Difference between revisions of "Tmux"

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{{note|At first you may read screen as if we were using screen and not tmux, but tmux also uses screen for the TERM enviroment variable.}}

Revision as of 04:47, 31 May 2012

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Tmux is a "terminal multiplexer: it enables a number of terminals (or windows), each running a separate program, to be created, accessed, and controlled from a single screen. tmux may be detached from a screen and continue running in the background, then later reattached."

Tmux is notable as a BSD-licensed alternative to GNU Screen. Although similar, there are many differences between the programs, as noted on the tmux FAQ page. Most notably, tmux is currently under active development, in contrast to screen, which has not had a stable release since August 8, 2008.


Install tmux, available in the Official Repositories.


A user-specific configuration file should be located at ~/.tmux.conf, while a global configuration file should be located at /etc/tmux.conf. Default configuration files can be found in /usr/share/tmux/.

Key bindings

Prefix all commands with Ctrl-b
Cmd Action
c Create a new window
n Change to next window
p Change to previous window
" Split pane horizontally
% Split pane vertically
, Rename current window
o Move to next pane

By default, command key bindings are prefixed by Ctrl-b. For example, to vertically split a window type Ctrl-b %.

After splitting a window into multiple panes, you can resize a pane by the hitting prefix key (i.e. Ctrl-b) and, while continuing to hold Ctrl, press Left/Right/Up/Down. Swapping panes is achieved in the same manner, but by hitting o instead of a directional key.

Tip: To mimic screen key bindings copy /usr/share/tmux/screen-keys.conf to either of the configuration locations.

Key bindings may be changed with the bind and unbind commands in tmux.conf. For example, you can change the prefix key (i.e. Ctrl-b) to Ctrl-a by adding the following commands in your configuration file:

unbind C-b
set -g prefix C-a

Additional ways to move between windows include:

Ctrl-b l (Move to the previously selected window)
Ctrl-b w (List all windows / window numbers)
Ctrl-b <window number> (Move to the specified window number, the default bindings are from 0 – 9)
Ctrl-b q  (Show pane numbers, when the numbers show up type the key to goto that pane)

What if you have 10+ windows open? Tmux has a find-window option & keybinding.

Ctrl-b f <window name> (Search for window name)
Ctrl-b w (Select from interactive list of windows)

Browsing URL's

To browse URL's inside tmux you must have urlviewAUR installed and configured.

Inside a new terminal:

bind-key u capture-pane \; save-buffer /tmp/tmux-buffer \; run-shell "$TERMINAL -e urlview /tmp/tmux-buffer"

Or inside a new tmux window (no new terminal needed):

bind-key u capture-pane \; save-buffer /tmp/tmux-buffer \; new-window -n "urlview" '$SHELL -c "urlview < /tmp/tmux-buffer"'

Setting the correct term

If you are using a 256 colour terminal, you will need to set the correct term in tmux. You can do this in either the tmux.conf:

set -g default-terminal "screen-256color" 

or in your .bashrc with a test like:

# for tmux: export 256color
[ -n "$TMUX" ] && export TERM=screen-256color

If you enable xterm-keys in your tmux.conf, then you need to build a custom terminfo to declare the new escape codes or applications will not know about them. Compile the following with tic and you can use "xterm-screen-256color" as your TERM:

# A screen- based TERMINFO that declares the escape sequences
# enabled by the tmux config "set-window-option -g xterm-keys".
# Prefix the name with xterm- since some applications inspect
# the TERM *name* in addition to the terminal capabilities advertised.
xterm-screen-256color|GNU Screen with 256 colors bce and tmux xterm-keys,

# As of Nov'11, the below keys are picked up by
# .../tmux/blob/master/trunk/xterm-keys.c:
	kDC=\E[3;2~, kEND=\E[1;2F, kHOM=\E[1;2H,
	kIC=\E[2;2~, kLFT=\E[1;2D, kNXT=\E[6;2~, kPRV=\E[5;2~,

# Change this to screen-256color if the terminal you run tmux in
# doesn't support bce:

Other Settings

Set scrollback to 10000 lines with

set -g history-limit 10000

Session initialization

You can have tmux open a session with preloaded windows by including those details in your ~/.tmux.conf:

new  -n WindowName Command
neww -n WindowName Command
neww -n WindowName Command

To start a session with split windows (multiple panes), include the splitw command below the neww you would like to split; thus:

new  -s SessionName -n WindowName Command
neww -n foo/bar foo
splitw -v -p 50 -t 0 bar
selectw -t 1 
selectp -t 0

would open 2 windows, the second of which would be named foo/bar and would be split vertically in half (50%) with foo running above bar. Focus would be in window 2 (foo/bar), top pane (foo).

