Bash script to enable a persistent vim pane within tmux
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tmux-vim is a bash script which works in conjunction with tmux to create a persistent vim pane within a tmux window.



Use tmux-vim just like you'd use vim.

tmux-vim [file] [files...]

The first time you run it, a new pane will be created within your current tmux window according to TMUX_VIM_LAYOUT, running an instance of vim.

Further calls to tmux-vim will open the files in new buffers in the same vim session. This works in all panes within that tmux window, even ones created after the vim session has been started.

If you close that vim session, the pane will be destroyed. The next call to tmux-vim will create a new one.


Copy tmux-vim to somewhere in your path.

Alternatively, you can do something like this in your .bashrc:

if [[ -n $TMUX ]]; then
    vi() { ~/projects/tmux-vim/tmux-vim "$@"; }


You need tmux version 1.6 or later.


This behaviour can be adjusted with the following environment variables.


Path to configuration file.

Default: ~/.tmux-vim.conf

The remaining variables can be set via this config file.


The binary executable (and arguments) used to run tmux.

Default: tmux

To test tmux-vim against a different tmux binary that your usual one, first start the tmux session with $path_to_/tmux -L testing, and then set TMUX_VIM_TMUX_BIN=$path_to_/tmux -L testing.


The binary executable used to run vim.

Default: vim

Useful if you're using MacVim and have another binary like mvim which you'd like to use.


Command-line arguments to pass through to vim.

Default: (empty)

Note that these will only be used when the vim instance is created.


Layout specification. See Layout below.

Default: mode:shell,vim-pos:right,width:132


The window layout can be configured with the TMUX_VIM_LAYOUT variable.

When the vim window is spawned, the current tmux pane is split into two. tmux-vim needs to decide which way to split it, and where to put the split.

Primary layout options


Where the vim pane is created relative to the shell pane.

Values: left right top bottom Default: right


How the pane sizes is computed.

Values: vim shell Default: shell

When the value is vim the vim pane size is calculated, and the shell pane is allocated the remaining space.

Conversely, when the value is shell, the shell pane size is calculated, and the vim pane gets the remainder.


What size to make the chosen pane.

Values: number (eg. 132) or percentage (eg. 40%)

You can specify an exact row or column size, or a percentage of the original pane.

The defaults depend upon the mode. In vim mode, 80x24, in shell 132x15.

Extra layout options for vim mode


Values: number or auto Default: 1

Will create size * count vim sub-windows.

If the value is auto, the vim pane will fill the available width with sub-windows, leaving at least reserve columns for the shell.


Only valid for count:auto.

Value: number

The amount of space to reserve for the shell when using mode:vim with count:auto


Values: 0 1 Default: 0

If autosplit is 1, vim will automatically split into sub-windows.

How's it work?

tmux makes it all possible.

First tmux split-window is used to create the vim pane, and the pane id is saved in the tmux environment. This happens on demand - panes are created only when needed.

The vim instance is controlled by injecting keystrokes with tmux send-keys. To load files, tmux-vim sends :badd filename<cr> to the vim instance for each file, and then :blast<cr> to select the last file added.

Finally, tmux select-pane transfers control over to the vim pane.



By default, vim won't abandon an unsaved file to open another one, instead the user is prompted to save, abandon or cancel. This can throw out the keystroke injection when trying to open multiple files.

To avoid this problem, all but the last file is loaded with :badd, using :edit only for the last file. This delays the user prompt until the very end, when the user has regained control. This appears to work, but there may still be issues lurking.


Bug reports, suggestions, feature requests and patches are most welcome at the tmux-vim git repo.


A big thank you to the following contributors: