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man xclip says:

 -selection     specify which X selection to use, options are 
                "primary" to use XA_PRIMARY (default), "secondary" 
                for XA_SECONDARY or "clipboard" for XA_CLIPBOARD

Why do we have 3 types of X-Selections? What are their purposes?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Historical partly. I'm not sure secondary is used for anything at all anymore.

"cliboard" is what is used by most ctrl+x/c/v, it is the clipboard you put things into on purpose

"primary" is what holds whatever text is currently selected, it is how X keeps track of what is selected and conveniently may be pasted by middle clicking (or, if you're awesome, clicking right and left buttons at the same time) or by shift+insert in xterm

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I'm not sure that secondary was ever really used... –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Oct 22 '10 at 20:34
    
Left and right clicking at the same time only works if your system is set up, so that left+right click simulates a middle-click, right? –  sepp2k Oct 28 '10 at 18:04
    
Right. It's just my preferred configuration :) –  singpolyma Oct 29 '10 at 20:51

Check here and here.

tl;dr: See Singpolyma's post.

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