Note: Numbering for sessions, windows and panes starts at zero, unless you have specified a base-index of 1 in your .conf

To manage multiple sessions, source separate session files from your conf file:

# initialize sessions
bind F source-file ~/.tmux/foo
bind B source-file ~/.tmux/bar


Scrolling issues

If you have issues scrolling with Shift-PageUp/Shift-PageDown in your terminal, try this:

set -g terminal-overrides 'xterm*:smcup@:rmcup@'

ICCCM Selection Integration

It is possible to copy a tmux paste buffer to an ICCCM selection, and vice-versa, by defining a shell command which interfaces tmux with an X11 selection interface. The following tmux config file snippet effectively integrates CLIPBOARD with the current tmux paste buffer using xclip:

##CLIPBOARD selection integration
##Requires prefix key before the command key
#Copy tmux paste buffer to CLIPBOARD
bind C-c run "tmux show-buffer | xclip -i -selection clipboard"
#Copy CLIPBOARD to tmux paste buffer and paste tmux paste buffer
bind C-v run "tmux set-buffer -- \"$(xclip -o -selection clipboard)\"; tmux paste-buffer"

If you get an output similar to \346\227\245\346\234\254\350\252\236\343\201\247 when pasting utf-8 characters, try changing this line:

bind C-c run "tmux show-buffer | xclip -i -selection clipboard"

to this:

bind C-p run "tmux save-buffer - | xclip -i -selection clipboard"

Tips and tricks

Start tmux in urxvt

Use this command to start urxvt with a started tmux session. I use this with the exec command from my .ratpoisonrc file.

urxvt -e bash -c "tmux -q has-session && exec tmux attach-session -d || exec tmux new-session -n$USER -s$USER@$HOSTNAME"

Start tmux on every shell login

Simply add the following line of bash code to your .bashrc before your aliases; the code for other shells is very similar:

[[ $TERM != "screen" ]] && exec tmux
# If not running interactively, do not do anything
[[ $- != *i* ]] && return
[[ $TERM != screen* ]] && exec tmux
Note: At first you may read screen as if we were using screen and not tmux, but tmux also uses screen for the TERM enviroment variable.

This snippet does the same thing, but also checks tmux is installed before trying to launch it. It also tries to reattach you to an existing tmux session at logout, so that you can shut down every tmux session quickly from the same terminal at logout.

if which tmux 2>&1 >/dev/null; then
    # if no session is started, start a new session
    test -z ${TMUX} && tmux

    # when quitting tmux, try to attach
    while test -z ${TMUX}; do
        tmux attach || break
Note: Instead of using the bashrc file, you can launch tmux when you start your terminal emulator. (i. e. urxvt -e tmux)

Split window and retain current directory

Note: With revision 2647 this behavior became standard.

Fast method

Note: If you have set default-path to something for another convince; it will be reset to ~/

This command simply sets the default-path to your current path, splits the window, and resets it to your home directory. Can be easily bound to a key if you wish.

 tmux set default-path $(pwd) \; split-window\; set default-path ~/

To bind it to | and - respectively:

 bind - set default-path $PWD \; split-window\; set default-path ~/
 bind | set default-path $PWD \; split-window -v\; set default-path ~/

cd method

Note: This trick tries to inject a key into your session, which only works if it is at a command prompt (i. e. fails within a program like vim, emacs, …).

Create a excutable file as follows, for example ~/.scripts/tmux-split:

 #!/usr/bin/env bash
 tmux split-window $1
 tmux send-keys " cd $PWD;clear"
 tmux send-keys "Enter"

and change the configure from:

 bind v split-window -h
 bind n split-window -v


 bind v send-keys " ~/mbin/split-tmux -h" \; send-keys "Enter"
 bind n send-keys " ~/mbin/split-tmux -v" \; send-keys "Enter"

/proc method

Note: This script, borrowed from Christian Neukirchen, reads the present pane's CWD from /proc/[pane's top program's $PID]/cwd. Some shells like zsh will not always properly update that entry.

