I want to set the clipboard to file abc.jpg, in image format, so I can paste it to gpaint, etc. X11 applications, can I?

I have enabled Screen snapshot feature in Compiz windows manager, and I need to give a command line to copy the snapshot image file to the clipboard.


scrot + xclip

You can use scrot with xclip to take a screenshot and copy it to clipboard.

scrot '/tmp/%F_%T_$wx$h.png' -e 'xclip -selection clipboard -target image/png -i $f'

It will capture whole of your screen and copy the image to clipboard. If you want to capture current window then use -u flag. For selection of particular area, you can add -s flag. See $ man scrot for more options.

It will store your screenshot in /tmp directory. You can change that directory wherever you want it to get stored. Files from /tmp directory usually gets deleted after each reboot. If you want to immediately remove the stored file, then do something like:

scrot -w '/tmp/%F_%T_$wx$h.png' -e 'xclip -selection clipboard -target image/png -i $f && rm $f'

As I read in other comments, you need it for copying a screenshot to the clipboard. I hope this answers your question.

If you just need to copy an already existing image file to clipboard:

cat 2018-06-16-224938_670x730_scrot.png | xclip -selection clipboard -target image/png -i

You can set keyboard shortcuts/keybindings according to your current Desktop Environment/window manager.


Explanation of /tmp/%F_%T_$wx$h.png:

It's being used as the file name. These are called format specifiers. They are of two type: starting with % or $.

%F     Equivalent to %Y-%m-%d (the ISO 8601 date format).

%T     The time in 24-hour notation (%H:%M:%S).

%F_%T_ will print something like: 2018-06-17_02:52:19_ i.e. your current timestamp. You can customize the format as per your requirements. See $ man strftime for more help.

$wx$h are part of the scrot's internal specifiers.

$w   image width
$h   image height

So the final file name will look something like 2018-06-17_02:52:19_1365x384.png.

  • 1
    What a great answer! Thank you kindly.
    – Eduardo I.
    Apr 17 at 16:00

First, install python, and pygtk

sudo apt-get install python pygtk

Now save the following script somewhere as imgclip.py (see https://stackoverflow.com/questions/3571855/pasting-image-to-clipboard-in-python-in-linux)

#! /usr/bin/python

import pygtk
import gtk
import os
import sys

def copy_image(f):
    assert os.path.exists(f), "file does not exist"
    image = gtk.gdk.pixbuf_new_from_file(f)

    clipboard = gtk.clipboard_get()


To use it:

python /path/to/imgclip.py filename.png

Note: tested pasting in gimp and xournal. Note: this is for gnome desktop (hence gtk). I bet there's something similar for kde


Install xclip (be sure the version is 0.12+svn84, because 0.12 is not enough); then, add this line to the box in the compiz settings manager:

xclip -selection clipboard -target image/png -i

Example in compiz

You should then be able to paste it to any other x application


Check out xclip. It allows you to move text, or files to the clipboard from the command line.


There are command-line screenshot apps discussed in this post: http://www.linux.com/archive/feed/57772 including scrot. This is from the scrot man page:

scrot  is  a  screen capture utility using the imlib2 library to aquire
       and save images.  scrot has a  few  options,  detailed  below.  Specify
       [file]  as  the  filename  to save the screenshot to.

One last option is to find an X app which just takes a screenshot when clicked (no prompts, dialogue boxes etc), assign it to a hotkey combination and use xdotool to simulate that keypress from the command line??

  • @OP, did you actually need a command line tool, or are you just trying to get a screenshot into the clipboard? There's much easier way to go that
    – Jeremy
    Oct 14 '10 at 4:17
  • Yes, I need a command line tool. Oct 15 '10 at 1:19
  • Unfortunately, both xclip and xsel don't work with images, they work with text contents only. Oct 15 '10 at 1:20
  • Right, my bad, I didn't try pasting into a graphics program, I only tried xclip < image.jpg and xclip -o > image2.jpg which works, but is useless ;(
    – Jeremy
    Oct 16 '10 at 11:56
  • I tested scrot, it works nicely to get a screenshot straight out to a file, but it can't get it into the clipboard :/
    – Jeremy
    Oct 16 '10 at 12:10

I'd disable Compiz's screenshot feature, just Head over to System -> Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts (under Desktop category) and bind Print Screen to Take a Screenshot

enter image description here

Now whenever you hit PrintScreen a sreencapture will be taken with an option to copy to clipboard, or just to save the file.

enter image description here

  • No, I like the screen shot feature comes from Compiz. Oct 15 '10 at 1:07
  • A small question, how do you make the "Print Screen" button in SU? Oct 15 '10 at 1:22
  • 2
    @谢继雷 oh just put the the desired button between <kbd> & </kbd>
    – Sathyajith Bhat
    Oct 15 '10 at 2:31

Command line solution

  1. To just copy an image IMG.png stored at $DESTINATION as $DESTINATION/IMG.png, use
xclip -in -selection clipboard -target image/png $DESTINATION/IMG.png

Similarly for IMG.jpg change argument after -target i.e.,

xclip -in -selection clipboard -target image/jpg $DESTINATION/IMG.jpg

If you are taking a screenshot with scrot and want to save as well as copy it, use

# Enter path such as $HOME/Pictures/screenshots/ in $DESTINATION.
$DESTINATION = "/path/to/screenshot/folder/"
scrot "$DESTINATION/%Y-%m-%d-%T.png" &&
        SSNAME="$(ls -t $DESTINATION |head -n1)";
        xclip -in -selection clipboard -target image/png "$DESTINATION/$SSNAME" && echo "Copied to clipboard.";

Note there is && after scrot command.

ls -t will list and sort according to time. head -n1 will filter only first result i.e., latest one. xclip -in will tell xclip to take input from a file.

You can also give xclip command in scrot with an -e option.

Check this script where I have used above mentioned snippet with notify-send (which is not a big deal :P).


Combining this answer with https://stackoverflow.com/questions/35500163/bash-script-with-scrot-area-not-working I use the following script now:


set -e

tmpdir=$(mktemp --tmpdir -d scrot-xclip-XXXXXXX)
trap 'rm -rf "${tmpdir}"' EXIT

setxkbmap -option grab:break_actions
xdotool key XF86Ungrab

scrot "$@" "${tmpdir}"/'screenshot-%Y-%m-%d_%H:%M:%S.png' -e \
    'exec xclip -quiet -t image/png -selection clipboard -i $f'

echo "Clipboard got overwritten"

The idea is to remove the created file after the clipboard gets reused (xclip -quiet blocks until this happens). mktemp also makes sure no other user can read the screenshot file.

I hooked this as /home/user/bin/scrot-xclip into my i3 config:

bindsym Print exec --no-startup-id /home/user/bin/scrot-xclip --select --freeze
bindsym $mod+Print exec --no-startup-id /home/user/bin/scrot-xclip --focused

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