Chrome browser has an excellent extension called autocopy, which copies text whenever some text is selected/highlighted.

To copy a region in emacs, I have to select the region and then press M-w to copy it. But whenever I select a region, I want the region to be copied automatically. How can I achieve that in emacs?

2 Answers 2


The selection can be copied automatically if the OS supports primary selection by setting the below variable.

(setq x-select-enable-primary t)

From C-h v x-select-enable-primary, you get,

Non-nil means cutting and pasting uses the primary selection The existence of a primary selection depends on the underlying GUI you use. E.g. it doesn't exist under MS-Windows.

To learn even more, visit the relevant info node by doing C-h i g (emacs) Primary Selection.

Another variable setting that goes in tandem with the above is to set the x-select-enable-clipboard to t. Doing that allows you to yank the contents copied from other X11 applications into emacs.

(setq x-select-enable-clipboard t)

When emacs 25.1 is released (supposedly the next stable version after 24.5), the x-select-enable-primary variable name will be deprecated and select-enable-primary must be used instead (removal of that x- prefix). Similarly x-select-enable-clipboard will be deprecated in favor of select-enable-clipboard.


If you just need this behavior for mouse selections, you can use the built-in setting mouse-drag-copy-region:

(setq mouse-drag-copy-region t)

If non-nil, copy to kill-ring upon mouse adjustments of the region.

  • Most of the time, I use keyboard to select text. Is there a way to enable it for key board selection too? Oct 6, 2015 at 13:54
  • @ChillarAnand I don't think there's a built-in option, no. You'll have to wait for someone more knowledgeable to answer. I'm not sure what the best way is to go about this.
    – nanny
    Oct 6, 2015 at 14:11
  • This also works on non-X11 (e.g. Mac OS X)
    – mike
    May 3, 2016 at 21:12
  • @ChillarAnand: on Mac OSX, this command works for both mouse and keyboards selections. Unbelievable but true
    – Doomsday
    Feb 16, 2018 at 10:53

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