim-full) you can access the clipboard as a register. Selection register is named ‘*’ and clipboard is named ‘+’. So to copy to the clipboard get your selection and then do:


For more information on vim and the xclipboard do:

:help x11-selection

or see (2008-01-02: or

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  1. weronika
    Posted February 14, 2007 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Thanks, that’s very useful!

    I don’t seem to be able to paste an arbitrary selection to the clipboard (in Mac OS X) – even if I visual-select one word, the whole line ends up copied. It looks like the ! command just works that way. Is there any way around that?

  2. rgrp
    Posted February 14, 2007 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    If you do visual selection at the command line you should be able to just use standard apple + C key combo to copy. The pbcopy command is for when you want to pipe stuff or want to copy a selection you have selected using vim key commands (so not when using the mouse).

  3. Anson
    Posted February 17, 2007 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I just was trying to find a solution to this problem. I prefer to use vim in a terminal exclusively. And the reason I use vim is because I would rather not use the mouse if at all possible.

    I ended up adding a short perl script inside my ~/.vim directory. I’m pretty sure this is non-standard. I made the directory ~/.vim/misc, and added it there. This is the script:


    $lines = ; chomp $lines if($lines =~ m/^$/); $lines .= $_ while(); chomp $lines; print $lines;

    I then add this mapping to my .vimrc:

    map :enewp:%!~/.vim/misc/ pbcopy:bw!

    It’s not the most elegant way to handle the problem, but it suits my needs so far. I just do any standard yank, then hit f2 if I want it on the system clipboard.

    Hope it helps someone.

  4. Posted February 17, 2007 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I was afraid of that. Check my website link.

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