pbcopy - macOS


pbcopy is a command-line utility used to copy text to the macOS clipboard. It is commonly used in scripts, automation workflows, and command chains to move text between applications and the clipboard.


pbcopy [-p] [-f] [-v] [text]


  • -p: Paste from the specified file instead of standard input.
  • -f: Format the text in the specified file as RTF before copying it to the clipboard.
  • -v: Verbose output. Reports on the file being processed and the resulting copy to the clipboard.


Copy the contents of a file to the clipboard:

pbcopy myfile.txt

Copy formatted RTF text from a file to the clipboard:

pbcopy -f myfile.rtf

Pipe the output of another command to pbcopy:

ls -l | pbcopy

Common Issues

  • Error: File not found: Ensure that the specified file exists and is accessible.
  • Error: Permission denied: Check if you have sufficient permissions to read the specified file.
  • Empty clipboard after using pbcopy: Some applications may clear the clipboard after writing to it. Check if the application you’re using behaves this way.


Combine with grep: Filter text before copying it to the clipboard.

grep pattern myfile.txt | pbcopy

Use with xargs: Execute a command on each line of text copied to the clipboard.

pbcopy | xargs echo
  • pbpaste: Paste text from the clipboard.
  • cat: Concatenate files and print on standard output.
  • xclip: Cross-platform clipboard utility.