One of the least well known, and therefore least used, features of many terminal
emulators is bracketed paste
you are in bracketed paste mode and you paste into your terminal the content
will be wrapped by the sequences
I admit this is hard to get excited about, but it turns out that it enables something very cool: programs can tell the difference between stuff you type manually and stuff you pasted.
Why is that cool?
Lots of terminal applications handle some characters specially: in particular when you hit your enter key it sends a newline. Most shells will execute the contents of the input buffer at that point, which is usually what you want. Unfortunately, this means that they will also run the contents of the input buffer if there’s a newline in anything you paste into the terminal.
I’m clumsy and often paste random stuff into my terminal; there was also a neat proof of concept for how to make usually not-clumsy people do the same. This can obviously be dangerous as your shell has the ability to do all kinds of things that you don’t want to happen by accident.
For a while I’ve been running with bracketed paste mode enabled to protect me from myself, and I figured it was time to share this support more widely. I take no credit for writing any of this code; as clichéd as it sounds, I copy-pasted it from the internet :).
If you use
oh-my-zsh you can install this by upgrading to the latest version
safe-paste to the array of plugins in your
~/.zshrc. If you just
use vanilla zsh, then you can just copy the
Update: Readline (as of v 7) and thus Bash (as of v4.4) now have support for bracketed paste mode too! You can enable it by adding
set enable-bracketed-paste on to your
Vim also handles newlines specially. When I am manually typing out code, vim will add extra space characters each time I hit return so that the resulting indentation is correct. Unfortunately when pasting into vim these extra spaces end up making a mess because the content I’m pasting already includes the correct indentation.
The usual work around for this is to manually run
":set paste" inside vim
before pasting, but I often forget. The
plugin uses code from Chis
to do this automatically for me, so the content I paste into vim does not get
automatically indented but the lines I type manually still do. You can install
this plugin using pathogen, or by copy-pasting the
If you want to write a program that handles bracketed paste mode yourself you
have to do a bit of extra work. Bracketed paste mode isn’t enabled by default
because most programs make a mess of the extra escape sequences. To enable it
you need to output the sequence
\e[?2004h to STDOUT when your program
starts. As bracketed paste mode is global to the terminal window you need to
remember to turn it off again when your program exits. To do this output the
\e[?2004l to STDOUT.
- Enable bracketed paste:
- Wait for paste to start: you’ll see
- Wait for paste to stop: you’ll see
- Disable bracketed paste:
For a long time bracketed paste mode was only supported by xterm and its derivatives (urxvt, etc.), but as of recently (a year or so ago) support has been added to most other terminals, including libvte which powers gnome-terminal et.al., iTerm 2 and Terminal.app. In other words, almost every terminal in widespread use now suppports bracketed paste mode.
If you maintain a program that runs inside a terminal emulator, now is definitely the time to consider adding support for bracketed paste mode. Even little niceties like waiting for an extra newline after pasting can make the user feel much more in control.