The clipboard module keeps track of copied text in Howl, and handles synchronization with the system clipboard and primary selection. It provides two ways of remembering clipboard items: As a list of anynomous clips that is automatically updated with each copy/delete/cut operation, and within named registers.

Clipboard items

A clipboard item is a simple Lua table. The simplest and most common type of item contains only one field, text, that contains the text of the item. There is no real restriction on what additional fields can be available for a clipboard item (the fields can be specified when doing a push), but so far one specific field is in use; The whole_lines field, when set to true, indicates that the text should be considered a block of stand-alone lines, rather than a simple chunk of text.

See also:



A table (list) of clipboard items available on the clipboard, with the most recent item being at index 1 in the table. The maximum number of clipboard items is controlled by the clipboard_max_items config variable. clips is automatically updated whenever a new item is push()ed, prepending the new item and removing older items as necessary.


The most recent anynomous clipboard item available on the clipboard.


The primary object is used for synchronization with the systems primary selection (i.e. the one used for middle button action). It has a .text property that can be used to fetch or store the contents of the primary selection, as well as a clear method that can be used for clearing the selection. In contrast to the ordinary clipboard it’s possible to set virtual content for the primary clipboard, via the use of a provider function. Such a function would be called on-demand as necessary to provide the content.


primary = howl.clipboard.primary
primary.text = 'direct'
print primary.text -- => 'direct'
primary.text = -> 'on-demand'
print primary.text -- => 'on-demand'


A table containing named clipboard items. As an example, suppose a clipboard item containing the text “hello” has been push()ed to the abc register. In that case the registers table would look like the following:

  abc = {
    text: 'hello'


push (item, options = {})

Pushes the specified item to the clipboard. item can either be table containing a text field, along with optional additional fields, or it can be a string in which case a clipboard item table is automatically constructed.

The optional options table allows for specifying a named register where to store the item. The to field specifies the register name to use for storing the clip in this case.

The pushed item is made available to the system clipboard automatically, except when pushing to a named register using the to field in options.


-- Push some text to the clipboard
howl.clipboard.push('my text')

-- Push a clipboard item with additional fields
howl.clipboard.push({text = 'my text', whole_lines = true})

-- Push some text to the register 'a'
howl.clipboard.push('my text', { to = 'a' } )