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How to make a transcript; or, how to get lazy selfish people to help you for free

Often someone (generally me) will tell you to provide a transcript of a terminal session. Here’s how to do that.

Assuming that you’ve got a terminal open, and you’ve been interacting with it, and you want to publish those interactions so that someone else can examine them …

Copy the text

On OS X, using

  • Type Command-A to select all the terminal’s text (or you can select just some of it by left-dragging)
  • type Command-C to copy it to the clipboard.

Use Command-V to paste (see below).

On *nix, using gnome-terminal:

  • Click the “Edit” menu (or equivalently type Alt+E)
  • Click “Select All”
  • Click the “Edit” menu again
  • Finally click “Copy”.

Use Control-V to paste (see below).

On *nix, using xterm or rxvt:

  • Scroll to the beginning of the text you want to copy. You can use the mouse wheel if you have one.
  • Left-drag to the end of the text you want to copy. Your text will become highlighted.

Use the middle mouse button to paste (see below). Note that your selection might suddenly vanish, depending on the precise actions you take in betweeen dragging and pasting; if that happens, just select it again and start over :-(

On Windows, using cmd.exe, older Cygwin[fn:1], or msysgit (aka “git bash”)

Optional, but recomended: Set defaults for the future!

I recommend that you configure cmd.exe to allow easy copying and pasting by default; I have no idea why this is disabled by default. Here’s how:

  • In an existing cmd.exe window, right-click the “System Icon” (it’s at the far left of the title bar)
  • Choose “Defaults”
  • Check the “QuickEdit Mode” box
  • Click OK
  • Again right-click the System Icon
  • Choose “Properties”
  • Again check the “QuickEdit Mode” box
  • Click OK
  • At the “Apply Properties” popup, choose “Save properties for future windows with same title”
  • Click OK


  • Now select by left-dragging. Note that unlike any sane system, instead of selecting a continuous subset of text, you are selecting a rectangular region, which means you must be careful to start at the leftmost column (otherwise that column – and in fact, everything to the left of where you started dragging – won’t get copied).
  • Copy by right-clicking.

Use Control-V to paste (see below).

On Windows, using newer Cygwin or PuTTY (a nice ssh client):

  • Scroll with the mouse wheel to find the beginning of your text
  • Select and copy simultaneously by left-dragging.

Use Control-V to paste (see below).


Visit your favorite paste site (I like in your browser, create a new paste, and then type or click as appropriate to get the text into the edit area.


[fn:1] To tell if your Cygwin is old: right-click the System Icon in the command prompt window. If you see an entry labeled “Defaults”, it’s old; but if you see an entry labeled “Options”, it’s new.

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