I appreciate tmux (a terminal multiplexer) for its window management features. For terminal based activities, it can be an alternative to using a tiling window manager.


On a Debian GNU/Linux system, install tmux (as root) with:

apt-get install tmux # As root.

You can launch tmux with command tmux. I always use tmux in an xterm and launch both with a single xterm tmux command.

You may need the tmux-resurrect plugin. You can install it that way (as an unprivileged user):

mkdir -p ~/.tmux/plugins
cd ~/.tmux/plugins
git clone resurrect

The default key bindings for tmux-resurrect are prefix Ctrl-s (save session) and prefix Ctrl-r (restore session).


My .tmux.conf

You can download my ~/.tmux.conf.

I had a little bit of a hard time defining the status-right option (the right hand side of the status line). It causes the right hand side of the status line to show:

  • A Caps lock mode indicator (a yellow “Caps lock on” when Caps lock is on, nothing visible otherwise).
  • A Num lock mode indicator (a yellow “Num lock off” when Caps lock is off, nothing visible otherwise).
  • A power supply indicator (“CHG” if the machine is plugged in, “BAT” if the machine is running on the battery, nothing visible if the information is not found).
  • The remaining capacity of charge in the battery in percent (yellow if lower than 20% and machine not plugged in, nothing visible if the information is not found).
  • Time and date, with the day of the week.

The time / date part was easy enough, the format specification is passed through strftime(3). The sole time / date part could be obtained with set -g status-right "%H:%M %Y-%m-%d(%a)".

I could obtain the other parts using shell commands. The shell commands must be enclosed in a #() construct. So my status-right option “line” now is something like set -g status-right "#(<shell commands>) %H:%M %Y-%m-%d(%a)".

When multiple and/or long shell commands are needed, one solution is to write them in a separate script file and just call the script file in the #() construct. Another solution is to use line continuation. Lines can be continuated by adding \ at the end. That’s the route I went, and my status-right option “line” now is more like:

set -g status-right "#(\
<shell \
) %H:%M %Y-%m-%d(%a)"

The shell commands actually ended up being a sequence of calls to printf in if ... else ... fi; constructs. Text coloring in the tmux status line is controlled using strings like #[fg=colour184]. Example:

set -g status-right "#(printf '#[fg=colour184]yellow#[fg=colour0] black') %a"

The Caps lock mode indicator is build from the content of a file like /sys/class/leds/input5::capslock/brightness. But there might be multiple files like this one (if you have multiple keyboards plugged in to your machine). You can cat only one of them with a command like (from my experience, they all have the same content at a given time):

cat $(find /sys/class/leds -name "*capslock"|head -1)/brightness

Similarly, for Num lock mode:

cat $(find /sys/class/leds -name "*numlock"|head -1)/brightness

The power supply indicator is build from the content of the /sys/class/power_supply/AC/online if it exists (from my experience, and on a Debian system, it exists on a laptop computer but not on a desktop computer).

Finally, the remaining capacity of charge in the battery is taken in file /sys/class/power_supply/BAT/capacity if it exists. It exists on my Debian laptop. On other systems, the file may be /sys/class/power_supply/BAT0/capacity instead. And some laptop have two batteries. My status-right option displays the remaining capacity for only one battery.

Determining whether the remaining capacity is lower than 20% or not is achieved by piping the remaining capacity to a grep '\(^\|[0-1]\).$' command. If the output is non empty, then the remaining capacity is lower than 20%. Note that in the ~/.tmux.conf the backslashes must be escaped: grep '\\(^\\|[0-1]\\).$').

Note also the format string in the printf command for the remaining capacity. The percent sign must be tripled (printf '% 3d%%%' $(cat /sys/class/power_supply/BAT/capacity);).

I’ve set the refresh rate of the status line to 3 seconds:

set -g status-interval 3

And I also had to specify the status-right-length option, without that the status line is truncated:

set -g status-right-length 56

Reloading configuration

After changing your ~/.tmux.conf, you can reload it with:

tmux source-file ~/.tmux.conf

Disabling control flow

You should probably disable control flow by adding this line to your ~/.bashrc:

stty -ixon

You can find more details about that in Tom Ryder’s “Terminal annoyances” blog post.


The following command shows the colors that can be used in a tmux configuration (source:

for i in {0..255}; \
  do printf "\x1b[38;5;${i}mcolour%-5i\x1b[0m" $i; \
  if ! (( ($i + 1 ) % 8 )); then echo; fi; \

Vim configuration

Enable the use of the mouse in terminal Vim by adding this line to your ~/.vimrc:

set mouse=a

Listing / killing tmux sessions

List your opened tmux sessions with:

tmux ls

Kill all the opened tmux sessions and the tmux server with:

tmux kill-server
tmux confirm-before kill-server # Prompts the user for confirmation in
                                # tmux status bar.

If you’re in a tmux session and want to kill all the other sessions, use:

tmux kill-session -a

To kill a specific session, read session ID from tmux ls and do:

tmux kill-session -t <session_id>

Detaching client / attaching session

Detach the current client with prefix d or:

tmux detach

Reattach with one off:

tmux attach
tmux a
tmux attach -d -t <session_id> # To attach to a specific session.
                               # -d causes any other clients attached to the
                               # session to be detached.

Managing windows and panes

Create a new window with prefix c.

Rename the current window with prefix ,.

Close the current window with prefix &.

Split pane vertically with prefix %.

Split pane horizontally with prefix ".

Resize pane with prefix + left/down/up/right arrow. See also this article by Michael Lee.

To swap two windows, enter command mode with prefix : and type a command like swap-window -s 3 -t 1. This command swaps numbering of windows 3 and 1.