Seamless navigation between tmux panes and vim splits
VimL Shell
Latest commit e79d4c0 Sep 3, 2016 @scolby33 scolby33 committed with blueyed Escape the % in the tmux select-pane -t command to prevent process su…
…bstitution by fish (#150)

Fixes #148.

Vim Tmux Navigator

This plugin is a repackaging of Mislav Marohnić's tmux-navigator configuration described in this gist. When combined with a set of tmux key bindings, the plugin will allow you to navigate seamlessly between vim and tmux splits using a consistent set of hotkeys.

NOTE: This requires tmux v1.8 or higher.


This plugin provides the following mappings which allow you to move between Vim panes and tmux splits seamlessly.

  • <ctrl-h> => Left
  • <ctrl-j> => Down
  • <ctrl-k> => Up
  • <ctrl-l> => Right
  • <ctrl-\> => Previous split

Note - you don't need to use your tmux prefix key sequence before using the mappings.

If you want to use alternate key mappings, see the configuration section below.



If you don't have a preferred installation method, I recommend using Vundle. Assuming you have Vundle installed and configured, the following steps will install the plugin:

Add the following line to your ~/.vimrc file

Plugin 'christoomey/vim-tmux-navigator'

Then run



To configure the tmux side of this customization there are two options:

Add a snippet

Add the following to your ~/.tmux.conf file:

# Smart pane switching with awareness of Vim splits.
# See:
is_vim="ps -o state= -o comm= -t '#{pane_tty}' \
    | grep -iqE '^[^TXZ ]+ +(\\S+\\/)?g?(view|n?vim?x?)(diff)?$'"
bind-key -n C-h if-shell "$is_vim" "send-keys C-h"  "select-pane -L"
bind-key -n C-j if-shell "$is_vim" "send-keys C-j"  "select-pane -D"
bind-key -n C-k if-shell "$is_vim" "send-keys C-k"  "select-pane -U"
bind-key -n C-l if-shell "$is_vim" "send-keys C-l"  "select-pane -R"
bind-key -n C-\ if-shell "$is_vim" "send-keys C-\\" "select-pane -l"


If you'd prefer, you can use the Tmux Plugin Manager (TPM) instead of copying the snippet. When using TPM, add the following lines to your ~/.tmux.conf:

set -g @plugin 'christoomey/vim-tmux-navigator'
run '~/.tmux/plugins/tpm/tpm'

Thanks to Christopher Sexton who provided the updated tmux configuration in this blog post.


Custom Key Bindings

If you don't want the plugin to create any mappings, you can use the five provided functions to define your own custom maps. You will need to define custom mappings in your ~/.vimrc as well as update the bindings in tmux to match.


Add the following to your ~/.vimrc to define your custom maps:

let g:tmux_navigator_no_mappings = 1

nnoremap <silent> {Left-mapping} :TmuxNavigateLeft<cr>
nnoremap <silent> {Down-Mapping} :TmuxNavigateDown<cr>
nnoremap <silent> {Up-Mapping} :TmuxNavigateUp<cr>
nnoremap <silent> {Right-Mapping} :TmuxNavigateRight<cr>
nnoremap <silent> {Previous-Mapping} :TmuxNavigatePrevious<cr>

Note Each instance of {Left-Mapping} or {Down-Mapping} must be replaced in the above code with the desired mapping. Ie, the mapping for <ctrl-h> => Left would be created with nnoremap <silent> <c-h> :TmuxNavigateLeft<cr>.

Autosave on leave

You can configure the plugin to write the current buffer, or all buffers, when navigating from Vim to tmux. This functionality is exposed via the g:tmux_navigator_save_on_switch variable, which can have either of the following values:

Value Behavior
1 :update (write the current buffer, but only if changed)
2 :wall (write all buffers)

To enable this, add the following (with the desired value) to your ~/.vimrc:

" Write all buffers before navigating from Vim to tmux pane
let g:tmux_navigator_save_on_switch = 2


Alter each of the five lines of the tmux configuration listed above to use your custom mappings. Note each line contains two references to the desired mapping.

