The registers are an X11 feature; they are not Linux-specific or even Unix-specific but work on any OS that uses X11.
As described in Vim documentation (
:help quoteplus), the
"+ register corresponds to the 'CLIPBOARD' selection in X11, while the
"* register corresponds to the 'PRIMARY' selection.
More detailed explanation:
The X11 graphical environment has support for multiple clipboard-like buffers, called selections. There are three standard ones, two of which are in wide use:
PRIMARY selection is updated every time you select text. To paste from it (in graphical programs), middle-click or use ShiftInsert. In Vim, it is accessible through the
CLIPBOARD selection is updated when you explicitly cut or copy anything (text or other data). In other words, it is used just like the Windows or Mac OS clipboards. To paste from it, the usual shortcut is CtrlV in grapical programs. In Vim, it is accessible through the
You don't need any special settings to use them; however, your Vim must be configured with X11 support (look for
vim --version), and – obviously – the registers only work inside X11.
It doesn't matter whether you are using the GUI or terminal version of Vim, however. (On Arch Linux, the
gvim package provides both GUI and terminal versions with the X11 support enabled.)