Notes for 《Tmux Productive Mouse-Free Development》

Notes for tmux Productive Mouse-Free Development written by Brian P. Hogan.

Learning The Basics

Starting tmux

To start tmux:


To close the tmux session:


To create named session:

tmux new-session -s basic  # creates a named session called "basic"
# or
tmux new -s basic

Detaching and Attaching Sessions

To detach from the current tmux session, press:

Ctrl-b then d

where d stands for "detach".

If you have changed your Prefix, change Ctrl-b to your own Prefix.

Reattaching to Existing Sessions

We can list existing tmux sessions using the command:

tmux list-sessions
# or
tmux ls

To attach to a specific session, we use the attach keyword.

If we only have one session running, we can simply attach to it with

tmux attach

If we create a new tmux instance in the background using the command:

tmux new -s second_session -d

We can attach to this session by using the -t flag:

tmux attach -t second_session

Killing Sessions

We can type exit within a session to destroy that session, but we can also kill off sessions with the kill-session command:

tmux kill-session -t basic
tmux kill-session -t second_session

Working with Windows

Windows are similar to tabs in web browsers.

By using the -n flag, we can name the first window in a session:

tmux new -s windows -n shell  # creates a session called "windows"

Creating and Naming Windows

To create a window in the current session, press:

Prefix c

Creating a window like this automatically brings the new window into focus.

To rename a windows, press:

Prefix ,

Moving Between Windows

We can cycle throw the windows with Prefix n (next window) or Prefix p (previous window).

By default, windows in tmux each have a number, starting at 0. We can quickly jump to the first window with Prefix 0, and the second window with Prefix 1.

Press Prefix f to find a window by name (if we named our windows).

Press Prefix w to display a visual menu of our windows so we can select the one we'd like.

Press Prefix & or type exit to close the current window.

Working with Panes

Difference between panes and windows.

What's the difference between panes and windows?


In tmux, panes and windows are two different concepts that refer to distinct components of the terminal multiplexer.

  1. Windows: In tmux, a window is a single "view" or "tab" within the session. Each window occupies the entire terminal screen and can hold one or more panes. Windows are independent entities that can be created, closed, and switched between. They are typically used to organize and manage different tasks or applications within a tmux session. You can think of windows as similar to tabs in a web browser or a terminal emulator.
  2. Panes: A pane, on the other hand, is a subdivision of a window. It allows you to split a window into multiple resizable and scrollable regions. Each pane within a window can run its own command or application, effectively allowing you to work on multiple tasks simultaneously within a single window. Panes can be split both horizontally and vertically, and you can resize, rearrange, and interact with them independently.

To summarize, windows are the main containers that hold one or more panes, while panes are the subdivisions within a window where you can run different commands or applications. Windows provide a way to switch between different contexts or tasks, while panes enable multitasking within a single window.

Prefix % splits the current pane with horizontal layout.

Prefix " splits the current pane with vertical layout.

To cycle through the panes, press Prefix o

Use Prefix Up / Down / Left / Right to move around the panes.

Closing Panes

Press Prefix x or type exit.

Working with Command Mode

To enter Command mode, press Prefix :.

What's Next?

Press Prefix ? to get a list of all predefined tmux keybindings and the associated commands.

Configuring tmux

Introducing the .tmux.conf File

By default, tmux looks for configuration settings in two places. It first looks in /etc/tmux.conf for a system-wide configuration. It then looks for a file called .tmux.conf in the current user's home directory (~).

Defining an Easier Prefix

Many tmux users started out using GNU-Screen, which uses Ctrl-a for its command prefix.

To redefine our tmux prefix to Ctrl-a, add this code to our .tmux.conf file:

set-option -g prefix C-a
# or
set -g prefix C-a

where the -g switch, for "global", sets the option for al tmux sessions we create.

We can use the unbind-key or unbind command to remove a keybinding:

unbind C-b

Enter tmux's Command mode with Prefix : and type this to apply the changes:

source-file ~/.tmux.conf

Changing the Default Delay

tmux adds a very small delay when sending commands, and this delay can interfere with other programs such as the Vim text editor. We can set this delay so it's much more responsive:

set -sg escape-time 1

Setting the Windows and Panes Index

The default index starts at zero. We can set it to one:

set -g base-index 1         # for windows
setw -g pane-base-index 1 # for panes

where setw is the shortened version of set-window-option.

Creating a Shortcut to Reload the Configuration

We can use the bind command to define a new keybinding. Here we set Prefix r so it reloads our main .tmux.conf file in the current session:

bind r source-file ~/.tmux.conf

Don't forget to type source-file ~/.tmux.conf to apply the configuration.

We can use the display command to put a message in the status line when we the reloading finished:

bind r source-file ~/.tmux.conf \; display "Reloaded!"

You can see that we can bind a series of commands by separating the commands with the \; character combination.

(Not suggested) We can define keybindings that don't require a prefix. For example, this makes Ctrl-r reload the configuration file:

bind-key -n C-r source-file ~/.tmux.conf

Sending the Prefix to Other Applications

We've remapped Ctrl-a as our Prefix, but programs such as Vim, Emacs and even the regular Bash shell also use that combination. We need to configure tmux to let us send that command through when we need it. We can also do that by binding the send-prefix command to a keystroke, like this:

bind C-a send-prefix

Splitting Panes

The default keys for splitting panes can be difficult to remember, so let's set our own keys that we won't be able to forget. We'll set the horizontal split to Prefix | and the vertical split to Prefix -.

bind | split-window -h
bind - split-window -v

At first glance, this may look backwards. The -v and -h flags on split-window stand for vertical and horizontal splits, but to tmux, a vertical split means creating a new pane below the existing pane so the panes are stacked vertically on top of each other. A horizontal split means creating a new pane next to the existing one so the panes are stacked horizontally across the screen. So, in order to divide the window vertically, we use a "horizontal" split, and to divide it horizontally, we use a "vertical" split.

Remapping Movement Keys

To use h, j, k, l as movement keys:

bind h select-pane -L
bind j select-pane -D
bind k select-pane -U
bind l select-pane -R

To use Prefix Ctrl-h and Prefix Ctrl-l to cycle through the windows:

bind -r C-h select-window -t :-
bind -r C-l select-window -t :+

Resizing Panes

To define Prefix H, Prefix J, Prefix K and Prefix L to change the size of the panes:

bind -r H resize-pane -L 5
bind -r J resize-pane -D 5
bind -r K resize-pane -U 5
bind -r L resize-pane -R 5

-r specify that we want the key to be repeatable, meaning we can press the prefix key only once and the continuously press the defined key within the repeat limit.

The default repeat limit is 500 milliseconds, and we can change that by setting the repeat-time option to a higher value.

Handling the Mouse

To enable mouse mode:

setw -g mode-mouse on
set -g mouse-select-pane on
set -g mouse-resize-pane on
set -g mouse-select-window on