KevCaz's Website


As mentioned several times on this website, I use Atom for my coding as well as for writing posts and manuscripts. While coding, one often needs to run commands in a terminal. To do so, I use specific Atom packages such as IDE-R or Julia Client to run R and Julia commands respectively and platformio-ide-terminal. The latter meets most of my expectations, but:

  1. the terminal emulated is in a bottom panel and when I’m working on my laptop I cannot get a good overview of the code and the corresponding outputs at the same time, pretty annoying… and having the terminal in the right panel is a feature unlikely to be implemented in a near future;

  2. in many cases, I’d prefer to run command lines in a terminal emulator that is not a child process of Atom so that the commands are run independently from it.

The solution I’ve envisioned for a while now is to use Atom for coding and run the commands in GNOME terminal (which I very much like, but many good alternatives exist. Of course I have always been able to do so, but I had to copy paste every code chunk ⬇️.

And this has always been bothering me (more than it should have) for a long time now. So last weekend I decided to find a way to get a shortcut that would directly send command lines to GNOME Terminal and execute it.

There actually is an Atom package to send command to Terminal, r-exec, but it only works for MacOS as it uses AppleScript. So, all I had to do was to do an Linux equivalent of r-exec, no less… I rolled up my sleeves and read and code and read and code and finally came out with a solution 😄!



Before detailing the bash script I created, I must mention a couple of important point about prerequisites. First, here is my current OS and desktop environment (I’ve used inxi to share these infos):

$ inxi -S
 Host: debkev Kernel: 4.19.0-5-amd64 x86_64 bits: 64
 Desktop: Gnome 3.30.2 Distro: Debian GNU/Linux 10 (buster)

Second, the solution below only works if GNOME is running atop, not on Walyand which is the default on Debian Buster. In my case, the very first step was to go back to To do so, I commented the line WaylandEnable=false in /etc/gdm3/daemon.conf ⬇️:

That being said, if you are using a UNIX distro and your terminal window is managed by, it should fairly easy to adapt the approach below.

Bash script

In order to use the script, xclip and xdotool must be installed:

# apt-get install xclip xdotool

The bash script I’ve created automates 4 operations:

  1. it copy-pastes the current selection with xclip;

  2. it calls xdotool to identify where GNOME-Terminal windows and use the id of the last one (with tail);

  3. it changes the focused window with xdotool;

  4. it pastes the content of the clipboard in the Terminal and executes the command via xdotool.

Here is the bash script I used:

# Current selection to clipboard
xclip -o -selection primary | xclip -i -selection clipboard

# pause to let me have all my keys are up
# see
sleep .1

# Find the last gnome terminal window
w=$(xdotool search --class gnome-terminal | tail -1)

# test if a terminal is actually open, otherwise opens one
if ! [[ $w =~ [0-9]+ ]]; then
  w=$(xdotool search --class gnome-terminal | tail -1)

# focus on the right window
xdotool windowfocus $w

# paste the command (ctrl+shift+v) and execute it (Return)
xdotool key --clearmodifiers ctrl+shift+v Return

The final step was to create a key shortcut that triggers this script (which I named tognuterm and turned into an executable with chmod 755 tognuterm). This works pretty well 🎆 🔥 💥 and not only I can easily run any command from Atom but I also can run a command from any application (for instance, from my Internet browser 😉).

Important notes

Extra readings

First of all, in order to create the script above I’ve got good hints reading this answer on ! Second, there is a tool similar to xclip: xsel that you can use here (see below) and Fernando Basso wrote a nice piece about these two that I strongly recommend (obviously, you should also look at the documentation: man xclip and man xdotool). Third, you should better read a bit about xdotool as it is pretty handy: it simulates keyboard input and mouse activity, so you can create script that resize windows, enter keys, clicks, etc. Note that due to its nature, it does interact with your own activity and that is why using sleep could be useful, it took me some time to understand this but it explains why some time your script does not work!

Using xsel instead of xlip

Here, xsel and xclip are interchangeable, you can use either and even the two of them. If you prefer xsel over xclip, simply replace the line xclip -o -selection primary | xclip -i -selection clipboard by xsel | xsel --clipboard.

Only xdotool approach

You can actually simulate a copy event with xdotool instead of using xsel or xclip. I refrained using this approach because ultimately, I would rather opt for a solution that do not require to simulate keyboard events. Anyway, it you want to give it a try, you can replace xclip -o -selection primary | xclip -i -selection clipboard by xdotool key --clearmodifiers ctrl+c and for the reasons explained above you better add a pause before the command (e.g. sleep .2).

Using another Terminal emulator

The solution should work with any terminal emulator, you simply need to use the relevant xdotool search command. For instance, if you want to use Terminator, the search command should be xdotool search --class terminator. If you do not know how to retrieve info about about windows, check xwininfo out!

Concluding remarks

  1. The solution I came up with is far from being perfect, but it works well and it is a good starting point. If I improve it in a near future, I’ll write another note about this!

  2. Looks like Wayland is meant to replace, so I’d better think about a solution that would work on Wayland… Again, IMHO, the best approach should not depend on a specific window manager.

That’s all folks!