Table of Contents
By now if you have been reading this tutorial, you will realize that some of the Prefix key combinations with tmux are not user friendly. The end user will have to struggle some times to get the key strokes properly. To overcome this problem we will build a basic configuration file for our environment and then use this configuration file across the tutorial
You can also access tmux cheatsheet with 50+ shortcuts commands and key combinations
I hope you are already aware of the basics of tmux, if not I would recommend to check the follow article before going for the tmux configuration
Complete tutorial on tmux commands with examples from scratch
tmux configuration file (tmux.conf)
- By default,
tmuxlooks for configuration settings in two places.
- It first looks in
/etc/tmux.conffor a system-wide configuration.
- It then looks for a file called
.tmux.confin the current user’s home directory.
- If these files don’t exist,
tmuxsimply uses its default settings
Currently we will create user specific
tmux configuration file for my root user
# touch ~/.tmux.conf
1. Change the Prefix combination
The first thing which we will do is change our Prefix combination. Using
ctrl+b is little hard to trigger as the button in the keyboard are quite far already so we will change this to ctrl+a
ctrlso it will be more easier for you to access the
To change the prefix combination add following in your
# Setting the prefix from C-b to C-a set -g prefix C-a
- Here we’re using the
-gswitch, for "
global" which sets the option for all
tmuxsessions we create.
- It is not necessary but we can use the unbind-key, or unbind command, to remove a keybinding that’s been defined, so we can assign a different command to this key later.
- Let’s free up
Ctrl-blike this in our
# Free the original Ctrl-b prefix keybinding unbind C-b
Changes to the file aren’t read by
So if you’re editing your
.tmux.conf file while
tmux is running, you’ll either need to completely close all
tmux sessions, or enter
tmux’s Command mode with
: and type this whenever you make a change:
Now for any new sessions you can use
Ctrl+a as your new Prefix combination
2. Change the default delay
The default delay value between Prefix combination and command is very less and sometimes doesn't work so we can increase the delay value
To change the default delay value we add following in our ~/.tmux.conf file
#setting the delay between prefix and command set -s escape-time 5
Now for all the new tmux sessions you will get 5 seconds to enter the command key stroke after hitting the Prefix
3. Set windows and panes index
By default we know all the windows or panes start with index 0. So you can define your own index value which would be considered as the base every time you open a new window or pane in a
To define a custom index value for new windows add following in
# Set the base index for windows to 1 instead of 0 set -g base-index 1
To define a custom index value for new panes add following in
# Set the base index for panes to 1 instead of 0 set -g pane-base-index 1
Now you can start a new session and verify the index base value
4. Create shortcut to reload configuration file
Every time you modify your
tmux configuration file, you must either
- shutdown all
tmuxsessions and restart them
- Use source-file
~/.tmux.confon all the sessions
to reload the configuration file
Let’s create a custom keybinding to reload the configuration file. The bind command defines a new keybinding. You specify the key you want to use, followed by the command you want to perform.
r so it reloads the
.tmux.conf file in the current session. Add this line to your
HINT: When you reload the file, you might not always be able to tell that anything changed, but you can use the display command to put a message in the status line.
# Set bind key to reload configuration file bind r source-file ~/.tmux.conf \; display "Reloaded!"
Now you can just use
r key to reload the configuration file and the status bar should display as "
Reloaded!" so you know that new configuration file changes has been applied
5. Splitting Panes
The default combination of Prefix % is very difficult to hit because it involves 4 keystrokes Ctrl+a Fun+5 so we can define a cstom bind combination to split the panes.
We’ll set the horizontal split to Prefix | and the vertical split to Prefix -
# splitting panes with | and - bind | split-window -h bind - split-window -v
6. Enable Mouse Support
- We know that tmux is completely keyboard driven but at times mouse usage can come handy for easier movements.
- Sometimes it’s nice to be able to scroll up through the terminal buffer with the mouse wheel, or to select windows and panes, especially when you’re just getting started with tmux. To configure tmux so we can use the mouse, we need to enable mouse mode.
# Enable mouse support set -g mouse on
This setting configures
tmux so it will let us use the mouse to select a pane or resize a pane, let us click the window list to select a window, or even let us use the mouse to scroll backwards through the buffer if your terminal supports it.
7. Change default editor
The status-key option lets us modify how we move our cursor around while typing within the
tmux command prompt. The default for
tmux is to use the Emacs mode keys, so if you are an Emacs user, you may be all set.
tmux also tries to help out and might, based on environment variables, switch to one group or the other by default.
To switch to
vi editor you can use
# Set vi as the default editor set -g status-keys vi
8. Change status bar background and foreground color
The default color of the status bar is a shade of green. We can change the default background and foreground of the status bar using
# set the status line's colors set -g status-style fg=white,bg=blue
HINT: Some terminals support the full xterm palette of 256 colors, some only support 16, and some don't support any colors. Most have their own flavor of colors due to terminal color themes, so what you specify as blue may not be rendered on the screen as blue at all.
9. Highlighting active window
When you have multiple windows, by default we can identify the active window by checking the asterisk sign. We can also assign a custom background colour for the active window which can help us determine easily:
# Set different background color for active window set -g window-status-current-bg magenta
10. Show available Options
Now there are bunch of options which you can configure with tmux as per your requirement and to ease your life. To get the list of supported options your need to start a tmux session
Next detach the session with Prefix d. Now on the terminal you can use different commands to view the supported options:
To get list of global options
# tmux show-options -g
To get the list of window options
# tmux show-options -w
To get the list of server options
# tmux show-options -s
So you can add your custom values and bind keys in the
tmux.conf configuration file.
In this tutorial we learned about tmux configuration options, I have only covered limited options but there are vast number of possible configuration changes such as display related, colors, etc. All these options can be checked using
Lastly I hope the steps from the article to configure tmux on Linux was helpful. So, let me know your suggestions and feedback using the comment section.
I have used below external references for this tutorial guide