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xsel - manipulate the X selection.


xsel [OPTION]...


Retrieve and set the X selection.

The X server maintains three selections, called PRIMARY, SECONDARY and CLIPBOARD. The
PRIMARY selection is conventionally used to implement copying and pasting via the middle
mouse button. The SECONDARY and CLIPBOARD selections are less frequently used by
application programs. This program operates on the PRIMARY selection unless otherwise

By default, this program outputs the selection without modification if both standard input
and standard output are terminals (ttys). Otherwise, the current selection is output if
standard output is not a terminal (tty), and the selection is set from standard input if
standard input is not a terminal (tty). If any input or output options are given then the
program behaves only in the requested mode.

If both input and output is required then the previous selection is output before being
replaced by the contents of standard input.

Input options

-a, --append
append standard input to the selection. Implies -i.

-f, --follow
append to selection as standard input grows. Implies -i.

-i, --input
read standard input into the selection.

Output options

-o, --output
write the selection to standard output.

Action options

-c, --clear
clear the selection. Overrides all input options.

-d, --delete
Request that the current selection be deleted. This not only clears the selection,
but also requests to the program in which the selection resides that the selected
contents be deleted. Overrides all input options.

Selection options

-p, --primary
operate on the PRIMARY selection (default).

-s, --secondary
operate on the SECONDARY selection.

-b, --clipboard
operate on the CLIPBOARD selection.

-k, --keep
Do not modify the selections, but make the PRIMARY and SECONDARY selections persist
even after the programs they were selected in exit. (Conventionally, the CLIPBOARD
selection is persisted by a separate special purpose program such as
xclipboard(1)). Ignores all input and output options.

-x, --exchange
exchange the PRIMARY and SECONDARY selections. Ignores all input and output

X options

-d displayname, --display displayname
specify the server to use; see X(1).

-t ms, --selectionTimeout ms
Specify the timeout in milliseconds within which the selection must be retrieved. A
value of 0 (zero) specifies no timeout (default).

Miscellaneous options

-l filename, --logfile filename
Specify the file to log errors to when detached. (Default $HOME/.xsel.log)

-n, --nodetach
Do not detach from the controlling terminal. Without this option, xsel will fork to
become a background process in input, exchange and keep modes.

-h, --help
display usage information and exit

-v, --verbose
Print informative messages. Additional instances of -v raise the debugging level,
ie. print more information.

output version information and exit


There is no X selection buffer. The selection mechanism in X11 is an interclient
communication mediated by the X server each time any program wishes to know the selection
contents, eg. to perform a middle mouse button paste. In order to implement modification
of the selection(s) (in input, keep and exchange modes) this program detaches from the
terminal, spawning a child process to supply the new selection(s) on demand. This child
exits immediately when any other program takes over the selection(s), eg. when the user
next selects some text in a terminal window or by running xsel -c.


xsel conforms to the Inter-Client Communication Conventions Manual Version 2.0 (ICCCM2).

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