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Tmux, copy-mode, and OSX shenanigans.

Copy, with line wrapping!

If you've been trying to copy/paste text from a multi-pane tmux session with the mouse, you've probably been pretty pissed at the blissful ignorance a terminal application has of the rodent in your hand.

The alternative, which is quote-unqoute native copy/pasting using copy-mode takes a bit to get used to. So this is one solution for copying and pasting lines from a session with correct line wrapping behaviour, albeit keyboard only.

Disclaimer

Since copy-mode has similar concepts of marks, regions, and temp buffers to Emacs .. you'll probably find it straight forward if you're familar with Emacsen. For people using vi-mode in tmux, the same still applies but obviously the default key bindings will differ alot from what I show below.

I've listed C-a as the send-prefix key even though C-b is the default. The word on the street is tmux developers don't even use C-b.

The following steps work for me using a OSX/iterm2/tmux/dvtm combo, if you really need the mouse, you can try out: http://code.google.com/p/iterm2/wiki/TmuxIntegration


Steps:

1) Follow the instructions here: https://github.com/ChrisJohnsen/tmux-MacOSX-pasteboard to get pbcopy/pbpaste working from inside of tmux.

2) Doctor the following code snippet for your tastes and add it to ~/.tmux.conf:

# Set bash to whichever shell you are using, zsh for example
set-option -g default-command "reattach-to-user-namespace -l bash" 

# Remove the default binding for copy-selection, substitute emacs-copy with vi-copy if you're using vi-mode
unbind -t emacs-copy M-w

# Bind a different key to copy-selection
bind -t emacs-copy c copy-selection

# Bind prefix-M-w to copy-selection, save selection to buffer, and then pipe it's contents to pbcopy
bind M-w send-keys c\;\
         save-buffer /tmp/tmux-buffer\;\
         run-shell "reattach-to-user-namespace -l bash -c 'cat /tmp/tmux-buffer|pbcopy'"

The above code removes the default copy-selection key in copy-mode (M-w in my case) and substitutes it with a prefixed version: C-a M-w. This is because (without patching) tmux cannot bind multiple commands to a key under a specific key-table, only globally.

3) You can check what keys you currently have set for copy-mode by using C-a -> list-keys -t vi-copy|emacs-copy to list mode key bindings or use setw -g mode-keys vi|emacs to switch modes.

To copy the desired piece of text from a tmux pane to your OS' clipboard, you will need to do the following:

  • Mark the start of the region using C-a C-space
  • Use next/previous char/line to expand the marked region until it encompasses what you want to copy
  • C-a Alt-w to copy the region into a buffer (success will cause the highlighted region to become unselected)
  • C-] to paste the buffer to the current cursor position (outside of copy-mode)

tmux homepage http://tmux.sourceforge.net/

man tmux http://manpages.ubuntu.com/manpages/lucid/man1/tmux.1.html

.tmux.conf https://github.com/brendanhay/dotfiles/blob/master/.tmux.conf


Default emacs-copy keys:

  • C-a Prefix
  • C-a [ Copy mode
  • C-a C-space Mark
  • C-n Next line
  • C-p Previous line
  • C-f Next char
  • C-b Previous char
  • C-a Alt-w Copy marked region into buffer
  • C-a ] Paste saved buffer
  • ESC Exit copy mode
@juanolon

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commented Oct 19, 2012

wooooooot. thanks a lot. i was trying a while to get clipboard to work on tmux. then, just when i give up, i came to this :D

@juanolon

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commented Oct 19, 2012

but i'm actually using an other approach (and the the vi-mode)
bind-key -t vi-copy 'v' begin-selection
bind-key -t vi-copy 'x' copy-selection
bind-key 'p' run-shell "tmux set-buffer "$(pbpaste)"; tmux paste-buffer"
bind-key 'y' send-keys x; run-shell "tmux show-buffer | pbcopy"; display-message "copied"

@blissdev

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commented Jun 1, 2013

@juanolon What is the flow of key commands exactly? And thanks again to both of you for working on this.

@blissdev

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commented Jun 1, 2013

@juanolon To expand on my previous question. Using the config that you gave me it seems to half work, let me know if what I'm doing is wrong here.

