How to Copy and Paste Text, Files and Folders in Linux Terminal

Copy Paste Linux Terminal Featured

Copying and pasting is one of the most used actions on a computer. While it is easy to do so with the Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V keyboard shortcuts, on the Linux terminal it is not so straightforward. You have several options to get the job done. Here is how you can copy and paste text, files and directories in Linux terminal.

Copy and Paste Text

If you just want to copy a piece of text in the terminal, all you need to do is highlight it with your mouse, then press Ctrl + Shift + C to copy.

To paste it where the cursor is, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + V.

The Paste shortcut also applies when you copy a section of text from a Word document (or any other application) and want to paste it in the terminal. For example, you can copy a command from a web page in your browser and use the Ctrl + Shift + V shortcut to paste it in the terminal.

Copy and Paste a Single File

Any time you want to copy a file or folder in the Linux command line, the above keyboard shortcut won’t work. You have to use the cp command. cp is shorthand for copy. The syntax is simple, too. Use cp followed by the file you want to copy and the destination where you want it moved.

Linux Cli Copy Document

That, of course, assumes that your file is in the same directory you’re working out of. You can specify both.

You also have the option of renaming your file while copying it. Specify the new name in the destination.

Copy and Paste a Folder and Its Contents

In order to copy a folder and its contents, you’re going to need to tell the cp command to copy recursively. That’s simple enough with the -r flag.

Linux Cli Copy Folder

All the rest of your syntax is exactly the same. The -r flag serves to tell cp that it’s working with a directory and should copy its contents.

If you want the paste action to overwrite existing files, you can add the -f flag:

Copy and Paste Multiple Files

You can also copy multiple files. The Linux command line lets you target multiple items at once with brackets {}. You can use them to list the names of each file to be copied separated by commas.

Linux Cli Copy Multiple

All three files of differing file types will be copied to the Documents directory.

Copy and Paste All Files of the Same Type

If you have a ton of files of the same type to copy, you can use the wildcard character *. The asterisk/wildcard tells the Linux command line to accept absolutely anything in that place. So, if you tell Linux to copy *.jpg, it’ll copy all JPG files, regardless of the name or whatever comes before the .jpg part.

Linux Cli Copy All File Type

If you want to use multiple file types, say JPG and PNG, you can use the brackets from before.

Move a File or Folder

If you came here looking to move a file from one place to another without making a duplicate, you can do that easily too, but moving a file requires the mv command. The syntax is very similar to cp.

Similarly, you can also rename it.

There is one major difference, though. You don’t need the -r flag to move a whole folder.

That’s all there is to it. You’re ready to start copying and moving your files from the command line. You can see that the command line way can be very efficient in some situations.

Want more pointers on the Linux command line? Here’s how to check sudo history or find out what the chmod 777 command does to your file permission.

Image credit: Copy – Paste by DepositPhotos


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