Sorry screen, tmux is better (but here are some screen-like hotkeys)


If you’re familiar with the command line on Linux or UNIX, you’ve likely heard of a program called “screen”, which allows you to create virtual terminal sessions inside of your current terminal. The major benefit to this is the ability to dettach and reattach screen sessions, leaving your programs to act as if you never left. Additionally, you can have multiple buffers inside your screen that act like tabs, allowing you to flip between.

The major difference between screen and tmux is their ability to split and manage splits. Oh yeah, that and hotkeys. I think they were trying to pay legacy (or force you to change back :-P) by setting up your main key to be “b” instead of “a”, which is an awkward reach. Tux Wears Fedora below shares more screen like hotkeys, as do I with some minor tweaks that I combined with the default example in ubuntu /usr/share.

I became well acquainted at Tux Wears Fedora’s post on tmux migrating from screen.

tmux in action

# ~/.tmux.conf
# By Tyler Mulligan. Public domain.
# This configuration file binds many of the common GNU screen key bindings to
# appropriate tmux key bindings. Note that for some key bindings there is no
# tmux analogue and also that this set omits binding some commands available in
# tmux but not in screen.
# Note this is a good starting point but you should check out the man page for more
# configuration options if you really want to get more out of tmux

### Unbind existing tmux key bindings (except 0-9).

# Set the prefix to ^A.
unbind C-b
set -g prefix ^A
bind a send-prefix

# Bind appropriate commands similar to screen.
# lockscreen ^X x
unbind ^X
bind ^X lock-server
unbind x
bind x lock-server

# screen ^C c
unbind ^C
bind ^C new-window
bind c
bind c new-window

# detach ^D d
unbind ^D
bind ^D detach

# displays *
unbind *
bind * list-clients

# next ^@ ^N sp n
unbind ^@
bind ^@ next-window
unbind ^N
bind ^N next-window
unbind " "
bind " " next-window
unbind n
bind n next-window

# title A
unbind A
bind A command-prompt "rename-window %%"

# other ^A
unbind ^A
bind ^A last-window

# prev ^H ^P p ^?
unbind ^H
bind ^H previous-window
unbind ^P
bind ^P previous-window
unbind p
bind p previous-window
unbind BSpace
bind BSpace previous-window

# windows ^W w
unbind ^W
bind ^W list-windows
unbind w
bind w list-windows

# quit \
unbind \
bind \ confirm-before "kill-server"

# kill K k
unbind K
bind K confirm-before "kill-window"
unbind k
bind k confirm-before "kill-window"

# redisplay ^L l
unbind ^L
bind ^L refresh-client
unbind l
bind l refresh-client

# More straight forward key bindings for splitting
unbind %
bind | split-window -h
bind v split-window -h
unbind '"'
bind - split-window -v
bind h split-window -v

# History
set -g history-limit 1000

# Pane
unbind o
bind C-s down-pane

# Terminal emulator window title
set -g set-titles on
set -g set-titles-string '#S:#I.#P #W'

# Status Bar
set -g status-bg black
set -g status-fg white
set -g status-interval 1
set -g status-left '#[fg=green]#H#[default]'
set -g status-right '#[fg=yellow]#(cut -d " " -f 1-4 /proc/loadavg)#[default] #[fg=cyan,bold]%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S#[default]'

# Notifying if other windows has activities
setw -g monitor-activity on
set -g visual-activity on

# Highlighting the active window in status bar
setw -g window-status-current-bg red

# Clock
setw -g clock-mode-colour green
setw -g clock-mode-style 24

# :kB: focus up
unbind Tab
bind Tab down-pane
unbind BTab
bind BTab up-pane

# " windowlist -b
unbind '"'
bind '"' choose-window

Splitting is what initially caused me to migrate but there are plenty of other features that have lead me to stay. this article outlines the benefits in detail. Once you go tmux, you never go back.

5 thoughts on “Sorry screen, tmux is better (but here are some screen-like hotkeys)

  1. Pingback: Using Terminal Program "screen" on Linux / UNIX | Do Know Evil - A Blog by Tyler Mulligan

  2. Pingback: Configure tmux like screen « 0ddn1x: tricks with *nix

  3. Pingback: Emile "iMil" Heitor 's home » Blog Archive A new multiplexed world » Emile "iMil" Heitor 's home

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