How to Copy Paste in Linux Terminal [For Absolute Beginners]

Here are various ways to copy paste text and commands in Linux terminal along with explanation on why Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V doesn't work in the terminal.

I have been using Linux for a decade now and this is why sometimes I take things for granted.

Copy-pasting in the Linux terminal is one such thing.

I thought everyone already knew this until one of the It’s FOSS readers asked me this question. I gave the following suggestion to the Ubuntu user:

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Use Ctrl+Insert or Ctrl+Shift+C for copying and Shift+Insert or Ctrl+Shift+V for pasting text in the terminal in Ubuntu. Right-click and select the copy/paste option from the context menu is also an option.

I thought of elaborating on this topic especially when there is no single universal way of copying and pasting in the Linux terminal.

How to copy and paste text and commands in the Linux terminal

There are several ways to do this.

Method 1: Using keyboard shortcuts for copy-pasting in the terminal

On Ubuntu and many other Linux distributions, you can use Ctrl+Insert or Ctrl+shift+C for copying text and Shift+Insert or Ctrl+shift+V for pasting text in the terminal.

Use CTRL + Shift + C/V to copy/paste
Use CTRL + Shift + C to copy and use CTRL + Shift + V to paste what is selected

The copy-pasting also works for external sources. If you copy a command example from It’s FOSS website (using the generic Ctrl+C keys), you can paste this command into the terminal using the Ctrl+Shift+V into the terminal.

Similarly, you can use Ctrl+shift+C to copy text from the terminal and then use it to paste in a text editor or web browser using the regular Ctrl+V shortcut.

Basically, when you are interacting with the Linux terminal, you use the Ctrl+Shift+C/V for copy-pasting.

Method 2: Using right-click context menu for copy-pasting in the terminal

Another way of copying and pasting in the terminal is by using the right-click context menu.

Select the text in the terminal, right click and select Copy. Similarly, to paste the selected text, right-click and select Paste.

Use right click context menu to copy and paste selected text in terminal
Right Click to copy and paste

Method 3: Use the mouse to copy and paste into the Linux terminal

Another way to copy-paste in a Linux terminal is by using only the mouse.

select the text using mouse and use middle click to paste
Use Middle click to paste

You can select the text you want to copy and then press the middle mouse button (scrolling wheel) to paste the copied text.

Please keep in mind that these methods may not work in all the Linux distributions for a specific reason that I explain in the next section.

Why Linux terminals do not use the ‘universal’ Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V for

No Linux terminal will give you Ctrl+C for copying the text. This is because by default Ctrl+C keybinding is used for sending an interrupt signal to the command running in the foreground. This usually stops the running command.

Using CTRL + C in terminal will interrupt the currently running command
CTRL + C is the interrupt signal

This behaviour has been existing long before Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V started being used for copy-pasting text.

Since the Ctrl+C keys are ‘reserved’ for stopping a command, they cannot be used for copying.

💡
Used Ctrl+S and hanged the terminal?  

The keyboard shortcut CTRL + S in the Linux terminal is used to send a "stop" signal to the terminal, which results in a frozen terminal. Just use Ctrl+Q and you can use the terminal again.

There are no universal key shortcuts for copy-paste in the Linux terminal. Here’s why!

The keybindings for copy-pasting are dependent on the terminal emulator (commonly known as terminal) you are using.

If you didn’t know that already, a terminal is just an application, and you can install other terminals like Guake or Terminator.

Different terminal applications may have their own keybindings for copying and pasting like Alt+C/V or Ctrl+Alt+C/V.

Most Linux terminals use the Ctrl+Shift+C/V keys but if it doesn’t work for you, you may try other key combinations or configure the keys from the preferences of the terminal emulator.

Change Keyboard Shortcuts in GNOME Terminal Preferences
Change Keyboard Shortcuts in GNOME Terminal Preferences

Conclusion

I know this is elementary for the Sherlock Holmes of the Linux world but it could still be useful to the Watsons.

If you are absolutely new to the terminal, this is going to help you a great deal.

19 Basic But Essential Linux Terminal Tips You Must Know
Learn some small, basic but often ignored things about the terminal. With the small tips, you should be able to use the terminal with slightly more efficiency.

New or not, you may always use shortcuts in the Linux terminal to make your life easier.

13 Linux Terminal Shortcuts Every Power Linux User Must Know [Free Cheatsheet]
Use Linux command line like a pro by mastering these Linux terminal shortcuts and increase your productivity. It’s a must for any power Linux user.

If you really care about increasing productivity through the Linux terminal, these handy Linux command tips and tricks will be a good starting point.

21 Super Handy Linux Command Tips and Tricks That Will Save you a lot of Time and Increase Your Productivity
Here are some tiny but useful Linux commands, terminal tricks and shortcuts that will save you a lot of time while working with Linux command line.

💬 Do you still have questions? The comment section is all yours.

About the author
Abhishek Prakash

Abhishek Prakash

Created It's FOSS 11 years ago to share my Linux adventures. Have a Master's degree in Engineering and years of IT industry experience. Huge fan of Agatha Christie detective mysteries 🕵️‍♂️

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