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Using screenrc, how can I make C-a c open a new window at the current window's working directory? By default it appears to open the new window at the working directory at the time the original screen session is invoked.

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3 Answers 3

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Based on this SO answer, I think this should work:

bind c stuff "screen -X chdir \$PWD; screen^M"

I'll go try it on my remote shell and report back if it works for me.

edit: Yup, it works. The first "bind" command is actually not needed.

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I read that answer, but thought stuff was a placeholder for something else. What does the ^M in your code sample above? – Matt Joiner Jun 2 '11 at 5:36
This has done it, but without the extra ^M, perhaps this was from copy-pasting? – Matt Joiner Jun 2 '11 at 5:37

Here's a copy of my own answer to a similar question on

To make screen open a new tab/window in the current directory, you can add the following code to your .screenrc file:

bind c stuff "screen bash^M"

This will cause the Ctrl + a c command to open new tabs/windows in the directory of the current window/tab.

Note: You must ensure that screen does not start a login shell by default because that will cause the shell start in the default directory for a login shell rather than the current directory. This means that In your .screenrc file, your shell command cannot include a dash ('-') character.

For example, this is wrong (i.e. it will start a login shell):

shell -$SHELL

But this is right (i.e. it will not start a login shell):

shell $SHELL

Note 2: Unfortunately, this method does not behave exactly like the default new window/tab command in screen. Instead, it writes the command to the current window and executes it to create the new window/tab, so it will not work during some long running shell process. In other words, this keyboard shortcut can only be executed whenever normal shell commands can be executed.

Note 3: If you want screen to open new windows/tabs in the current directory and open a login shell, you can add the following code to your .screenrc file:

bind c stuff "screen bash -l^M"
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By default, screen also binds C-a C-c to create a new window, so you might want to add another line to your .screenrc to handle this case:

bind c stuff "screen -X chdir \$PWD;screen^M"
bind ^c stuff "screen -X chdir \$PWD;screen^M"

Clarification about how this command works:

  1. stuff puts its argument string directly into the current window:

    Command: stuff string

    Stuff the string string in the input buffer of the current window.

  2. screen -X chdir \$PWD tells screen to execute the command chdir, which changes its operational directory (where new screen windows will start) to the environment variable $PWD, which contains the current working directory. This is impossible to do within .screenrc alone; therefore, manipulating the input buffer with stuff is necessary.

  3. The screen command within an already running screen creates a new window just like C-a C-c.

  4. ^M generates a carriage return, which tells the shell to execute the command which is now in the buffer. Without it, you would have to press enter (or C-m, of course).

Consequently, this bind will leave cruft like this in the window you execute it in:

user@host:~/directory$ screen -X chdir $PWD;screen
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Any Idea why the ^M isn't necessary? – Matt Joiner Jun 2 '11 at 9:21
It is necessary, so that a carriage return is generated at the end of the stuff string. – Matt Eckert Jun 2 '11 at 15:41

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