"Sort2013 Part IV: TMUX - Powerup your shell"

Posted on Sat 19 October 2013 in conferences, tools

During sort, this session was actually a really insightful look into mouse-less productivity.
I have always been a fan of working in the console, and have actually used screen in the past. However tmux has opened up an entirely new world for me.

In this post I am going to share some of the things that I have learned from using tmux as setups I have in place for creating easy on "dev environments".

TMux overview

Tmux is a terminal multiplexer. If you are a heavy user of command line execution on nix-like environments (including ssh) than you will want to become comfortable with using terminal multiplexers. This will allow you to be able to persist sessions, allow for "remote pair-programming" like features.

To work with tmux you need to realize that each tmux run creates a "session". Each session can intern have multiple windows. And each window has 1+ panes. When a pane is created it is a completely new shell environment and does not keep aliases or other configuration applied to a previous pane.


Session can be created using names which can allow you to easily switch between multiple sessions depending on work you are doing. To work with session information you start by using

    tmux new-session

This will create a new unnamed session, which you can rename using C-<bindkey> $. If you want to create a session from scratch with the correct name you can use

    tmux new-session -s <name>

You can now disconnect from a session using C-<bindkey> D. After disconnecting, reconnecting is accomplished using

    tmux attach -t <name>


We have a newly created session and a single window and a pane at this point. So lets go over how to work with windows, both creating and navigation.

To create a new window from inside the session you can use the default shortcut C-<bindkey> c. This will create a new window that will default to the window number that has already been created. You can also create a new window for an existing session using the following command line call.

    tmux new-window -t <session-name>

If you want to name this window you can either name it using the shortcut C-<bindkey> ,. You can also name it at creation or rename from command line using one of the below commands.

    tmux new-window -t <session-name> -n <window-name>
    tmux rename-window -t <session-name>:<window-number> <window-name>

So we have window creation and renaming, now on to window destruction. The shortcut for destroying the current window is C-<bindkey> &. This will prompt you before the deletion will be completed, it will also terminal all running processes that were started in any of the windows open panes.

Window navigation is also pretty straight forward. The below list is the shortcuts and can be used when navigating.

  • C-<bindkey> n - Navigate to the next window
  • C-<bindkey> p - Navigate to the previous window
  • C-<bindkey> w - Open up a window chooser
  • C-<bindkey> [0-9] - Quickly navigate to selected window [0-9]


This is (of course) the reason we are using tmux. The ability to work with terminals. A pane is always its own terminal. Up until now we have basically defined tools used to organize these created terminals, but panes are the only ones that are terminals.

Pane creation is done through window manipulation. So you always start with your first pane, to create a second you must SPLIT the existing pane. Splitting the pane can be down either vertically or horizontally.

  • C-<bindkey> % - Split pane 50% horizontally
  • C-<bindkey> " - Split pane 50% vertically

You can also resize existing panes by using C-<bindkey> C-[up-down-left-right]. As you use the arrow keys it will adjust the panes giving you the exact setup you desire. Navigating through the panes uses nearly the same shortcuts C-<bindkey> [up-down-left-right].


Tmux also provides a means for configuring your tmux setup by supplying .tmux.conf. Below is the sample .tmux.conf file that was created.

Vim Configuration

So I am a huge vim fan. Nearly every ide I have has vim mode enabled. It is one of the funniest things to have happen when a co-worker says "wow you go through that fast" and I respond, "it's just the vim binding". At that point they start to laugh cause I'm using vim bindings, and I just shrug and say, "Whatever makes me more productive than you ;-)".

My vim setup is pretty simple, since I use vim through ssh shells often and inside of screen / tmux sessions, I have adjusted vim to use certain bindings that work in these environments.


To really get the power of vim you will need to have some plugins installed and setup to be enabled in your environment. Vim allows you to set any number of keyboard shortcuts you would like, but I would recommend not using function keys (you can get conflicts with some screen technologies).


These are just some of the basic options that I prefer for use in my vim environment.