Additional Customization

Restoring Clear Screen (C-l)

The default key bindings include <Ctrl-l> which is the readline key binding for clearing the screen. The following binding can be added to your ~/.tmux.conf file to provide an alternate mapping to clear-screen.

bind C-l send-keys 'C-l'

With this enabled you can use <prefix> C-l to clear the screen.

Thanks to Brian Hogan for the tip on how to re-map the clear screen binding.


If you like to nest your tmux sessions, this plugin is not going to work properly. It probably never will, as it would require detecting when Tmux would wrap from one outermost pane to another and propagating that to the outer session.

By default this plugin works on the outermost tmux session and the vim sessions it contains, but you can customize the behaviour by adding more commands to the expression used by the grep command.

When nesting tmux sessions via ssh or mosh, you could extend it to look like '(^|\/)g?(view|vim|ssh|mosh?)(diff)?$', which makes this plugin work within the innermost tmux session and the vim sessions within that one. This works better than the default behaviour if you use the outer Tmux sessions as relays to different hosts and have all instances of vim on remote hosts.

Similarly, if you like to nest tmux locally, add |tmux to the expression.

This behaviour means that you can't leave the innermost session with Ctrl-hjkl directly. These following fallback mappings can be targeted to the right Tmux session by escaping the prefix (Tmux' send-prefix command).

bind -r C-h run "tmux select-pane -L"
bind -r C-j run "tmux select-pane -D"
bind -r C-k run "tmux select-pane -U"
bind -r C-l run "tmux select-pane -R"
bind -r C-\ run "tmux select-pane -l"


Vim -> Tmux doesn't work!

This is likely due to conflicting key mappings in your ~/.vimrc. You can use the following search pattern to find conflicting mappings \vn(nore)?map\s+\<c-[hjkl]\>. Any matching lines should be deleted or altered to avoid conflicting with the mappings from the plugin.

Another option is that the pattern matching included in the .tmux.conf is not recognizing that Vim is active. To check that tmux is properly recognizing Vim, use the provided Vim command :TmuxPaneCurrentCommand. The output of that command should be a string like 'vim', 'Vim', 'vimdiff', etc. If you encounter a different output please open an issue with as much info about your OS, Vim version, and tmux version as possible.

Tmux Can't Tell if Vim Is Active

This functionality requires tmux version 1.8 or higher. You can check your version to confirm with this shell command:

tmux -V # should return 'tmux 1.8'

Switching out of Vim Is Slow

If you find that navigation within Vim (from split to split) is fine, but Vim to a non-Vim tmux pane is delayed, it might be due to a slow shell startup. Consider moving code from your shell's non-interactive rc file (e.g., ~/.zshenv) into the interactive startup file (e.g., ~/.zshrc) as Vim only sources the non-interactive config.

It Doesn't Work in tmate

tmate is a tmux fork that aids in setting up remote pair programming sessions. It is designed to run alongside tmux without issue, but occasionally there are hiccups. Specifically, if the versions of tmux and tmate don't match, you can have issues. See this issue for more detail.

It Doesn't Work in Neovim (specifically C-h)

Neovim is a Vim fork. While Neovim is intended to be a drop-in replacement for Vim, it does handle some keyboard input differently than Vim does. Some users (including those on OS X) may find that all of their pane-switching keybindings work with the exception of Ctrl+h, which instead returns a backspace. The explanation of what is going on vastly exceeds the scope of this guide, but you can read the discussion on this Neovim issue.

The simplest and hackiest solution is to add the following to your Neovim init.vim, capturing the Backspace that Neovim receives when Ctrl+h is typed in normal mode:

nnoremap <silent> <BS> :TmuxNavigateLeft<cr>

A more complete and less-hacky solution would be to update the incorrect terminfo entry that is part of the problem on OS X (and some Linux distributions) as described in this comment.

It Still Doesn't Work!!!

The tmux configuration uses an inlined grep pattern match to help determine if the current pane is running Vim. If you run into any issues with the navigation not happening as expected, you can try using Mislav's original external script which has a more robust check.