Great Utilities: pbcopy
This is the first of what I hope will become a series of posts that highlight useful command-line computing utilities. Sometimes (like this post), the focus will be on what I consider to be relatively obscure programs; at other time, I’ll focus on obscure features of commonly used utilities.
This post is dedicated to a pair of Mac OS X utilities:
pbpaste. The “pb” is both stands for “pasteboard”: they are command-line programs to getting content to and from the Mac clipboard.
I find myself using
pbcopy far more often than
pbpaste, mostly because my typical use-case is to transfer content from a local text file to either a remote file or to a browser-based application like a wiki.
Use Case 1: Quick SSH key delivery
I create and destroy several virtual machines every month. I don’t have the time or inclination to integrate these disposable VMs into our larger configuration-management system, but I do want to get an SSH
authorized_keys file in place for the root account.
On my system:
pbcopy < ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub
While logged into the remote VM’s serial console, I use
vi to open
/root/.ssh/authorized_keys and the paste contents into it using Cmd-V.
Use Case 2: Add content to wiki
I often keep host-specific information in wiki pages partly just for general documentation purposes and partly for new-employee training. Let’s say that I want to document the layout of the
/usr/local tree on a remote host. I could log into that system and try to copy the output from my terminal into the wiki’s editing window. Or, I could use
pbcopy on my workstation:
ssh remote.host tree -F -L2 --charset=ascii /usr/local | pbcopy
Then all I need to do is Cmd+V my pasteboard into my browser!