GNU Screen + Little Bit Of Sugar = Scugar
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GNU Screen + a little sugar = Scrugar


This project consists of the following:

  • Functions and aliases that make it easier to manage Screen sessions
  • A set of Screen "profile" files

99% of the Screen users that I know have one file for setting Screen preferences, ~/.screenrc. For me though, this didn't work because I like to have different groups of terminal sessions available for different types of tasks.

For example, if I'm troubleshooting a web server problem, I may want to have a htop, vim, and mutt sessions available. If I'm working on a Rails application, then I would want to have vim, irb, mongrel, logtail, and git windows open. Being able to segregate these terminal sessions into different groups makes my workspace less cluttered, which makes it easier for me to focus on my tasks.

Screen supports this type of usage, but you just need a few little functions to make things easy to manage. And that's what this is.


# Install GNU Screen using apt-get or whatever.
$ cd $HOME
$ git clone
$ echo "source $HOME/scrugar/aliases" >> ~/.bashrc
$ echo "source $HOME/scrugar/functions" >> ~/.bashrc
$ source .bashrc # <= First time only


Attaching To A New Session

Let's say that you just started your computer and opened a terminal, and you would like to start working on a Ruby script. Let's also assume that you already have a profile file under ~/scrugar/ called rails-foo. You would start this "session" by typing the following command:

$ sa rails-foo

This command does two things:

  • Opens a Screen session using the ~/scrugar/rails-foo profile
  • Assigns the title rails-foo to the session.

You should now be in your Screen session that is specified in your rails-foo project. You can navigate between windows by pressing Ctrl-A " and then using the j and k buttons to move up and down. You can leave the Screen session by pressing Ctrl-A d. These are both standard Screen keyboard commands.

Re-Attaching To An Existing Session

Now let's say that you want to check your system mail using mutt. You know that you have a Screen profile called localhost that has a mutt window, so you decide to open it.

First, if you're still "in" the rails-foo Screen session, simply press the Ctrl-A d keyboard combination to leave it. Don't worry about losing any of your terminal windows in this session, because you're not "closing" the Screen session. You're just detaching from it, and you can come back and re-attach later. This is actually probably the best feature of Screen. It allows you to detach from sessions and come back later.

Now, before you open a new Screen session using the localhost profile, let's see if you are already have one running. Usually, it doesn't make sense to open multiple Screen sessions using the same profile because it's confusing and wastes resources. So let's see which Screen sessions are already running on your machine:

$ sls
There are screens on:
        4431.rails-foo      (07/28/2011 04:19:37 PM)        (Detached)
        3374.localhost      (07/28/2011 04:01:16 PM)        (Detached)
2 Sockets in /var/run/screen/S-tom.

What do you know? I already had a localhost session running. So let's reattach to that:

$ sr localhost

Ta-da! I'm now back in my old locahost Screen session.

Closing A Session

Now let's say that you would like to close your rails-foo session. Maybe you're done with it for now. Maybe your wrecked it and would like to start over. Either way, you basically have two choices:

  1. Go into each terminal window in your Screen session and exit it manually.
  2. Leave your Screen session and then type sk rails-foo.

Please note that option 2 executes a kill -9 on the Screen process that is the parent of the terminal windows in your session. The -9 switch does not shut processes down gracefully, so you should only use the sk alias if you closed all of the files and shut down all of the processes in the child terminal windows.


For more information, please see the functions and alises files.

sa session_name
Create a Screen session
List all screen sessions
sr [session_name]
Reattach to an existing session. If you don't provide a session name, then you will attach to the first session listed using the sls command.
sk session_name
Kill a Screen session using the -9 switch and then execute a "wipe"
List all of your available screen profile files
sd session_name
Detach a session that has been opened on a different system
"Wipe" all screen sessions that have been closed "forcefully". This command doesn't need to be executed very often.