A Minimum Viable Tmux Config

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The main pieces of functionality that you will use in Tmux are:

Better Keybindings

Let's set up better keybindings for the parts of Tmux that we most commonly use.

Tmux Prefix

The Tmux prefix is a key chord that is used before all Tmux commands. I've gotten used to using the default, which is C-b (Ctrl followed by the B key without letting go of Ctrl), but it's common to use C-a instead. If you want to remap the prefix to C-a, add this to your .tmux.conf:

bind-key C-a send-prefix

This binds C-a to the send-prefix Tmux command.


Tmux "windows" are like the tabs in a web browser. Each window contains a number of "panes", each of which is a separate shell session. The default keybindings for managing windows are actually quite good, and I'll list out the important ones here:


Tmux "panes" are each a separate shell session, and each window holds one or more panes. You can add panes to a window in a way that is similar to splitting in a text editor.

Let's set up these keybindings:

Add the following to your .tmux.conf:

# Split panes using | and -. Start the new pane at the path of the current pane.
unbind-key '"'
unbind-key %
bind-key | split-window -h -c "#{pane_current_path}"
bind-key - split-window -v -c "#{pane_current_path}"

# Vim-like pane navigation and resizing.
bind-key h select-pane -L
bind-key j select-pane -D
bind-key k select-pane -U
bind-key l select-pane -R
bind-key -r H resize-pane -L 5
bind-key -r J resize-pane -D 5
bind-key -r K resize-pane -U 5
bind-key -r L resize-pane -R 5


Tmux "sessions" are collections of windows. I often have one session for each project I'm working on.

Let's set up the following keybindings:

Add the following to your .tmux.conf:

# Create new session.
bind-key C-c new-session -c "~"

# Search for a session.
bind-key C-f command-prompt -p find-session 'switch-client -t %%'

Status Bar & Color Scheme

I really like the Gruvbox1 Vim color scheme, so I use a Gruvbox-like color scheme in Tmux heavily inspired by egel/tmux-gruvbox.

Add the following to your .tmux.conf:

# COLORSCHEME: gruvbox dark
set-option -g status "on"

set-option -g status-style bg=colour237,fg=colour223 # bg=bg1, fg=fg1

set-window-option -g window-status-activity-style bold,underscore

set-option -g pane-active-border-style fg=colour250 #fg2
set-option -g pane-border-style fg=colour237 #bg1

set-option -g message-style bg=colour239,fg=colour223 # bg=bg2, fg=fg1

set-option -g message-command-style bg=colour239,fg=colour223 # bg=fg3, fg=bg1

set-option -g display-panes-active-colour colour250 #fg2
set-option -g display-panes-colour colour237 #bg1

set-option -g status-justify "left"
set-option -g status-left-style none
set-option -g status-left-length "80"
set-option -g status-right-style none
set-option -g status-right-length "80"
set-window-option -g window-status-separator ""

set-option -g status-left "#[fg=colour248, bg=colour241] #S #[fg=colour241, bg=colour237, nobold, noitalics, nounderscore]"
set-option -g status-right "#[fg=colour248, bg=colour237, nobold, noitalics, nounderscore]#{?client_prefix,#[reverse] ⌨#[noreverse],}#[fg=colour237, bg=colour248] #h "

set-window-option -g window-status-current-format " #[fg=colour239, bg=colour214] #I |#[fg=colour239, bg=colour214, bold] #W "

set-window-option -g window-status-format " #[fg=#{?window_bell_flag,colour235,colour223},bg=#{?window_bell_flag,colour167,colour239}] #I |#[fg=#{?window_bell_flag,colour235,colour223}, bg=#{?window_bell_flag,colour167,colour239}] #W "

If you're interested in a version of the status bar settings that use Powerline2 symbols, check out my Tmux config on GitHub.

Quality of Life Improvements

There's a few things in my config that make working with Tmux easier:

# Reload tmux config with <prefix>-r.
bind-key r source-file ~/.tmux.conf \; display '~/.tmux.conf sourced'

# Set scroll history to 100,000 lines.
set-option -g history-limit 100000

# Lower the time it takes to register ESC.
set -s escape-time 0

# Mouse mode on.
set -g mouse on

# When scrolling with mouse wheel, reduce number of scrolled rows per tick to 1.
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi WheelUpPane select-pane \; send-keys -X -N 1 scroll-up
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi WheelDownPane select-pane \; send-keys -X -N 1 scroll-down

# Use Vim keybindings in copy mode.
set-window-option -g mode-keys vi

# Renumber windows when a window is closed.
set -g renumber-windows on

# Turn on activity monitors.
set -g monitor-activity on
set -g visual-activity off


That basically covers my entire Tmux config, which you can check out on GitHub. I hope this walkthrough helps you get started with Tmux!


  1. https://github.com/morhetz/gruvbox

  2. https://github.com/powerline/fonts