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Old 06-28-2017, 12:20 PM   #1
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My Latest Column: Small, Useful Linux Utilities - My Pick is a Clipboard Manager

From my latest column at

During a recent episode of Bad Voltage, each presenter had to name a small Linux utility we were surprised more people didn't regularly use. Fellow Community Moderator Ben Cotton suggested this topic would be of interest to the community, and I think he's correct. Thanks for the suggestion, Ben.

The item I chose to highlight is a clipboard manager. For those of you not familiar with a clipboard manager, it's a small program that runs in the background and keeps a history of everything you save to the clipboard. It sounds simple, and it is, but it will likely boost your productivity more than you'd initially anticipate. It also comes in handy when you copy something, only to realize that means you've lost something else in the clipboard that you actually needed.

Features to look for

When selecting a clipboard manager, there are a couple items I'd consider must haves and then a few items that are nice to have. First, you should pick a clipboard manager that integrates well with your desktop environment, shell, and toolkit of choice. This integration will lead to a much smoother experience, and consistency isn't something I'd settle on. You should also ensure you can exclude programs, as you don't want passwords and other sensitive information stored.

Personally, I prefer a clipboard manager that distinguishes between the clipboard and the primary selection, but I understand some have strong opinions about this, so it may not be important for everyone. Other features to look for are the ability to control from the command line, scriptablity, the presence of keyboard shortcuts, and solid search functionality.

Clipboard managers to consider

While not an exhaustive list, here are a few quality options to choose from.
  • Diodon: Integrates well with Unity and GNOME, including a nice indicator applet
  • CopyQ: An advanced clipboard manager that is also cross platform
  • GPaste: GTK+ 3 based and integrates well with GNOME
  • Klipper: A good choice for KDE users
  • Clipman: A lightweight option for those who prefer XFCE
  • Parcellite: A simple "basic-features only" option for those who like simplicity

If none of those suit your use case, a quick web search will turn up quite a few additional options. Once you have a clipboard manager installed, let us know what you think.

Other useful utilities?

Have a useful utility that you're surprised more people don't use regularly? Let us know in the comments.
Have an idea for a future article? Let me know in this thread

Old 06-28-2017, 01:08 PM   #2
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Not a utility, but bits of functionality more than anything I find extremely useful that aren't well known.

Ctrl-R to search shell command history, split window in vi for large files (Ctrl-w s), etc.

I guess conky is the biggest utility as it feeds my monitoring nerd and obviates need for more utilities. Mine is at
Old 07-01-2017, 04:00 AM   #3
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I wonder how those clipboard managers would interact with Clipple (a Firefox addon)

Later: The answer as regards Glipper (not on the list) seems to be that one effectively has two independent clipboards. Initially Clipple was turned off after the Glipper installation. Presumably the same holds for the others listed but I could not get Diodon to work (perhaps just me and the Gnome flasback thing).

Last edited by Gedagtes; 07-02-2017 at 01:23 PM.
Old 07-17-2017, 02:12 PM   #4
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I had a conversation recently with someone who is pretty knowledgeable and was surprised he had never heard of TAC, which like it's name implies, does the same thing as CAT, only in reverse. I've found it pretty invaluable.
Old 07-17-2017, 10:28 PM   #5
Registered: Aug 2001
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JSON Query

It's awk / xmlstarlet for JSON.
Old 07-18-2017, 02:26 AM   #6
Registered: Nov 2007
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fzf - Fuzzy Search

I recently discovered fzf.

It's a fuzzy search utility.

I have a script which feeds bash history into it and it displays it with curses.
As I type things into the search field, it narrows the selections.
Then, when I select one with the arrow keys or mouse, it runs it.
I have another version of the script that just copies the selection to the clipboard (klipper).
Then, I paste it to the command line so I can edit it before running it.
I have it bound to Ctrl+F in bash.
Old 07-18-2017, 02:35 AM   #7
Registered: Nov 2007
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Clipboards ...

I've used klipper for forever. Can't imagine working without it or a similar utility.

The only feature it doesn't have is a way to paste and pop items.

When I go to a website with a user name and password etc. I may put my id and password into the clipboard (I know it's a security issue, but my notebook is almost always at home.) I would like a paste and pop operation so that once I have pasted the first field, the second is on top ready to use.

Do any clipboards have a feature like this?

Sorry for being a bit off topic.
Old 07-18-2017, 03:27 AM   #8
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duplex - duplex printing emulation for non-duplex printers

[shameless plug] (It's my project!)