Pasted into e. g. ~/.scripts/tmux-split-in-cwd:

# tmux-split-in-cwd - open a new shell with same cwd as calling pane

SIP=$(tmux display-message -p "#S:#I:#P")
PTY=$(tmux server-info |
        egrep flags=\|bytes |
        awk '/windows/ { s = $2 }
             /references/ { i = $1 }
             /bytes/ { print s i $1 $2 } ' |
        grep "$SIP" |
        cut -d: -f4)
PID=$(ps -eao pid,tty,command --forest | awk '$2 == "'$PTS'" {print $1; exit}')
DIR=$(readlink /proc/$PID/cwd)

case "$1" in
  h) tmux splitw -h "cd '$DIR'; $SHELL"
  v) tmux splitw -v "cd '$DIR'; $SHELL"
  *) tmux neww "cd '$DIR'; $SHELL"

~/.tmux.conf could thus contain:

bind | run '~/.scripts/tmux-split-in-cwd h' # horizontal split in cwd
bind _ run '~/.scripts/tmux-split-in-cwd v' # vertical split in cwd
bind m run '~/.scripts/tmux-split-in-cwd' # new window in cwd

Use tmux windows like tabs

The following settings added to ~/.tmux.conf allow to use tmux windows like tabs, such as those provided by the reference of these hotkeys — urxvt's tabbing extensions. An advantage thereof is that these virtual “tabs” are independent of the terminal emulator.

#urxvt tab like window switching (-n: no prior escape seq)
bind -n S-down new-window
bind -n S-left prev
bind -n S-right next
bind -n C-left swap-window -t -1
bind -n C-right swap-window -t +1

Of course, those should not overlap with other applications' hotkeys, such as the terminal's. Given that they substitute terminal tabbing that might as well be deactivated, though.

It can also come handy to supplement the EOT hotkey Template:Keypress+Template:Keypress with one for tmux's detach:

bind-key -n C-j detach

Clients simultaneously interacting with various windows of a session

In “Practical Tmux”, Brandur Leach writes:


Note: Since tmux 1.4 mirrored sessions may be set to auto-destroy with the destroy-unattached session option

To avoid these issues he wrote the script “tmx” — the version below is slightly modified to execute “tmux new-window” if “1” is its second parameter. Invoked as tmx <base session name> [1] it launches the base session if necessary. Otherwise it will kill any “zombie” sessions, launch a new “client” session linked to the base, optionally add a new window and attach. Then it waits for detachment and kills its session.


# Modified TMUX start script from:
#     http://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic-t-836006-start-0.html
# Store it to `~/bin/tmx` and issue `chmod +x`.

# Works because bash automatically trims by assigning to variables and by 
# passing arguments
trim() { echo $1; }

if [[ -z "$1" ]]; then
    echo "Specify session name as the first argument"

# Only because I often issue `ls` to this script by accident
if [[ "$1" == "ls" ]]; then
    tmux ls

# This actually works without the trim() on all systems except OSX
tmux_nb=$(trim `tmux ls | grep "^$base_session" | wc -l`)
if [[ "$tmux_nb" == "0" ]]; then
    echo "Launching tmux base session $base_session ..."
    tmux new-session -s $base_session
    # Make sure we are not already in a tmux session
    if [[ -z "$TMUX" ]]; then
        # Kill defunct sessions first
        old_sessions=$(tmux ls 2>/dev/null | egrep "^[0-9]{14}.*[0-9]+\)$" | cut -f 1 -d:)
        for old_session_id in $old_sessions; do
            tmux kill-session -t $old_session_id

        echo "Launching copy of base session $base_session ..."
        # Session is is date and time to prevent conflict
        session_id=`date +%Y%m%d%H%M%S`
        # Create a new session (without attaching it) and link to base session 
        # to share windows
        tmux new-session -d -t $base_session -s $session_id
        if [[ "$2" == "1" ]]; then
		# Create a new window in that session
		tmux new-window
        # Attach to the new session
        tmux attach-session -t $session_id
        # When we detach from it, kill the session
        tmux kill-session -t $session_id

A useful setting for this is

setw -g aggressive-resize on

added to ~/.tmux.conf. It causes tmux to resize a window based on the smallest client actually viewing it, not on the smallest one attached to the entire session.

Changing the configuration with tmux started

By default tmux reads ~/.tmux.conf only if it was not already running. To have tmux load a configuration file afterwards, execute:

tmux source-file <path>

This can be added to ~/.tmux.conf as e. g.:

bind r source-file <path>

Template script to run program in new session resp. attach to existing one

This script checks for a program presumed to have been started by a previous run of itself. Unless found it creates a new tmux session and attaches to a window named after and running the program. If however the program was found it merely attaches to the session and selects the window.


PID=$(pidof $1)

if [ -z "$PID" ]; then
    tmux new-session -d -s main ;
    tmux new-window -t main -n $1 "$*" ;
    tmux attach-session -d -t main ;
    tmux select-window -t $1 ;
exit 0

A derived version to run irssi with the nicklist plugin can be found on its ArchWiki page.

See also

Forum threads