clipster - python clipboard manager
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Clipster is a simple clipboard manager, written in Python (2 or 3). It aims to be lightweight, have a small set of non-core dependencies (Gtk+), and is designed to interact well with tiling and keyboard-based window managers. It uses selection events, rather than polling, and offers both command-line and GUI interaction with the clipboard.

Clipster has 2 modes of operation - daemon, which handles clipboard events and maintains a history, and client, which requests clipboard history from, and pushes new items to, the daemon.


Clipster was designed to try to add a good selection of useful features, while avoiding bad design decisions or becoming excessively large. Its feature list includes:

  • Event driven, rather than polling. More efficient, helps with power management.

  • Control over when it write to disk, for similar reasons.

  • Command-line options/config for everything.

  • No global keybindings - that's the job of a Window Manager

  • Sensible handling of unusual clipboard events. Some apps (Chrome, Emacs) trigger a clipboard 'update event' for every character you select, rather than just one event when you stop selecting.

  • Preserves the last item in clipboard after an application closes. (Many apps clear the clipboard on exit).

  • Minimal dependencies, no complicated build/install requirements.

  • utf-8 support

  • Proper handling of embedded newlines and control codes.

  • Smart matching of urls, emails, regexes. (extract_*)

  • Option to synchronise the SELECTION and CLIPBOARD clipboards. (sync_selections)

  • Option to track one or both clipboards. (active_selections)

  • Option to ignore clipboard updates from certain applications. (blacklist_classes)

  • Option to only monitor clipboard updates from certain applications. (whitelist_classes)

  • Ability to delete items in clipboard history from GUI or command-line. (--delete, --erase-entire-board)

  • Ability to ignore selections based on a list of regex patterns. (ignore_patterns)

  • One-off command to ignore next clipboard selection. (--ignore)

New feature requests always welcome! See Bugs & Improvements at the end of this document.


Build Status

NOTE: Clipster >= 2.x requires Gtk >=3.20 for its handling of click and drag selection events. This is the default on most modern OSes - however you may need to use a pre-2.x release if your OS doesn't support this version of Gtk.

You will need to install the python bindings for the gobject introspection libraries. These are provided by the python-gi and gir1.2-gtk-3.0 packages on debian-based systems, or by the pygobject3 package on redhat-based systems.

To install Clipster, simply download the clipster script from this repository and save it somewhere in your path.

There are AUR packages available for Arch Linux users: clipster-git for the latest git version and clipster for the latest stable release version.


Command-line options

~$ clipster -h
usage: clipster [-h] [-f CONFIG] [-l LOG_LEVEL] [-p | -c | -d]
                [-s | -o | -i | -r [DELETE]] [-n NUMBER] [-0] [-m DELIM]

Clipster clipboard manager.

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -f CONFIG, --config CONFIG
                        Path to config directory.
  -l LOG_LEVEL, --log_level LOG_LEVEL
                        Set log level: DEBUG, INFO (default), WARNING, ERROR,
  -p, --primary         Query, or write STDIN to, the PRIMARY clipboard.
  -c, --clipboard       Query, or write STDIN to, the CLIPBOARD clipboard.
  -d, --daemon          Launch the daemon.
  -s, --select          Launch the clipboard history selection window.
  -o, --output          Output last selection from history. (See -n and -S).
  -i, --ignore          Instruct daemon to ignore next update to clipboard.
  -r [DELETE], --delete [DELETE]
                        Delete from clipboard. Deletes matching text, or if no
                        argument given, deletes last item.
  --erase-entire-board  Delete all items from the clipboard.
  -n NUMBER, --number NUMBER
                        Number of lines to output: defaults to 1 (See -o).
                        0 returns entire history.
  -S SEARCH, --search SEARCH
                        Pattern to match for output.
  -0, --nul             Use NUL character as output delimiter.
  -m DELIM, --delim DELIM
                        String to use as output delimiter (defaults to '\n')

Config file

Clipster (mostly) follows the XDG base-dir spec:

Clipster looks for its configuration file clipster.ini in $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/clipster (usually $HOME/.config/clipster/ or /etc/xdg/clipster/), but this directory can be changed using the -f option.

The config options, and their default values, are shown below. Note the %()s syntax can be used to re-use an existing config option's value elsewhere.

You can create a config file containing only some of the options, and the rest will be derived from defaults.

# Directory for clipster data/files (usually `$HOME/.local/share/clipster`)
#data_dir = $XDG_DATA_HOME

# Default selection (if no -p of -c given on command-line): can be PRIMARY or CLIPBOARD
#default_selection = PRIMARY

# Comma-separated list of selections to be watched and written to history
#active_selections = PRIMARY,CLIPBOARD

# Enable synchronising of clipboards
# Only clipboards listed in 'active selections' will be synchronised
#sync_selections = no

# full path to the clipster history file (JSON)
# Maximum file size is: 'history_size * max_input * 2' (defaults: 10MB)
#history_file = %(data_dir)s/history

# Number of items to save in the history file for each selection. 0 - don't save history.
#history_size = 200

# Time in seconds to flush history to disk, if changed
# Set to 0 to only write history file on (clean) exit
#history_update_interval = 60

# Write history file immediately after selection changes?
# If yes, disables history_update_interval
#write_on_change = no

# Full path to the clipster socket file
#socket_file = %(data_dir)s/clipster_sock

# Full path to the clipster pid file
#pid_file = %(data_dir)s/

# Maximum length for new clipboard items
#max_input = 50000

# Number of rows of clipboard content to show in the selection widget before truncating
# Set to a high number to avoid truncation
#row_height = 3

