Saturday, October 01, 2011

Managing Multiple Terminals with Tmux

I've started using tmux, which is a "terminal multiplexer", similar to screen. It allows you to manage a number of terminals from a single screen. So, for example, instead of having 5 PuTTY windows cluttering up your desktop, you now have only one window, containing 5 terminals. If you close this window, you can simply open a new one and "attach" to your running tmux session, to get all your terminals back at the same state you left them in.

There are lots of cool things you can do with tmux. For example, you can split a terminal window horizontally or vertically into "panes". This allows you to look at files side by side, or simply watch a process in one pane while you do something else in another.

I took the following screenshot of tmux in action:


The status bar along the bottom shows that I have 5 terminal windows open. I am currently in the one labelled "1-demo" and within this window I have 4 panes, each running a different command.

There are quite a few key bindings to learn, but once you have mastered them you will be able to jump back and forth between windows, move them around and kill them without lifting your hands off the keyboard. You can also set your own key bindings for things you do frequently. For example, my Ctrl-b / binding splits my window vertically and opens up a specified man page on the right. My Ctrl+b S binding allows me to SSH to a server in a new window.

Here is my tmux configuration taken from ~/.tmux.conf which shows my key bindings and colour setup. You can download this file from my GitHub dotfiles repository.

bind | split-window -h
bind - split-window -v
bind _ split-window -v
bind R source-file ~/.tmux.conf \; display-message "tmux.conf reloaded!"

bind / command-prompt -p "man" "split-window -h 'man %%'"
bind S command-prompt -p "ssh" "new-window -n %1 'exec ssh %1'"
bind h split-window -h  "man tmux"

set -g terminal-overrides 'xterm*:smcup@:rmcup@'

set -g history-limit 9999

# Terminal emulator window title
set -g set-titles on
set -g set-titles-string '#S:#I.#P #W'

# notifications
setw -g monitor-activity on
setw -g visual-activity on

# auto rename
setw -g automatic-rename on

# Clock
setw -g clock-mode-colour green
setw -g clock-mode-style 24

# Window status colors
setw -g window-status-bg colour235
setw -g window-status-fg colour248
setw -g window-status-alert-attr underscore
setw -g window-status-alert-bg colour235
setw -g window-status-alert-fg colour248
setw -g window-status-current-attr bright
setw -g window-status-current-bg colour235
setw -g window-status-current-fg colour248

# Message/command input colors
set -g message-bg colour240
set -g message-fg yellow
set -g message-attr bright

# Status Bar
set -g status-bg colour235
set -g status-fg colour248
set -g status-interval 1
set -g status-left '[#H]'
set -g status-right ''

set -g pane-border-fg white
set -g pane-border-bg default
set -g pane-active-border-fg white
set -g pane-active-border-bg default

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