Sheharyar Naseer

Copy to Clipboard in IEx

Copying from the terminal is a common scenario for me. And macOS’ built-in pbcopy command makes it very easy to do:

$ cat some-file.txt | pbcopy

But there isn’t something similar in Elixir that let’s you copy large terms easily. I usually have to call inspect(term, limit: :infinity), manually select the printed output and then copy it.

Fortunately, the Port module in Elixir stdlib lets you work with external commands and pipe data to them.

Copy Helper for Elixir

I have a common Helpers module that I put in many of the .iex.exs files in my projects. These are automatically loaded whenever IEx starts. I have a copy/1 helper1 in them as well:

defmodule Helpers do
  def copy(term) do
    text =
      if is_binary(term) do
        inspect(term, limit: :infinity, pretty: true)

    port ={:spawn, "pbcopy"}, [])
    true = Port.command(port, text)
    true = Port.close(port)


Using it is straight-forward:

iex(1)> User |> Repo.get!(user_id) |> Helpers.copy

  1. The helper above is a simplified version of Khaja Minhajuddin’s post on the same topic which is focused on Linux instead.