In this article, I bring you ten of my favorite
tmux tips. For those unfamiliar with
tmux, SitePoint Ruby Editor Glenn Goodrich has written an excellent overview of the basics.
Today, I am going to show you the tips and tricks I use with
tmux on a daily basis, as well as how
tmux can improve the workflow of your Ruby development. If you are a
vim user, you will be in for a treat.
Tip #1: Always Have a
tmux Session On
Getting into a new habit is always an uphill battle. Just like trying to force myself into using the
hjkl keys in
vim by disabling the arrow keys, I needed to find a way to force myself to use
tmux all the time. This is useful when you are in the middle of coding and you forgot that you should have
tmux-ed in the first place.
The above example works with iTerm2 on Mac OSX. It shouldn’t be difficult to search for Linux equivalents. The main idea is to always run
tmux attach -t base || tmux new -s base when the terminal program starts up.
The line above attempts to connect to a previously created session called
base, or creates a new one (also called
base) if it doesn’t exist. You can rename
base to anything you want, it is not a special keyword. With this incantation, whenever you fire up the terminal, you will automatically connect back to your previous
Tip #2: Multiple Pane Synchronization
The video above shows four panes loaded with REPLs of four different languages. Going in a clockwise direction, we have Haskell, Ruby, Elixir, and Python. What
setw synchronise-panes gives us is that it simultaneously sends keyboard input from one pane to the rest of the panes. (In this case, we can also see the the Elixir REPL is far superior because of the colored output.)
Obviously, this demonstration is a mere party trick to impress developers and nothing more. A good use case is having to perform a repetitive operation on multiple machines. For example, imagine having a
tmux session connected to four remote hosts and having to executer the exact same command on all of them.
Tip #3: Refreshing
I am prone to clearing the terminal with
Command + L. Unfortunately in
tmux, this just messes up the entire session. To illustrate, the above shows my typical
tmux experience: I am happily programming when somehow, my fat fingers hit
Command+k and my entire
tmux session gets messed up, making me mad:
Thankfully, the easy fix is to bind
prefix-r to reload the
tmux configuration file, and everything is nice again. In
~/.tmux.conf, add the following entry:
bind-key r source-file ~/.tmux.conf
tmux to source the configuration again, essentially reloading
Tip #4: The
tmux Plugin Manager
This is a recent discovery of mine. I didn’t realize someone had created a
tmux plugin manager. I won’t bore you with the details of installation, since it is pretty straightforward.
Once you get the plugin installed, it’s only a matter of selecting the plugin you want and pasting the entry into
If you use Vundle or Pathogen for
vim, the process is the same. You declare whatever plugins you want by supplying the GitHub username and repo, save
tmux.conf, then hit
prefix + I to install the plugin:
The next two tips cover two interesting plugins that can be installed with the
tmux plugin manager.
Tip #5: Resurrecting
tmux-resurrect is a tool to persist a
tmux environment across system restarts. Why is this useful? When you restart
tmux, your entire
tmux session is gone.
tmux-resurrect fixes that. Another very nice feature of
tmux-resurrect is the ability to restore
vim sessions too!
In the video that follows, I have a
vim session in the left pane
rails console and
rails server, respectively, on the right.
In order for
tmux-resurrect to persist a
vim session, install Tim Pope’s vim-obsession.
vim-obssesion makes it easier to record a
vim session. I haven’t played with it much, but let me show you the entire process:
First of all, we have to tell
vim-obsession to track the session. I also have
htop running in another window.
In order to save an entire
tmux session, type
prefix + Control + s. Then if something kills the
tmux server, which is what happens when your battery runs out or when someone trips over the wire and the power gets cut. With
tmux-resurrect, losing your
tmux session is not an issue. In order to restore the session, you need to run
tmux again, and this time, hit
prefix + Control + r.
However, I can already here some people thinking, “Isn’t manually doing
prefix + Control + s + r is a hassle! Who has time to remember all that?” Enter tip #6.
tmux-continuum continuously saves your
tmux environment at regular intervals and automatically restores it when
tmux is started.
Tip #7: Zooming
Zoom was introduced in
tmux zooming is very useful when you want to look at test failures or inspect logs. To zoom into a pane, hit
prefix + z, and use the same combination to zoom out.
Tip #8: Navigate Seamlessly Between
vim Splits and
It can sometimes be confusing to figure out whether you are in a
vim split or in a
tmux pane. Navigating between both is also a hassle. That is until vim-tmux-navigator came along.
Here, we have a
tmux session with three panes. The left half consists of two
vim splits, and the right hand side contains two
vim-tmux-navigator, I can navigate across
vim splits and
tmux panes using
tmux + Ruby Specs
tmux make a very nice combination to run Ruby tests. For this to work, you need to install three
Once you have these plugins installed, let’s see how they make our workflow better:
We have the specs for a
Micropost model. I have configured
to runs all the specs found in this file. However, when I hit
, it runs only the specs under the cursor. Extremely handy!
In addition to having an awesome name, tmuxinator is an excellent Ruby gem that helps you create an manage
tmux sessions easily.
tmuxinator is especially useful when you have different projects requiring different layouts of panes/windows.
Thanks for Reading!
I hope you enjoyed this article, and learned something new. Do you have other tips to share? Spread some
tmux love in the comments below!
- tmux: Productive Mouse-Free Development by Brian Hogan
- Impressive Ruby Productivity with Vim and Tmux – Ancient City Ruby 2013 by Chris Hunt
Benjamin is a Software Engineer at EasyMile, Singapore where he spends most of his time wrangling data pipelines and automating all the things. He is the author of The Little Elixir and OTP Guidebook and Mastering Ruby Closures Book. Deathly afraid of being irrelevant, is always trying to catch up on his ever-growing reading list. He blogs, codes and tweets.