People in Linux seem to either print on just one side of the paper or buy a printer with duplex (two-sided) printing hardware.

Two-sided printing with non-duplex printers has worked forever in Windows, but you have to go out of your way to do it in Linux with something like boomaga, xpp, or similar utilities that make you fill in all the blanks per job at least once, usually twice, every time you use them.

duplex is a set of bash scripts which emulate duplex printing on a non-duplex printer. You set it up once and it just works. Most of the scripts have both CLI and GUI versions. (The GUI versions do have blanks to fill in, but most have default values.)

To do duplex printing on a non-duplex printer, you have to print all of the odd | even sides, then reinsert the paper and print all the even | odd sides (which side prints first depends on how the printer handles paper). A unique feature of duplex is that it will print one side of all of the pages for multiple print jobs at once so you only have to reinsert the paper once for the whole batch.

You can also use duplex just as a simple print queue manager if your printer does duplex in hardware or you just want to save up print jobs, concentrate on your workflow, and print them in batches when you're ready.
Old 07-18-2017, 03:55 AM   #9
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yad - GUI Dialog Tool

yad is a great GUI dialog tool. It's a fork of zenity which is being actively developed and supported.

It's quite versatile and powerful and can support complex layouts while still being very easy to use for simple dialogs.

Among other features which got me to switch from zenity to yad are dialog boxes which automatically add scroll bars when there's too much information to fit the box and a tail option that displays the end of that information as it comes in.
Old 07-18-2017, 02:53 PM   #10
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I love ncdu -

It sorts your folders/files by biggest first and lets you delete them if you want.

It also allows you to exit to a subshell where you can examine a particular file using mc (Midnight Commander) or some other utility to see if you really want to delete the file. Then, you can return to where you were and continue where you left off.

I install this on every machine I touch, along with nmap and mc. I just can't understand how people can produce a distro where you actually have to install nmap and mc. They are pretty much indispensable to me.

Another great utility is vnc. Currently, I'm using rdesktop, xrdp and tightvncserver to access remote machines. It works well enough. I need to figure out how to include ssh with them though.

ssh is far and away the most useful tool I use daily. Again, I don't understand how some distros require installing openssh-server. That should be standard.

The last tool I depend on is openvpn. I don't mind downloading & compiling this one but it also is installed on all my machines as well. I can't remember what I did before openvpn.

It amazes me when I meet a Linux user who does not use these things.

Oh, and VirtualBox. I have my daughter using this on her laptop now. Great tool!
Old 07-18-2017, 03:16 PM   #11
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I guess since nobody mentioned it.... ag, the silver searcher.

A parallelized grep written by a truly obsessive speed freak.

There are a couple of integration packages with emacs, I'm using helm-ad.el

Particularly useful is (helm-ag-project-root) It walks down the directory tree toward / until it finds a .git or .hg or .svn ... and then uses things like git ls-files (or matching hg or ...) command to find all files in project to search.

Great for searching for things in openembedded projects especially if you're ina truly massive tree like the linux kernel.
Old 07-18-2017, 03:35 PM   #12
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fsarchiver a must have tool for backing up and restoring entire files systems with no restrictions or caveats

I never fear destroying my build systems for VSIDO having fsarchives of these systems.. within minutes I can back up an entire file system and restore even faster
Old 07-18-2017, 03:47 PM   #13
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While we're on the subject of backup....

zbackup has a couple of nice features, making a compelling tool for sneakernets.

It deduplicates AND encrypts backup copies.

So if I'm using a sneakernet, (ie. a USBpen to move stuff between systems) I can do so without worrying that I might expose confidential stuff if I lose the pen.
Old 07-18-2017, 09:09 PM   #14
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What's the difference?

A utility I use practically every day when I'm coding is kdiff3. It's free, and powerful, a solid engine for comparing files or directories, whether they be in different code repositories, or different versions in one repository. It fits neatly into both git and svn command lines, giving you a gui when you want it for comparison. It's also good for comparing notes, logs, and ascii dumps.
Old 07-18-2017, 10:31 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by khentiamentiu View Post
kdiff3. It's free, and powerful, a solid engine for comparing files or directories,
kdiff3's strong point is doing three way merges (as in conflict resolution as a visual mergetool for git or mercurial).

I find it's a little user hostile... but repays study.

As a visual difftool I prefer meld.

So I always in my ~/.gitconfig I have...

tool = kdiff3
tool = meld

I always use the -d option with diftool.... as in...

git difftool -d rev1 rev2


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