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Zsh System Clipboard

System clipboard key bindings for Zsh Line Editor with vi mode. It is similar to what `set clipboard=unnamed` does for vim.

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Zsh plugin that adds key bindings support for ZLE (Zsh Line Editor) clipboard operations for vi emulation keymaps. It works under Linux, macOS and Android (via Termux).

By default, ZLE has its own clipboard buffer. So, using keys like y inside ZLE's normal mode for yanking operations will not send that yanked text to system clipboard. It will live inside ZLE and using C-v won't paste that text in another program. This plugin synchronizes your system clipboard with ZLE buffers while it's not overriding anything. You can still use ZLE's " register if you want to.

It also synchronizes tmux clipboard buffers if tmux available and the ZSH_SYSTEM_CLIPBOARD_TMUX_SUPPORT variable is set to 'true'. See Options section for more details.

What's happening under the hood

The script zsh-system-clipboard.zsh parses the output of bindkey -M vicmd, bindkey -M emacs, bindkey -M visual in order to rebind your keys (along with the default ones) the ZLE widgets functions that copy from and paste to the system clipboard. This means that you should put all of your bindings before sourcing zsh-system-clipboard.zsh in your ~/.zshrc.

Note: widget functions that replace builtin functions for the emacs keymap are not yet written (see #12).

Configuration Options

  • ZSH_SYSTEM_CLIPBOARD_TMUX_SUPPORT: Set it to 'true' to enable tmux support. That way, if tmux available, every new clipboard content will be also sent to tmux clipboard buffers. Run tmux choose-buffer to view them.
  • ZSH_SYSTEM_CLIPBOARD_SELECTION: Specify which X selection to use for xclip or xsel or wl-copy utilities. Either 'PRIMARY' or 'CLIPBOARD'. Defaults to 'CLIPBOARD'.
  • ZSH_SYSTEM_CLIPBOARD_USE_WL_CLIPBOARD: zsh-system-clipboard doesn't use wl-copy or wl-paste even if they are installed, if you have $DISPLAY set. However, it may be that you use Wayland (and hence you can use these utilities), but $DISPLAY is set in your environment, perhaps because you use an X based terminal emulator on Wayland. In that case, if you don't have xsel or xclip installed and you wish to use wl-copy never the less, you should set this environment variable to true. To summarise, set this variable if:
    • You use Wayland.
    • You have wl-clipboard installed.
  • You don't have xsel or xclip utilities installed.
    • You have $DISPLAY set in your environment (probably due to the X emulator).
    • You would like to use wl-copy and wl-paste utilities because you use Wayland.

For example:



If you wish, you can disable the default bindings zsh-system-clipboard uses by setting the following in your environment:


Why would I want to do that?

zsh-system-clipboard modifies your key bindings by reading them in their current state and binds them to their corresponding widgets we implemented which change the system clipboard along the way. This variable enables you to bind the default bindings your way. This is useful if you wish e.g to use the same default bindings but with a certain prefix.

This is the function that's inside zsh-system-clipboard.zsh which actually binds the default keys:

function () {
    local binded_keys i parts key cmd keymap
    for keymap in vicmd visual emacs; do
        binded_keys=(${(f)"$(bindkey -M $keymap)"})
        for (( i = 1; i < ${#binded_keys[@]}; ++i )); do
            if (( $+functions[zsh-system-clipboard-$keymap-$cmd] )); then
                eval bindkey -M $keymap $key zsh-system-clipboard-$keymap-$cmd

You can change the line eval bindkey -M $keymap $key zsh-system-clipboard-$keymap-$cmd this way:

                eval bindkey -M $keymap \"\ \"$key zsh-system-clipboard-$keymap-$cmd

And to make this change useful, unbind the single " " with:

bindkey -ar " "

This setup will force you to use space to actually use the system clipboard - whether it's paste or copy.


The plugin itself provides a separate cross-platform clipboard API for internal widgets. You can use this API as a standalone function.

To set system clipboard buffer:

_zsh_system_clipboard_set "example text"

To get system clipboard buffer to stdout:


It will show pretty-printed errors via stderr or stdout if something went wrong.

Additional mappings

zsh-system-clipboard emulates all of zsh's standard mappings but with system clipboard support. Some default zle commands are not mapped by default both by us and both by ZSH. However we have the binding zsh-system-clipboard-vicmd-vi-yank-eol which emulates vi-yank-eol which copies text from cursor to the end of the line but we don't map it to anything, no matter what is $ZSH_SYSTEM_CLIPBOARD_DISABLE_DEFAULT_MAPS. To use it, add to your ~/.zshrc:

# Bind Y to yank until end of line
bindkey -M vicmd Y zsh-system-clipboard-vicmd-vi-yank-eol


Special thanks to Doron Behar (@doronbehar) for their interests, suggestions, time and pull requests.

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