I am a Neovim (or Nvim in abbreviation) user. In Nvim, we use Ctrl-W as prefix for window-related operations. But in tmux, the default prefix is Ctrl-B. As a result, when I want to change panes in tmux, I often mistakenly press Ctrl-W, which is annoying. Why not change tmux prefix to be more vim-like?

Tmux does not create a configuration file under your home by default. You have to create one by yourself. First, we need to create a config file named .tmux.conf under home directory:

touch ~/.tmux.conf

Then, we can edit this file to customize tmux behaviours.

Change prefix

To change prefix, add the following settings to .tmux.conf,

unbind C-b
set-option -g prefix C-w
bind-key C-w send-prefix

Split panes like vim

By default, tmux use <prefix> % to split window vertical and <prefix> ", which is rather obscure. We can change it to be more vim-like.

# use <prefix> s for horizontal split
bind s split-window -v
# use <prefix> v for vertical split
bind v split-window -h

Then you can use <prefix> s to for horizontal split and <ctrl> v for vertical split.

Vim-like pane navigation

In order to use the traditional Vim navigation key HJKL for switching between different panes, use the following settings:

bind h select-pane -L
bind j select-pane -D
bind k select-pane -U
bind l select-pane -R

Then you can use <prefix> h/j/k/l to go to pane left/below/above/right.

We can also use alt and arrow keys for pane switching,

bind -n M-Left select-pane -L
bind -n M-Right select-pane -R
bind -n M-Up select-pane -U
bind -n M-Down select-pane -D

Then you can press Alt + arrow key to switch panes.

Resize panes

# resize panes more easiyly
bind < resize-pane -L 10
bind > resize-pane -R 10
bind - resize-pane -D 10
bind + resize-pane -U 10

To resize pane in the horizontal direction, use <prefix> < or <prefix> >. To resize pane in the vertical direction, use <prefix> + or <prefix> -.

How to make the changes take effect?

If you are in a tmux session, just press <prefix>, then use :source ~/.tmux.conf command to make the change take effect. If you are in the normal command line, use tmux source ~/.tmux.conf to refresh tmux configurations.

Note: before changing the tmux prefix key, the old prefix still takes effect. If you want to change the prefix inside a tmux session, you need to use the old prefix.