Switch branches/tags
Nothing to show
Find file Copy path
Fetching contributors…
Cannot retrieve contributors at this time
212 lines (139 sloc) 6.61 KB

#What is a tmux?

Tmux is a terminal multiplexer, which basically means it's a way to have multiple terminal sessions live inside of a single terminal window. This is super handy! It lets us do things like:

Here I have Vim open on the left, and on the right I have a shell up top and a python interpreter on the bottom. Tmux lets me switch between all of these 'panes' using the keyboard.


###Mac OS

To get tmux on Mac OS you need homebrew already installed, and then you can just do:

brew install tmux

that should be it!


I think tmux should be in the repos for just about every Linux distro (I know it is for Arch and Debian).


To configure tmux we can put stuff in ~/.tmux.conf. As a quick example let's add mouse support! We do:

set-window-option -g mode-mouse on
set-option -g mouse-select-pane on
set-option -g mouse-select-window on
set-option -g mouse-resize-pane on
setw -g mode-mouse on

Keybindings are great, but mouse support is sometimes super handy!

#Create a tmux session

If you want to start tmux we do:

tmux new

If you run this in a terminal you'll probably get a bar drawn along the bottom, but otherwise it will be pretty unexciting.

We can give our tmux session a name by doing:

tmux new -s 'name'

This will come in handy later! On my machine I always name my tmux instances, so I use this alias a lot:

alias new='tmux new -s'

then I just do new python or new todo or some such thing. Nice!

#Command Prefix

Tmux is controlled mostly from the keyboard. Although we enabled mouse support above, we can't use the mouse to make new panes or windows. If we want to enter a command in tmux we first hit the prefix keybind, which by default is ctrl-b. I don't particularly like this, so I have mine bound to ctrl-w, but you can do whatever you like! Some folks use ctrl-a, but this interferes with readline.

To bind a custom prefix:

unbind C-b #get rid of the default
set -g prefix C-w
bind C-w send-prefix

And that's it! C is tmux-speak for ctrl.

#Detaching and Attaching

One of the coolest features of tmux is that we can 'detach' from a running tmux session, and it will continue to run in our absense. To detach we do prefix-d, which means hit prefix, release the keys, and then type d. Cool! This is sort of like using C-z to suspend Vim, but we could be suspending a whole number of virtual terminals. Nifty!

On a related note we can get a list of running tmux sessions by doing:

tmux list-sessions

this is why I like to name them: if the tmux sessions have names then it's easier to tell them apart if you have multiple ones running (I usually do because I'm messy).

We can also reattach to a running session by doing:

tmux attach -t 'session name'

I have this aliased to attach. This will plop us back into the tmux session we started earlier, and everything we had open will still be there.

This is super super handy! Where tmux becomes really useful is when interacting with other computers over ssh: if you're doing your work in a tmux session you don't need to fear network problems! If your ssh connection is interrupted you will be able to reattach right back where you were.

This also applies to accidentally closing a terminal window on your machine! Nice.

#Command mode

Tmux has a command mode that is kind of similar to Vim's. Basically if you do prefix-: you'll be at a little prompt where you can try out tmux commands. There are lots of tmux commands! We're going to start learning more of them and creating keybinds, command mode lets you try out a command to see what it does.

#Create new panes

Tmux starts with only one pane occupying the whole of the window. We can do better! The command to do do a split so that we have two panes is:


This will split it in half horizontally, so the result is two windows, one on the top and one on the bottom. By default this is bound to ", which I haven't found to be a terribly useful binding. If you want to rebind it you can do

bind u split-window

(I use u, but you don't have to!). We can also split a pane in the other direction, so that we get a split into two panes next to each other. We get this behavior from the -h flag, like this:

split-window -h

this is bound by default to %. I use o for it.

###Path weirdness

Tmux, by default, doesn't handle working directory in the way that I think it should. If you start a tmux session in ~/mydir, and then move from there to ~/mydir/mybetterdir, the working directory for new splits will still be ~/mydir. We can solve this by using this instead:

split-window -c "#{pane_current_path}"

Hooray! Credit for that one goes to Steve McCarthy. If we throw a -h option in there as well we'll get the same behavior we did before.

#Destroy panes

DESTROY! We can of course do this. If you bind a key to:


that will close the currently focused pane (the one your cursor is in). If you kill the last active pane, tmux will die (sad).

#Move between panes

OK, so once we have splits that we're working with (maybe Vim on the left and a REPL on the right) we need to move around. We enabled mouse support above, so really we could just click around, but we're badass hackers, right? right?

OK well anyway, we can move relatively between panes using the select-pane command. I bind hjkl to this, for Vim-ness. The arrow keys are bound by default.

bind h select-pane -L
bind j select-pane -D
bind k select-pane -U
bind l select-pane -R

Nice! If you're a vim user that will be nice and comfy.

#Resize panes

It's possible to change the size of the splits using keybinds, but I just use the mouse. You should be able to just click on the border and drag to resize.

#Make new window

Tmux has some terminology attached: everything we've done so far has taken place in one window. We've made splits, and killed splits, but so far we've only been working in one window. A window occupies the whole terminal in which tmux is living, and a particular tmux session can have one or more windows living in it. We can make a new window with:


Cool! This is a new fullscreen window, which can hold more splits! But how do we switch around? We can do:




to cycle through them. I bind these to ] and [ respectively. I guess we can think about windows as being sort of like tabs? Maybe? idk. Anyway, they are useful.

There is a command to kill a window (kill-window, imagine that) but I usually just close a window by killing all the panes that live inside of it - if you kill the last pane in a window it will kill the window.