Copying to Clipboard with Windows Subsystem for Linux

This post is more than 2 years old.

This tip is 100% thanks to Ben Hillis, a developer working on the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). Yesterday I needed to copy a file under WSL to the my system clipboard. If you Google for how to do this, you'll see a CLI called clip that works under Unbuntu, however, that doesn't work under WSL. If I had to guess I'd say because there's isn't a GUI involved with WSL but to be honest, I'd be guessing.

When I asked on Twitter, Ben had a simple solution - use clip.exe. I keep forgetting that WSL provides complete access to Windows executables. I knew this - heck - it's how my tip on loading VSCode Insiders from WSL worked. But I didn't even think to check if Windows had a utility to copy to the clipboard.

In case you're curious, this is how you would copy a file under WSL to your Windows clipboard:

cat report.txt | clip.exe

And I'm sure there's numerous other ways too. Anyway, I'm mainly just blogging this so I don't forget.

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Raymond is a developer advocate for HERE Technologies. He focuses on JavaScript, serverless and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

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