Changing My tmux Command Prefix to Tic

December 27, 2014

By default the tmux Command Prefix is Control-B (<C-b>). As this isn't the easiest key combination on the standard US layout QWERTY keyboard most tutorials suggest remapping it to Control-A (<C-a>). I went one step further and remapped my Caps Lock key to be a control key (I wasn't using it anyway). Now any time I need to communicate to the tmux server I can <C-a> plus a command key.

The tmux commands I issue frequently are:

<C-a> c - create a new pane inside the current window
<C-a> , - rename the current pane
<C-a> # - switch to the pane numbered #
<C-a> d - detach from the current session
<C-a> s - synchronization toggle, syncs all panes or turns sync off
<C-a> o - maximizes current pane by minimizing all others
<C-a> i - equalizes size of all panes
<C-a> z - hides all but current pane (great for copying)

Some of these -- creating a new pane or renaming a pane -- happen infrequently in the life of a tmux session. Others -- switching panes using their index number -- happen dozens of times a day.

Using <C-a> as the Command Prefix adds a two-key combination to each of the tmux sever commands I issue. Until quite recently this wasn't an issue. However I watched several installments of Learn tmux the other day and one of the first suggestions made was to use the backtic character: ` as the Command Prefix.

The trick to this mapping is to set up your .tmux.conf file to pass along a ` when two are pressed back-to-back. This way you can still utilize the backtic character (as I have creating this posting).

unbind C-b
set -g prefix `
bind ` send-prefix

The unbind C-b removes the default Command Prefix binding (Control-b). The set -g prefix ` make ` the new Command Prefix key. And bind ` send-prefix uses send-prefix to pass ` along to the application. Without the last line above you'll lose the ability to type `.

After having used tmux with <C-a> as my Command Prefix for the better part of two years now, switching to ` will take some effort, but I think the savings in key strokes over time will be well worth it.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.