  1. Enter select mode with C-a [
  2. I can now move around with vim keys.
  3. I hit v to begin selecting.
  4. I now hit (i think) C-a y to yank my selected test. (I saw "copied" on my first try)
  5. Now I paste but it doesn't seem to have worked. Either C-a p or OS level paste.

Any thoughts?

@pbarnes

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commented Jun 20, 2013

For Mac OS X you need to run it through reattach-to-user-namespace (not original, just did some combining of others ideas). This works for me:

bind-key -t vi-copy 'v' begin-selection
bind-key -t vi-copy 'x' copy-selection
bind-key 'p' run-shell "reattach-to-user-namespace pbpaste | tmux load-buffer - && tmux paste-buffer"
bind-key 'y' send-keys x; run-shell "tmux save-buffer - | reattach-to-user-namespace pbcopy"; display-message "copied"

@ff3

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commented Feb 5, 2014

For anyone still fighting with this I recommend the following link:
http://robots.thoughtbot.com/tmux-copy-paste-on-os-x-a-better-future

# Use vim keybindings in copy mode
setw -g mode-keys vi

# Setup 'v' to begin selection as in Vim
bind-key -t vi-copy v begin-selection
bind-key -t vi-copy y copy-pipe "reattach-to-user-namespace pbcopy"

# Update default binding of `Enter` to also use copy-pipe
unbind -t vi-copy Enter
bind-key -t vi-copy Enter copy-pipe "reattach-to-user-namespace pbcopy"
@jasonm23

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commented Apr 3, 2015

Shouldn't Exit copy mode be listed as ESC Enter ?

@scottstanfield

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commented Jan 27, 2018

For those of you finding this in 2018, with tmux 2.6, you don't need the reattach-to-user-namespace gymnastics anymore. This is all I need with iTerm2 (3.1.5), tmux (2.6) and macOS High Sierra (10.13.2).

In iTerm 2 preferences, first tab "General", enable "Applications in terminal may access clipboard".

# tmux 2.6 doesn't need the 'reattach-to-user-namespace' gymnastics
setw    -g  mode-keys    vi
bind-key -T edit-mode-vi Up                send-keys -X history-up
bind-key -T edit-mode-vi Down              send-keys -X history-down
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi v                 send      -X begin-selection
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi [                 send-keys -X begin-selection
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi y                 send-keys -X copy-pipe-and-cancel "pbcopy"
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi MouseDragEnd1Pane send-keys -X copy-pipe-and-cancel "pbcopy"
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi Enter             send-keys -X copy-pipe-and-cancel "pbcopy"
bind-key -T copy-mode-vi ]                 send-keys -X copy-selection
@cevaris

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commented Mar 31, 2018

FYI for emacs mode in tmux 2.6 without reattach-to-user-namespace on Mac OS X

# Copy & Paste
set -g mode-keys emacs
bind-key -T copy-mode [    send-keys -X begin-selection
bind-key -T copy-mode M-w  send-keys -X copy-pipe-and-cancel "pbcopy"
bind-key -T copy-mode ]    send-keys -X copy-selection
@kamoljan

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commented Apr 9, 2018

@cevaris like this?

➜  ~ cat ~/.tmux.conf
# Remove the default binding for copy-selection, substitute emacs-copy with vi-copy if you're using vi-mode
unbind -t emacs-copy M-w

# Bind a different key to copy-selection
bind -t emacs-copy c copy-selection

# Bind prefix-M-w to copy-selection, save selection to buffer, and then pipe it's contents to pbcopy
bind M-w send-keys c\;\
         save-buffer /tmp/tmux-buffer\;\
         run-shell "reattach-to-user-namespace -l bash -c 'cat /tmp/tmux-buffer|pbcopy'"

# Copy & Paste
set -g mode-keys emacs
bind-key -T copy-mode [    send-keys -X begin-selection
bind-key -T copy-mode M-w  send-keys -X copy-pipe-and-cancel "pbcopy"
bind-key -T copy-mode ]    send-keys -X copy-selection
@paraita

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commented Dec 5, 2018

thanks for the clarification @scottstanfield

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