I ultimately want to have a bash function to-clipboard which gets file paths and copies the files to the clipboard. Using other scripting languages as helpers is okay. I currently have this for copying a single file:

file-to-clipboard() {
    osascript \
        -e 'on run args' \
        -e 'set the clipboard to POSIX file (first item of args)' \
        -e end \

There is this Applescript that supposedly can copy multiple files, but I don't like it at all:

set f to {(POSIX file "/path/to/a/folder/a.png"), (POSIX file "/path/to/another/folder/b.png")}
tell application "Finder"
    try -- to delete any old temp folder
        delete folder "AS_mailCopy" of (path to temporary items)
    end try
    set tmp to make new folder at (path to temporary items) with properties {name:"AS_mailCopy"}
    duplicate f to tmp
    select files of tmp
    tell application "System Events" to keystroke "c" using command down
    delete tmp
end tell

Related question:

Copying files to the clipboard using applescript

  • Can you explain what you'd like to be able to type at the bash prompt, and what the clipboard should contain afterwards? (I'm not clear if you want the file path in the clipboard, or the contents of the file, etc...) Also, have you seen the command pbcopy?
    – Ashley
    Oct 12, 2018 at 22:02

1 Answer 1


You can use the AppleScript below to create a bash function that will let you add multiple file objects to the clipboard by supplying their file paths as command-line arguments. It returns true upon success and false upon failure.

You won't be able to paste the items inside the terminal, but if you navigate to a location in Finder, you can paste the items there. I hope this is along the lines of what you were after.

use framework "Appkit"
use Finder : application "Finder"

property this : a reference to current application
property NSFileManager : a reference to NSFileManager of this
property NSImage : a reference to NSImage of this
property NSMutableArray : a reference to NSMutableArray of this
property NSPasteboard : a reference to NSPasteboard of this
property NSString : a reference to NSString of this
property NSURL : a reference to NSURL of this

property pb : missing value

on run input
    if input's class = script then set input to ¬
        Finder's selection as alias list

end run

to init()
    set pb to NSPasteboard's generalPasteboard()
end init

to clearClipboard()
    if pb = missing value then init()
    pb's clearContents()
end clearClipboard

to addToClipboard(fs)
    local fs

    set fURLs to NSMutableArray's array()
    set FileManager to NSFileManager's defaultManager()

    repeat with f in fs
        if f's class = alias then set f to f's POSIX path
        set fp to (NSString's stringWithString:f)'s ¬
        if (FileManager's fileExistsAtPath:fp) then ¬
            (fURLs's addObject:(NSURL's fileURLWithPath:fp))
    end repeat

    if pb = missing value then init()
    pb's writeObjects:fURLs
end addToClipboard

I'd advise saving this script as an .applescript or .scpt file somewhere on your machine using Script Editor. Then, in your terminal, create your bash function:

pbadd() {
    osascript "/Path/To/Saved AppleScript.scpt" "$@"

Then, to use:

pbadd ~/Pictures/*.jpg
pbadd ~/Documents/Some\ file.pdf ~/Music/A\ Random\ Song.mp3

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