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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.

Usage

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.

Installation

Vim

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

:PluginInstall

If you are using Vim 8+, you don't need any plugin manager. Simply clone this repository inside ~/.vim/pack/plugin/start/ directory and restart Vim.

git clone git@github.com:christoomey/vim-tmux-navigator.git ~/.vim/pack/plugins/start/vim-tmux-navigator

tmux

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: https://github.com/christoomey/vim-tmux-navigator
is_vim="ps -o state= -o comm= -t '#{pane_tty}' \
    | grep -iqE '^[^TXZ ]+ +(\\S+\\/)?g?(view|l?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 "$is_vim" 'send-keys C-l'  'select-pane -R'
tmux_version='$(tmux -V | sed -En "s/^tmux ([0-9]+(.[0-9]+)?).*/\1/p")'
if-shell -b '[ "$(echo "$tmux_version < 3.0" | bc)" = 1 ]' \
    "bind-key -n 'C-\\' if-shell \"$is_vim\" 'send-keys C-\\'  'select-pane -l'"
if-shell -b '[ "$(echo "$tmux_version >= 3.0" | bc)" = 1 ]' \
    "bind-key -n 'C-\\' if-shell \"$is_vim\" 'send-keys C-\\\\'  'select-pane -l'"

bind-key -T copy-mode-vi 'C-h' select-pane -L
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi 'C-j' select-pane -D
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi 'C-k' select-pane -U
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi 'C-l' select-pane -R
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi 'C-\' select-pane -l

TPM

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.

Configuration

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.

Vim

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

let g:tmux_navigator_no_mappings = 1

noremap <silent> {Left-Mapping} :<C-U>TmuxNavigateLeft<cr>
noremap <silent> {Down-Mapping} :<C-U>TmuxNavigateDown<cr>
noremap <silent> {Up-Mapping} :<C-U>TmuxNavigateUp<cr>
noremap <silent> {Right-Mapping} :<C-U>TmuxNavigateRight<cr>
noremap <silent> {Previous-Mapping} :<C-U>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 noremap <silent> <c-h> :<C-U>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
Disable While Zoomed

By default, if you zoom the tmux pane running Vim and then attempt to navigate "past" the edge of the Vim session, tmux will unzoom the pane. This is the default tmux behavior, but may be confusing if you've become accustomed to navigation "wrapping" around the sides due to this plugin.

We provide an option, g:tmux_navigator_disable_when_zoomed, which can be used to disable this unzooming behavior, keeping all navigation within Vim until the tmux pane is explicitly unzoomed.

To disable navigation when zoomed, add the following to your ~/.vimrc:

" Disable tmux navigator when zooming the Vim pane
let g:tmux_navigator_disable_when_zoomed = 1
Preserve Zoom

As noted above, navigating from a Vim pane to another tmux pane normally causes the window to be unzoomed. Some users may prefer the behavior of tmux's -Z option to select-pane, which keeps the window zoomed if it was zoomed. To enable this behavior, set the g:tmux_navigator_preserve_zoom option to 1:

" If the tmux window is zoomed, keep it zoomed when moving from Vim to another pane
let g:tmux_navigator_preserve_zoom = 1

Naturally, if g:tmux_navigator_disable_when_zoomed is enabled, this option will have no effect.

Tmux

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.

Restoring SIGQUIT (C-\)

The default key bindings also include <Ctrl-\> which is the default method of sending SIGQUIT to a foreground process. Similar to "Clear Screen" above, a key binding can be created to replicate SIGQUIT in the prefix table.

bind C-\\ send-keys 'C-\'

Alternatively, you can exclude the previous pane key binding from your ~/.tmux.conf. If using TPM, the following line can be used to unbind the previous pane binding set by the plugin.

unbind -n C-\\

Disable Wrapping

By default, if you tru to move past the edge of the screen, tmux/vim will "wrap" around to the opposite side. To disable this, you'll need to configure both tmux and vim:

