My tmux Cheat Sheet

Here is a cheat sheet for the tmux.conf provided by jhunt/env on GitHub.

I use Ctrl-a instead of Ctrl-b. I also map Caps Lock to be Ctrl instead, so Ctrl-a is two neighboring keypresses, which is a lot easier on my fingers. I type professionally, and a lot of that typing is done form inside tmux, so this small change has substantial impact.

Screenshot of a typical tmux session, with numbered callouts 1 - 4.

This is what my tmux looks like.

  1. The name of the session; "cheat" in this case.
  2. The name of the host machine. "hydra" is my laptop.
  3. The window list (navigation). I'm on window 0, currently.
  4. The local host timezone. Useful for interpreting log timestamps and such.

Sessions and Windows

Ctrl-a + d

Detach from the current tmux session, leaving it running in the background. You can log off of a server after this.

Ctrl-a + Ctrl-n

Focus the next window in this session. I usually just hold down the Ctrl key for this.

Ctrl-a + Ctrl-p

Focus the previous window. I also just hold down Ctrl while moving from a to p.

Ctrl-a + x

Kill (terminate, with prejudice) the current window. Useful if a program won't respond to signals. Remember to let up on Ctrl before hitting x.

Ctrl-a + "

Open the window list, allowing you to select windows (with preview!)

tmux Window List

Splits and Panes

Ctrl-a + -

Horizontally split the current pane, focusing on the bottom pane. The hyphen sort of looks like it could divide the window across the middle...

Ctrl-a +

Vertically split the current pane, putting the new pane on the right. is just a | without Shift held down, and | looks like it divides the window. A bit of a stretch, I know, but it's a serviceable mnemonic.

Ctrl-a + Ctrl-a + h

Move left to the pane next to this one.

Ctrl-a + Ctrl-a + j

Move down to the pane below.

Ctrl-a + Ctrl-a + k

Move up to the pane above.

Ctrl-a + Ctrl-a + l

Move right to the pane next to this one.

Scrollback Copy Mode

Ctrl-a + [

Enter copy mode.


Scroll up by a page.


Scroll down by a page.

Move around in the buffer.


Start a copy highlight at the cursor. Exits copy mode.


(after a Space and some movement commands) copy the highlighted text to the paste buffer.

Ctrl-a + ]

Paste the contents of the paste buffer to the terminal. Often useful from within vim, under set paste.


Exit copy mode. Note the lack of Ctrl-a prefixing this particular key-sequence.

A tmux in copy mode, with highlighted text

More Advanced Stuff

Ctrl-a + Shift-s

SSH somewhere, using the name or IP typed in at the ssh: prompt that appears in the status bar. A new window is created for running the SSH session, and the window exits when ssh terminates.

Ctrl-a + :

Enter tmux command mode, which opens up a prompt on the status bar, where you can enter any tmux command. See tmux(1) for what you can do from here.

James (@iamjameshunt) works on the Internet, spends his weekends developing new and interesting bits of software and his nights trying to make sense of research papers.

Currently exploring Kubernetes, as both a floor wax and a dessert topping.