Est. read time: 2 minutes | Last updated: February 23, 2024 by John Gentile


Contents

Overview

tmux is a useful terminal program to multiplex and organize multiple applications or workflows while maintating speed and efficiency of “mouse-free” environment. tmux can be installed with most package managers or built from source. To see if tmux is already installed, and if so what version, run $ tmux -V.

Command Prefix

It’s important to note that most operations are controlled by a specific Prefix key combination (by default this is Ctrl+b) followed by another key or combination of keys.

Launching, Attaching & Sessions

tmux can be simply launched with either a sole command or with a new, defined session name:

$ tmux
$ tmux new -s mySessionName

A new session can also be launched with Prefix, :new<CR>. Prefix, $ can name the current session.

To see currently open sessions hit Prefix, s or run:

$ tmux ls

To detach from a session, hit Prefix, d.

Then to (re)attach to a certain session, you can attach to a certain session number or session name:

$ tmux a #
$ tmux a -t mySessionName

Finally to kill/end a certaion session, the same applies:

$ tmux kill-session -t mySessionName

Windows & Panes

Windows in tmux are similar to tabs in web browsers and are useful for seperating distinct workflows or applicaiton sets. Panes are individual panels that can split or divide the space within a window and are useful for seperating similar applications or for multitasking several operations within a workflow.

Again note that the below key shortcuts are controlled by a Prefix key combination (by default this is Ctrl+b) followed by the stated key or combination of keys. The default key-bindings are listed below but are commonly changed through a configuration file .tmux.conf.

Window Shortcuts

Operation Key(s) Description
Create New Window c Creates new window in a tmux session
Name Current Window ,  
List/Select Window(s) w Lists currently opened windows in session and a user can change to another window by selecting a given window in the list and hitting Enter
Jump to Window # 0...9 Jumps to window numbered 0 through 9; if more than 10 windows exist a desired window can be found with the below command
Find Window f Performs a search of currently opened windows and, if the window is found, switches to the matched window
Move Window . Moves window to a new window order number. Prefix, :movew<CR> moves current window to the next unused window number
Kill Window & Kills currently opened window. Closing a terminal session with $ exit in the last pane of a window has the same effect

Pane Shortcuts

Operation Key(s) Description
Split Horizontal % Splits a currently active window or pane horizontally in the middle creating another pane below
Split Vertical " Splits a currently active window or pane vertically in the middle creating another pane to the right
Toggle Layout Space Toggles a current set of windows between a horizontal and vertical split
Switch Neighbor Panes o Switches active context to other open neighboring pane
Move Around Panes 2D /// Move active context around panes in window
Swap Panes {/} Swap current pane with either pane one index above ({) or pane one index below (})
Show Pane Numbers q Shows assigned pane numbers for currently active window
Maximize Current Pane z Maximizes the current pane but retains information from previous layout. Hitting this keystroke again toggles the feature and causes the pane and layout to return to previous
Kill Pane x Kills currently active pane. Closing a terminal session with $ exit in the current pane has the same effect

Miscellaneous

Operation Key(s) Description
Show Big Clock t  
List Shortcuts ? Show currently assigned shortcuts
tmux Prompt : Bring up the prompt for entering commands to tmux

Text Manipulation

Operation Key(s) Description
Enter Copy Mode Prefix, [ Moves tmux into copy mode
Select Text space, select text, Enter Once space is hit, tmux enters a mode similar to Vim’s visual mode where text can be selected with arrow keys or vim navigation keybindings. Once text is selected, hit Enter to copy text to tmux’s buffer and can be pasted in another pane or window
Paste from tmux Buffer Prefix, ] Pastes previously copied text at cursor

Customization

tmux, like Vim and other useful tools, can be configured with custom preferences with a config file; the file .tmux.conf can be placed in the user’s home directory to configure things like keybindings, status bar and other aesthetic features. An example dotfile for tmux can be found here.

There are also projects like tmux plugin manager that can install and maintain tmux plugins & extra features.

Scripting

tmux operations can also be scripted to create a standard environment with easy launching.

References