# Allow duplicates in the clipboard (if set to no, the earlier entry will be removed)
#duplicates = no

# smart_update tries to be clever about small changes to the selection, and only adds
# to the history if the number of characters added or removed is greater than it's value.
# for example, if set to 2: the latest clipboard entry catch, would be replaced by any of:
# cat, catc, catchy, catcher, but not ca or catchers.
# Defaults to 1, as some applications update the clipboard by continually adding new
# items with a single character added or removed each time.
# Set to 0 to disable.
#smart_update = 1

# Extract uris from the selection text and add them to the default clipboard
#extract_uris = yes

# Extract emails from the selection text and add them to the default clipboard
#extract_emails = yes

# Extract patterns (as specified in patterns file: clipster_dir/patterns) and add them to the default clipboard
#extract_patterns = no
#patterns_file = %(conf_dir)s/patterns

# Ignore selections matching certain patterns (as specified in patterns file: clipster_dir/ignore_patterns)
#ignore_patterns = no
#ignore_patterns_file = %(conf_dir)s/ignore_patterns

# Extracted patterns are added to the history before the selection, and the clipbaord buffer is left unchanged.
# Enabling this option adds the pattern as the last item int he history, and updates the clipboard buffer with the pattern.
# NOTE: Multiple patterns will be applied sequentially: last one will be used for selection.
# This option also applies to email and uri patterns (which are processed before additional patterns).
#pattern_as_selection = no

# Comma-separated list of WM_CLASS properties for apps where clipboard changes should be ignored.
# Used to ignore clipboard changes from sensitive apps, e.g. password managers.
#blacklist_classes = 

# Comma-separated list of WM_CLASS properties for apps where clipboard changes should NOT be ignored.
# Used to only monitor clipboard changes from whitelisted apps, all other apps will be ignored!
#whitelist_classes = 

Using Clipster

Launch the daemon

The first step is to launch the Clipster daemon:

~$ clipster -d

This can be run as a background task on session start.

For debugging, use the -l option:

~$ clipster -d -l DEBUG

Using the client

The client will use the value of default_selection from the config file to decide which selection to read from - this can be overridden using the -p and -c options.

To get the latest entry in the clipboard:

~$ clipster -o [-p|-c]

To get the last 5 items from the clipboard history:

~$ clipster -o -n 5 [-p|-c]

To add some text to the clipboard:

~$ echo "hello world" | clipster [-p|-c]

To launch the clipboard selection dialog box:

~$ clipster -s [-p|-c]

Selection dialog

The dialog box can be used to select an item from the clipboard history - either Arrow Keys and Return or mouse (double-click) can be used to select an item. Pressing Esc will close the dialog.

Items containing multiple lines will be truncated based on the row_height config value.

WM Integration

It's easy to integrate clipster into an existing window manager by binding clipster commands to keyboard shortcuts.

For example, in i3 (my WM of choice) I have the following in my .i3/config file:

# Start clipster daemon
exec --no-startup-id clipster -d

# shortcut to selection widget (primary)
bindsym $mod+c exec clipster -sp

Pattern Matching

As well as the extract_uris and extract_emails options, there is a general-purpose extract_patterns flag. If enabled, this will cause clipster to try to read regular expressions from the patterns file (in clipster_dir) and parse the selection text for matching patterns, adding the matched text to the history. clipster will skip any invalid patterns, logging a warning.

The patterns file expects one regular expression per line. Do not add any comments, quote-marks or delimiters (e.g. /) unles these are part of your pattern.

For example, to match all numbers within the selection text, add \d+ to the patterns file.

Application Filtering

Clipster can ignore clipboard changes from applications based on their WM_CLASS property. This is useful for sensitive apps such as password managers, where you do not want clipster saving the text into the history file.

To determine the WM_CLASS for an application:

  1. run your app
  2. In a new terminal, run xprop. A small cross-hair will appear.
  3. Click on your app.
  4. Note down the second value of the WM_CLASS(STRING) field.

For example, to ignore keepass2, emacs and firefox, add the following list to your config file:

blacklist_classes = KeePass2,Emacs24,Firefox

Client/Server Protocol

(For developers). The protocol for communication between client and server is fairly simple. It consists of 3 mandatory, and one optional field:


  • ACTION: An action for the server to perform. One of BOARD, DELETE, SELECT.
  • BOARD: The X selection to use. One of PRIMARY or CLIPBOARD.
  • COUNT: A number used for actions where counts are important.
  • CONTENT: (Optional) Content specific to each action.

Note: The final : separator is only included when content is present.

Action: BOARD

This is the default action. Return clipboard history (using count to determine the number of items to return). If CONTENT is defined, use this as a regex pattern to filter history.

Action: SEND

Add the value of CONTENT to the clipboard.

Action: DELETE

Deletes an item from the clipboard. If CONTENT is defined, delete by pattern match. Else delete the last item on the board.

Action: ERASE

Deletes all items from the clipboard.

Action: SELECT

Launch the clipboard selection UI window.

Bugs & Improvements

I'm happy to receive any bug reports, pull requests, suggestions for features or other improvements - with the following caveats:

  • Clipster should remain driven by the command-line and keyboard - no GUI-only or mouse-only features.

  • No extra 3rd party dependencies (unless they are ones found in the core of most distros).

  • No requirement for packaging for installation (I'm happy to accept specfiles, debian packaging files etc - but you must always be able to just download and run Clipster if you want).