Archlinux / MacOS clipboard bindings

My muscle memory shortcuts that wfm between MacOS & Archlinux

Published: Saturday, Oct 8, 2022 Last modified: Thursday, Dec 8, 2022

xmodmap keyboard bindings

The “Super” key aka MacOS command key aka Super_L (mod4) is left of the space bar, if you find Alt_L (mod1) & Super_L (mod4) reversed (Windows keyboard). To join my world you need to transpose the two keys:

setxkbmap -option altwin:swap_alt_win

You can check the bind using xev or screenkey.

A “Mac” style keyboard like these “MX Keys for Mac” are nice, big and don’t have the Function key confusing matters:

MX keys for Mac on Arch

Terminal

I like the cross-platform Terminal https://alacritty.org though since it can freeze on my Xorg Arch machine whilst idle 🤷, I also use https://st.suckless.org which is more reliable for me on Xorg.

Copying text on the Terminal

selection:
  save_to_clipboard: true

Over the years I’ve used computers, I’m most familiar with copy on selection when using a terminal and using one clipboard instead of Fredesktop’s maddening PRIMARY, SECONDARY, and CLIPBOARD.

I don’t use vi bindings for visual selection or tmux etc.

Pasting on the terminal

Historically it’s a middle mouse click for pasting, though I’m now more familiar with:

mod4 + v

If you use alacritty on Arch it needs the configuration:

key_bindings:
  - { key: V, mods: Super, action: Paste }

In st it is:

{ Mod4Mask,             XK_v,           clippaste,      {.i =  0} },

Browser

Copying text

Here I do not expect the Terminal’s copy on selection behaviour. I rely on mod4 + c to copy text. It works in Archlinux google-chrome-stable and it works on MacOS. 👍

Pasting text on a browser

mod4 + v - works in google-chrome-stable on the URL bar

However on Archlinux I have to remember for general copy/pasting to switch to Ctrl+{c,v} when using a browser 🤦

Clipboard manager

This is a huge piece of mind for me. On Linux it’s long been the case if you kill a window with your text selection, you might lose your selection. A clipboard manager is hence a necessity for me.

They are bound the same keys, Shift+Mod4+v on Arch and Mac! On Arch I wire this up in dwm:

{ MODKEY|ShiftMask,             XK_v, spawn,               {.v = clipcmd } },

vim

Tbh I do not integrate vim with my clipboard, it’s too much of a hassle.

Conclusion of compromise

My compromise thanks to MacOS usage is to use the Mod4 modifier to consistently copy and paste. This is especially important as my workflow is to use Arch and MacoS with a KVM like https://github.com/debauchee/barrier

I don’t have any “rich” clipboards with formatted text or images between the two platforms.

My workflow between Arch/MacOS is not perfect and it’s still confusing for most other common shortcuts like focusing the URL bar (Ctrl+l on Arch, Mod4+l on Mac) or using the command palette between the two operating systems (Ctrl+Shift+p on Arch, Mod4+Shift+p on Mac).

Lastly the Function key on Thinkpads and Apple hardware wastes precious modifier real estate. My workaround is using an external keyboard without a Function button.