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GNU screen [commands:copy]

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Default Keybindings

  • C-a [
  • C-a C-[
  • C-a esc


  • copy


Enter copy/scrollback mode. This allows you to copy text from the current window and its history into the paste buffer. In this mode a vi-like 'full screen editor' is active:

Movement keys

h, j, k, l
move the cursor line by line or column by column.
0, ^ and $
move to the leftmost column, to the first or last non-whitespace character on the line, respectively.
H, M and L
move the cursor to the leftmost column of the top, center or bottom line of the window, respectively.
+ and -
positions one line up and down.
moves to the specified absolute line (default: end of buffer).
moves to the specified absolute column.
w, b, e
move the cursor word by word.
B, E
move the cursor WORD by WORD (as in vi).
C-u and C-d
scroll the display up/down by the specified amount of lines while preserving the cursor position. (Default: half screen-full).
C-b and C-f
scroll the display up/down a full screen.
moves to the beginning of the buffer.
jumps to the specified percentage of the buffer.

Note: emacs style movement keys can be customized by a .screenrc command. (E.g. markkeys “h=^B:l=^F:$=^E”) There is no simple method for a full emacs-style keymap, as this involves multi-character codes.


The copy range is specified by setting two marks. The text between these marks will be highlighted. Press space to set the first or second mark respectively.

Y and y
used to mark one whole line or to mark from start of line.
marks exactly one word.

Repeat count

Any of these commands can be prefixed with a repeat count number by pressing digits 0..9 which is taken as a repeat count.

Example: ”C-a C-[ H 10 j 5 Y” will copy lines 11 to 15 into the paste buffer.


Vi-like search forward.
Vi-like search backward.
C-a s
Emacs style incremental search forward.
Emacs style reverse i-search.


There are however some keys that act differently than in vi. vi does not allow one to yank rectangular blocks of text, but screen does. Press c or C to set the left or right margin respectively. If no repeat count is given, both default to the current cursor position.

Example: Try this on a rather full text screen: ”C-a [ M 20 l SPACE c 10 l 5 j C SPACE”.

This moves one to the middle line of the screen, moves in 20 columns left, marks the beginning of the paste buffer, sets the left column, moves 5 columns down, sets the right column, and then marks the end of the paste buffer.

Now try: ”C-a [ M 20 l SPACE 10 l 5 j SPACE” and notice the difference in the amount of text copied.

joins lines. It toggles between 4 modes: lines separated by a newline character (012), lines glued seamless, lines separated by a single whitespace and comma separated lines. Note that you can prepend the newline character with a carriage return character, by issuing a ”crlf on”.
is for all the vi users with ”:set numbers” - it toggles the left margin between column 9 and 1.
press before the final space key to toggle in append mode. Thus the contents of the paste buffer will not be overwritten, but is appended to.
toggles in append mode and sets a (second) mark.
sets the (second) mark and writes the contents of the paste buffer to the screen-exchange file (/tmp/screen-exchange per default) once copy-mode is finished. This example demonstrates how to dump the whole scrollback buffer to that file: ”C-A [ g SPACE G $ >”.
gives information about the current line and column.
exchanges the first mark and the current cursor position. You can use this to adjust an already placed mark.
does nothing. Does not even exit copy mode.

All keys not described here exit copy mode.


None yet.

See Also

commands/copy.txt · Last modified: 2013/12/17 22:46 by
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