I run Linux, and am used to selecting text with the mouse to copy and pressing Shift+Insert to paste. (This uses an alternate clipboard known as the "Primary Selection".)

This seems to work in every application besides Firefox. Firefox uses a different clipboard, where Ctrl+C copies and Ctrl+V pastes. Is there a keystroke or configuration change I can do to make Firefox paste from the Unix "primary selection" clipboard -- the one it pastes from when I click the middle mouse button?

Note: I'm looking for a keyboard shortcut, not a mouse action.

  • The usual keyboard shortcut to paste the PRIMARY selection is shift+insert. The problem in Firefox may be related to how GTK+ decided to associate shift+insert with the CLIPBOARD selection. GNOME bug 643391 has patches to allow shift+insert to be remapped to paste from the PRIMARY selection. I did not try these patches yet, but I'll give them a try at some point, as this now tends to break my interaction with all GTK+-based applications...
    – njsg
    Oct 11, 2014 at 9:04
  • there is a similar question in the unix board, did you try the proposed solutions? unix.stackexchange.com/questions/11889/…
    – weberik
    Nov 10, 2014 at 16:37

4 Answers 4


You can bind the following command to a key, it should make your firefox selection available to other programs:

xsel -b|xsel

and vice versa

xsel|xsel -b

X11 has multiple clipboards: Selecting text with the mouse fills the "Primary Selection" and clicking the middle button inserts it. For Ctrl-V/Ctrl-C most programs use the "Clipboard", Shift-Ins seems to sometimes use the Primary Selection, sometimes the Clipboard.

So it's easier to not use Shift-Ins but either the Mouse or Ctrl-V/Ctrl-C to copy text between different applications.

  • 3
    If you're in an xterm, for example, the primary selection is your only option.
    – user2898
    May 14, 2010 at 20:41
  • "It's easier" is quite relative to the tools you normally use. Depending on the tools you use, it may be easier to not use Ctrl-V/Ctrl-C.
    – njsg
    Oct 11, 2014 at 9:06
  • middle mouse button. that's what I use. (click the wheel)
    – Jasen
    Dec 9, 2014 at 10:43

In Linux, clicking the middle button (or scroll wheel) on the mouse should paste the contents of the Unix clipboard.

If you don't have a middle button on your mouse, clicking both the left and right buttons at the same time is often set up to emulate a middle-click.

  • 3
    Is there a way to do it without taking your hands off the keyboard?
    – user2898
    May 14, 2010 at 20:40
  • try Shift + Insert
    – spinus
    Nov 29, 2014 at 1:11
  • @spinus I think the whole point is that shift+insert does not work with firefox.
    – iago-lito
    Sep 16, 2018 at 8:42

The autocutsel util helped me...

I run this in my X startup script (~/.Xclients):

autocutsel -buttonup -fork

You can test it first in a terminal like so:

autocutsel -verbose

This util syncs CLIPBOARD with CUT_BUFFER0 (and vis-a-versa), so that a selection in rxvt (my "xterm" of choice) will paste in Firefox using its standard hotkeys.

  • But then you'll lose the distinction between those clipboards. I tend to use the mouse selection for more temporary stuff. Given that, clipit (sourceforge.net/projects/gtkclipit) is a nice clipboard manager, which would provide this feature, too.
    – blueyed
    Mar 29, 2015 at 17:58

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