screen’s competition: tmux

I love screen, and I love it even more when it’s patched to split vertically too. But screen isn’t the only game in town, if you like life at the command line. You might remember a long time ago, my rather brief infatuation with dvtm, which dissipated quickly when I realized that screen ran much lighter and faster on ancient hardware.

On the other hand, there is also tmux, which does a lot of things that screen should, but doesn’t really.

Not a particularly stellar screenshot there, but it illustrates the point. Just a quick look at the man page will show you a few things tmux does that screen might not. Preset pane arrangements, a highlight for the active frame, and a few other things all stand out at the start. The command sequence will take a little getting used to, and of course the default keybindings are a little different, but the same ideas are there and I doubt it would take long to adjust.

The real benefit to tmux, if it can be called a “benefit,” is that it is actively developed, with the most recent update in March. It’s certainly no requirement for admission to my system, but I do like to think that the folks who build a program are still interested in their project and pursue its future. Not required, but I get a warm, fuzzy feeling from that.

As far as software “weight,” I don’t see much that differs between tmux and screen when I look at them side-by-side in htop. I’ll do a little more profiling though, and see if there is a winner. One of the nice things about an extremely slow machine like this one, is that I can better see small increments in processor demand, while faster machines would be harder to read. Probably. :roll:

I will probably try to spend more time in tmux over the next few days, and see if it will usurp screen. It’ll give me a twinge of disloyalty, but that always happens when I find a new toy. …

P.S.: And yes, there is still dtach to consider. Sigh, so many programs, so little time. …

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10 Responses to “screen’s competition: tmux”


  1. 1 x33a 2010/07/14 at 11:36 AM

    [quote]One of the nice things about an extremely slow machine like this one, is that I can better see small increments in processor demand[/quote]
    That’s one of the most awesome reason for using older machines :D

    Well, please do a detailed review of tmux, and then even i might switch to it, if you give the thumbs up.

    • 2 Peter 2010/07/14 at 4:19 PM

      I’ve not tried it (being dyed in the wool ksh user) but I’m told that the latest version of dash now has its own built-in multiplexer.

  2. 3 ThirdMonkey 2010/07/14 at 3:13 PM

    After giving it a quick look, I have to give it a thumbs up! Like dvtm, the screen dividers look nicer then those in screen, while keeping features of screen that were missing in dvtm. It also doesn’t add a header or footer to each window, conserving rows that would otherwise be wasted.

  3. 5 ovIm 2010/07/14 at 3:24 PM

    Another good thing about tmux is that you can rebind most of the keys. My config file sets most of the screen keys to tmux, so I dont really see much of a difference between screen usage and tmux usage.

  4. 6 bryan 2010/07/14 at 11:26 PM

    I’m confused as to why you mention dtach as dtach simply emulates the detach / re-attach features of screen and does nothing at all similar to the screen splitting or paging that screen offers. Don’t get me wrong, dtach is a great piece of software, and one I use often – since I prefer dvtm to screen or tmux but do like the detach features. I’m just slightly confused as to why it’s mentioned in the same light as screen or tmux.

    Honestly, I’ll have to look into tmux again. The reason I don’t utilize screen more is because of the splitting not being automatic. If Tmux has pre-set layouts, I’ll definitely give it a shot again.

    • 7 K.Mandla 2010/07/15 at 12:26 AM

      You’re correct, it only does the attaching-detaching, so it doesn’t really stand up to the other two. I just wanted to say it before someone else did. :roll:

  5. 8 WaveFunction 2010/07/15 at 2:30 PM

    I admit that I had felt a small thrill seeing tmux in the headline. For as much as you talked about screen, I figured you’d have no good reason to look at any others.

    As for me, I use tmux for just about every *nix box I can. Can’t complain!

  6. 9 Kaleb Elwert 2010/07/18 at 1:02 PM

    screen is still being actively developed, just not actively released.

    http://git.savannah.gnu.org/cgit/screen.git

    The last update was around a month ago. I know this is git, but still a point to be considered. I prefer tmux, but this was one of my points when deciding a while ago as well. Just thought you may want to know.


  1. 1 cone and tmux: Waiting out the learning curve « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2010/07/17 at 8:25 AM

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