Perhaps the smallest useful terminal multiplexer in the world.
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mtm is the Micro Terminal Multiplexer, a terminal multiplexer.

It has four major features/princples:

There are three commands (change focus, split, close). There are no modes, no dozens of commands, no crazy feature list.
mtm emulates a classic ANSI text terminal. That means it should work out of the box on essentially all terminfo/termcap-based systems (even pretty old ones), without needing to install a new termcap entry.
mtm is small. The entire project is around 1000 lines of code.

mtm is "finished" as it is now. You don't need to worry about it changing on you unexpectedly. The only changes that can happen at this point are:

  • Bug fixes.
  • Translation improvements.
  • Accessibility improvements.
  • Fixes to keep it working on modern OSes.

The Full-Featured Release

mtm has always been designed to be small and minimalist. For a while there, I was adding feature upon feature, just for the fun of it, but that defeated the purpose.

To see mtm in all its fully-featured glory, check out the full-featured tag. That version is no longer supported, but if there are features that that you absolutely have to have, open a bug and I'll pull them back into master.


Rob posts updates about mtm on Twitter at


Installation and configuration is fairly simple:

  • You need ncursesw. If you want to support terminal resizing, ncursesw needs to be compiled with its internal SIGWINCH handler; this is true for most precompiled distributions. Other curses implementations might work, but have not been tested.

  • Edit the variables at the top of the Makefile if you need to (you probably don't).

  • If you want to change the default keybindings or other compile-time flags, copy config.def.h to config.h and edit the copy. Otherwise the build process will use the defaults.

  • Run:



    make CURSESLIB=curses

    whichever works for you.

  • Run make install if desired.


Usage is simple:

mtm [-T NAME] [-t NAME] [-c KEY] [-b COLOR]

The -T flag tells mtm to assume a different kind of host terminal.

The -t flag tells mtm what terminal type to advertise itself as. Note that this doesn't change how mtm interprets control sequences; it simply controls what the TERM environment variable is set to.

The -c flag lets you specify a keyboard character to use as the "command prefix" for mtm when modified with control (see below). By default, this is g.

The -b flag lets you specify the background color for the status bar.

The -s flag names a status file, and the -S flag indicates how often this file should be checked. The contents of this file will be displayed in the left side status bar, before any window title.

Once inside mtm, things pretty much work like any other terminal. However, mtm lets you split up the terminal into multiple virtual terminals.

At any given moment, exactly one virtual terminal is focused. It is to this terminal that keyboad input is sent. The focused terminal is indicated by the location of the cursor.

The following commands are recognized in mtm, when preceded by the command prefix (by default ctrl-g):

Up/Down/Left/Right Arrow
Focus the virtual terminal above/below/to the left of/to the right of the currently focused terminal.
h / v
Split the focused virtual terminal in half horizontally/vertically, creating a new virtual terminal to the right/below. The new virtual terminal is focused.
Delete the focused virtual terminal. Some other nearby virtual terminal will become focused if there are any left. mtm will exit once all virtual terminals are closed. Virtual terminals will also close if the program started inside them exits.
Redraw the screen.

That's it. There aren't dozens of commands, there are no modes, there's nothing else to learn.





(Note that you only need to read this section if you're curious. mtm should just work out-of-the-box for you, thanks to the efforts of the various hackers over the years to make terminal-independence a reality.)

By default, mtm advertises itself as an eterm-color terminal. This is the terminal emulated by the Emacs AnsiTerm package. The terminfo definition for this terminal has been in the common terminfo database for years, and is widely deployed, meaning it's probably already on your system.

(Note that this should not be taken to imply that anyone involved in the AnsiTerm project endorses or otherwise has anything to do with mtm, and vice-versa. Their work is excellent, though, and you should definitely check it out.)

The mtm Terminal Type

mtm comes with a terminfo description file called mtm.ti. This file describes all of the features supported by mtm, including such features as toggling the visibility of the cursor.

If you want to install this terminal type, use the tic compiler that comes with ncurses:

tic -s -x mtm.ti

That command will compile and install the terminfo entry. After doing so, calling mtm with -t mtm:

mtm -t mtm

will instruct programs to use that terminfo entry.

Using this terminfo entry allows programs to use the full power of mtm's terminal emulation, but it is entirely optional. A primary design goal of mtm was for it to be completely usable on systems that didn't have the mtm terminfo entry installed.

Copyright and License

Copyright 2017 Rob King <>

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see <>.