Command-Line Interface — tmux. A high-level overview of terminal… | by William Leiby | Feb, 2022

A high-level overview of terminal emulator occasion administration with tmux.

Building with tons of windows
Photograph by Pierre Châtel-Innocenti on Unsplash

By definition, tmux is what is called a “terminal multiplexer.”

What’s a terminal multiplexer?

By definition, a terminal multiplexer is:

“a software application that can be utilized to multiplex a number of separate pseudoterminal-based login sessions inside a single terminal show, terminal emulator window, PC/workstation system console, or distant login session, or to detach and reattach classes from a terminal.”


To offer you a bit extra of a understandable understanding of tmux and terminal multiplexers as an entire, they’re primarily glorified window and session managers in your terminal emulator that drastically will increase the effectivity at which you’ll traverse totally different file methods. They permit the person to separate panes each vertically and horizontally, handle a number of home windows inside a single occasion, in addition to create nested cases inside already present classes.

In response to tmux’s GitHub repository Wiki:

“It helps you to change simply between a number of applications in a single terminal, detach them (they maintain operating within the background) and reattach them to a distinct terminal. And do much more.”


When youre questioning why chances are you’ll wish to use a device like tmux, right here’s a practical instance that can hopefully solidify my reasoning for the use case for it:

Let’s say you’ve a number of computer systems that you could be wish to entry particular recordsdata inside every of their file methods. We are able to assume that a kind of machines is your native pc, whether or not that be a laptop computer or a desktop of some type, however what in regards to the different machines?

Possibly you’ve a server that’s hosted by a service like AWS or DigitalOcean that’s operating a Unix-like working system akin to Ubuntu and also you need a method to handle the recordsdata related to mentioned file system with out truly accessing the pc bodily. This, in fact, is the place SSH is available in, however after SSH’ing into the server and finishing no matter work you’ve wished to finish, what if you understand sooner or later that you’ll want to come back again to this file system on this pc? What in case you wanted to entry a number of servers throughout a number of computer systems?

Managing these SSH classes with a probably great amount of various computer systems can be a nightmare in case you didn’t have a device like tmux available to you.

Tmux lets you create a brand new session, then inside every session, you’re in a position to have a number of home windows. Inside every of these home windows, you may have a distinct file system dependent upon which pc you want to entry. Now, you not need to run redundant Unix scripts to get again to the place you initially as soon as have been.

This, in fact, isn’t the one method to architect tmux in your private use. Tmux is strong sufficient to permit you or your crew to create a multiplexer workflow that can work for any situation.

Earlier than truly leaping into tmux and utilizing it for the primary time, you’ll first must get it on no matter machine you’re utilizing. Listed below are the commonest methods of doing that:

Homebrew (Really helpful for macOS Customers):

brew set up tmux


git clone
cd tmux
./configure && make

After the set up has taken place, you could have to restart your terminal emulator for the tmux command to be out there so that you can use. Merely give up out of your present terminal emulator and reopen a brand new window or run the next Bash command in your terminal:


If neither of these choices works for no matter motive, you may supply your most well-liked shell’s useful resource file (instance of sourcing a .bashrc file on a Unix-like machine):

supply ~/.bashrc

Hopefully, you now have tmux put in in your machine and also you’re prepared to start out utilizing it! One of many first issues you are able to do with tmux is to easily write the tmux command in your terminal emulator of selection:


It will deliver you into a brand new tmux session with the identify being the index of the session you’re part of. If it’s the primary time you’re utilizing tmux in your machine, you must have the index of both 0 or 1, relying upon what your .tmux.confsays to be the popular quantity to index at.

Your .tmux.conf file is your configuration settings for all of tmux. It may be discovered on the root person listing of your pc, ~/ for macOS machines, and may solely be seen when you’ve got hidden recordsdata enabled in your machine. When you don’t have hidden recordsdata enabled, right here’s are some assets for serving to you allow them relying upon the machines chances are you’ll be utilizing.

After getting enabled hidden recordsdata to be seen in your pc, you must now be capable to see the .tmux.conf file. Don’t fear an excessive amount of about this file simply but in case you’re new to tmux. We’ll come again to this file after we begin customizing tmux (that can make extra sense additional into the article).

Now that tmux is put in in your machine and you’ve got hidden recordsdata enabled in your system, let’s leap into

Favorite tmux instructions

All of those instructions will solely execute if the person is inside a session. All instructions are additionally prefixed with the keyboard shortcut ctrl + b.

  • “ — Splits your present tab horizontally.
  • % — Splits your present tab vertically.
  • Arrow Keys — Permits for navigation between panes.
  • $ — Rename your present session.
  • , — Rename your present tab.
  • s — Change between classes.
  • d — Detach from the prevailing session.
  • x — Deletes a pane out of your present window.
  • & — Deletes a tab in your present session.
  • c — Creates a brand new tab in your present session.
  • r — Restarts your present session.

For a full record of all of the tmux instructions you may execute as soon as inside a session, please confer with this link.

Customizing tmux

By itself, tmux is a really versatile and strong device for the issue it goals to unravel, however we’re in a position to take the multiplexer one step additional by private customization to higher swimsuit the on a regular basis programmer. Though you’re in a position to modify tmux and morph it right into a device that’s finest tailor-made to your individual needs and wishes, here’s a record of all of the issues I do to make tmux my very own:

  • Change the default ctrl + b keystroke to ctrl + a .
  • Add plugins that supply options that don’t exist out-of-the-box with tmux.

Listed below are those I exploit:

When you’re searching for a complete record of tmux plugins, be happy to take a look at these two GitHub hyperlinks:

With a purpose to truly make any adjustments to your tmux configuration, you’re going to want to open up the .tmux.conf file that needs to be on the root of your person’s file system. On macOS machines, that might be ~/ .

When you’re seeking to exit by yourself and customise tmux from the bottom up, be happy to take a look at this blog post from Ham Vocke on the way to customise your individual .tmux.conf .

When you’re fascinated with altering tmux to your liking from a top-down method, be happy to take a look at this popular tmux configuration from gpakosz on GitHub.

All in all, tmux is a superb device in case you’re seeking to improve your workflow and you utilize a command-line interface every day. Rapidly having the ability to traverse a number of file methods not solely helps in growing a person’s productiveness, but in addition aids in compartmentalizing explicit initiatives, and even total methods.

Though it has a clumsy studying curve at first, as soon as acquired, will probably be extremely unlikely that you’ll ever return to utilizing a terminal emulator once more with out a multiplexer to a point.

When you’ve discovered any errors in any respect, be happy to depart a remark. I’ll attempt to get again to you as quickly as potential.

Thanks in your time and a spotlight.

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