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Linux Cut and Paste

written by: jlwallen•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 6/23/2009

Most users of PCs understand the idea behind cutting and pasting. But when new users jump into the Linux operating system they don't understand that there are many more ways to cut and paste with Linux than there are in Windows and OS X. New users, prepare yourself to learn.

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    The Mouse Rules

    In the Linux operating system there is a very handy trick that most new users do not know about. Take a look at your mouse. How many buttons do you have? Three I bet. You may say only two but that scroll wheel...you can click it. In Linux that scroll wheel IS considered a button and it's the third (or middle) mouse button. That button has a special purpose. That purpose? Pasting copied text. How do you do it? Simple. Go to a document and, with the left mouse button, highlight some text. Now go to a new document (this will be in a word processor, web browser form, text editor, whatever), place your cursor where you want to paste that new text and click that middle mouse button. What happens? Most likely that copied text appeared where you clicked.

    This method works if you highlight by dragging the mouse or placing your cursor at the beginning of a line and using Shift-Arrow Key combination to highlight the text. Either way that text will be placed in a buffer ready for you to paste. You can also use this from one application to another. You can highlight text with your mouse in a browser and then paste that text in an OpenOffice document.

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    Ctrl-c/Ctrl-v

    I'm sure you know by now that the key combination Ctrl-c will copy highlighted text and the combination Ctrl-v will paste copied text into a document. This holds true with Linux...with exceptions. If you want to paste copied text into a terminal window, the ability to do so will depend up on the type of terminal window used. For example: The gnome-terminal application uses Ctrl-shift-v for pasting and Ctrl-shift-c for copying. You can copy from a browser with Ctrl-c and then paste into the terminal window with Ctrl-shift-v. It still works, you only have to know the proper combination for your terminal window. Many of these applications will allow you to configure your key combinations within the preferences. Even with gnome-terminal you can change the Ctrl-shift-c/v combinations to mimic the standard Ctrl-c/v combinations.

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    Final Thoughts

    Copying and pasting text is a very basic function of using a computer. Once you get used to the method one operating system uses it's some times hard to get used to another method. I always find myself attempting to use the middle mouse button to paste text when using a Windows-based PC or OS X machine. Why? Because the middle mouse pasting method is the fastest means of pasting text. It makes perfect sense to me.