For vim, you only need to enable this option:

let  g:tmux_navigator_no_wrap = 1

Tmux doesn't have an option, so whatever key bindings you have need to be set to conditionally wrap based on position on screen:

is_vim="ps -o state= -o comm= -t '#{pane_tty}' \
    | grep -iqE '^[^TXZ ]+ +(\\S+\\/)?g?(view|l?n?vim?x?)(diff)?$'"
bind-key -n 'C-h' if-shell "$is_vim" { send-keys C-h } { if-shell -F '#{pane_at_left}'   {} { select-pane -L } }
bind-key -n 'C-j' if-shell "$is_vim" { send-keys C-j } { if-shell -F '#{pane_at_bottom}' {} { select-pane -D } }
bind-key -n 'C-k' if-shell "$is_vim" { send-keys C-k } { if-shell -F '#{pane_at_top}'    {} { select-pane -U } }
bind-key -n 'C-l' if-shell "$is_vim" { send-keys C-l } { if-shell -F '#{pane_at_right}'  {} { select-pane -R } }

bind-key -T copy-mode-vi 'C-h' if-shell -F '#{pane_at_left}'   {} { select-pane -L }
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi 'C-j' if-shell -F '#{pane_at_bottom}' {} { select-pane -D }
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi 'C-k' if-shell -F '#{pane_at_top}'    {} { select-pane -U }
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi 'C-l' if-shell -F '#{pane_at_right}'  {} { select-pane -R }

Nesting

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"

Another workaround is to configure tmux on the outer machine to send keys to the inner tmux session:

bind-key -n 'M-h' 'send-keys c-h'
bind-key -n 'M-j' 'send-keys c-j'
bind-key -n 'M-k' 'send-keys c-k'
bind-key -n 'M-l' 'send-keys c-l'

Here we bind "meta" key (aka "alt" or "option" key) combinations for each of the four directions and send those along to the innermost session via send-keys. You use the normal C-h,j,k,l while in the outermost session and the alternative bindings to navigate the innermost session. Note that if you use the example above on a Mac, you may need to configure your terminal app to get the option key to work like a normal meta key. Consult your terminal app's manual for details.

A third possible solution is to manually prevent the outermost tmux session from intercepting the navigation keystrokes by disabling the prefix table:

set -g pane-active-border-style 'fg=#000000,bg=#ffff00'
bind -T root F12  \
  set prefix None \;\
  set key-table off \;\
  if -F '#{pane_in_mode}' 'send-keys -X cancel' \;\
  set -g pane-active-border-style 'fg=#000000,bg=#00ff00'
  refresh-client -S \;\

bind -T off F12 \
  set -u prefix \;\
  set -u key-table \;\
  set -g pane-active-border-style 'fg=#000000,bg=#ffff00'
  refresh-client -S

This code, added to the machine running the outermost tmux session, toggles the outermost prefix table on and off with the F12 key. When off, the active pane's border changes to green to indicate that the inner session receives navigation keystrokes. When toggled back on, the border returns to yellow and normal operation resumes and the outermost responds to the nav keystrokes.

The code example above also toggles the prefix key (ctrl-b by default) for the outer session so that same prefix can be temporarily used on the inner session instead of having to use a different prefix (ctrl-a by default) which you may find convenient. If not, simply remove the lines that set/unset the prefix key from the code example above.

Troubleshooting

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 \v(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 :TmuxNavigatorProcessList. The output of that command should be a list like:

Ss   -zsh
S+   vim
S+   tmux

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 Vim's terminal mode

Terminal mode is currently unsupported as adding this plugin's mappings there causes conflict with movement mappings for FZF (it also uses terminal mode). There's a conversation about this in #172

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.

Switching between host panes doesn't work when docker is running

Images built from minimalist OSes may not have the ps command or have a simpler version of the command that is not compatible with this plugin. Try installing the procps package using the appropriate package manager command. For Alpine, you would do apk add procps.

If this doesn't solve your problem, you can also try the following:

Replace the is_vim variable in your ~/.tmux.conf file with:

if-shell '[ -f /.dockerenv ]' \
  "is_vim=\"ps -o state=,comm= -t '#{pane_tty}' \
      | grep -iqE '^[^TXZ ]+ +(\\S+\\/)?g?(view|l?n?vim?x?)(diff)?$'\""
  # Filter out docker instances of nvim from the host system to prevent
  # host from thinking nvim is running in a pseudoterminal when its not.
  "is_vim=\"ps -o state=,comm=,cgroup= -t '#{pane_tty}' \
      | grep -ivE '^.+ +.+ +.+\\/docker\\/.+$' \
      | grep -iqE '^[^TXZ ]+ +(\\S+\\/)?g?(view|l?n?vim?x?)(diff)? +'\""

Details: The output of the ps command on the host system includes processes running within containers, but containers have their own instances of /dev/pts/*. vim-tmux-navigator relies on /dev/pts/* to determine if vim is running, so if vim is running in say /dev/pts/ in a container and there is a tmux pane (not running vim) in /dev/pts/ on the host system, then without the patch above vim-tmux-navigator will think vim is running when its not.

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.