I am using a mac (snow leopard). I am a ruby on rails developer and I watched a screencast on GNU screen and am trying it out. So far I like it.

On a window when I start server I get to see the log messages. However I can't seem to scroll up. I do get a scroll bar. However when I use the scroll bar and scroll up I don't see anything.

How do people use GNU screen and scroll up?

5 Answers 5


There's a 'copy mode' in screen, activated by pressing, Ctrl + A, followed by [. This gives you a cursor that you can use to scroll backwards.

  • Thanks that works. Is there a faster way to go up rather than just having the up arrow pressed.
    – Nadal
    May 7, 2010 at 15:27
  • 10
    @dorelal: The vim-like shortcuts Ctrl-U and Ctrl-D move up a half page and down a half page while in copy mode. Also, ESC will take you out of copy mode. May 7, 2010 at 16:09
  • 5
    @dorelal I usually use the other shortcut ctrl-A, then Esc quickly, to get into copy mode rather than [. It is easier for me to remember.
    – Jarvin
    May 7, 2010 at 19:27
  • 1
    What's this quickly? It does not seem to matter how fast you do it... Aug 18, 2010 at 15:11
  • @kevin: quite right, the "quickly" was meant to explicitly convey "not simultaneously".
    – Babu
    Aug 18, 2010 at 17:09

Add the following to your ~/.screenrc:

termcapinfo xterm ti@:te@
termcapinfo xterm-color ti@:te@

This will let you use the Terminal.app scrollbar instead of relying on screen's scrollback buffer.

  • 2
    This should really become a default setting. I keep on coming back here to get this, thanks!
    – Dagelf
    Oct 17, 2014 at 13:43
  • 1
    ....And again.... and again... the gift that keeps on giving...
    – Dagelf
    Jul 8, 2015 at 16:40
  • 1
    ...And again...
    – Dagelf
    Aug 4, 2015 at 19:00
  • Or: termcapinfo xterm* ti@:te@ for both.
    – kenorb
    Jan 17, 2016 at 12:30
  • It doesn't work with SHIFT+PgUp, so I still can't scroll up the terminal.
    – hopeseekr
    Nov 2, 2019 at 12:22

The correct way is to use the copy mode, as Babu pointed out.

You could speed things up a bit by automatically entering into copy mode when you press your favourite scroll keys.

For example, using PgUp and PgDown:

# easier scroll
bindkey "^[[5~" eval 'copy' 'stuff ^b'  # PgUp   | Enter copy/scrollback mode and page up
bindkey "^[[6~" eval 'copy' 'stuff ^f'  # PgDown | Enter copy/scrollback mode and page down
  • 2
    bindkey is the solution, but binding [Page Up] or [Page Down] will interfere with using less. We just need one key to enter copy mode. For completeness: To bind the [Insert] key (otherwise useless and right besides the navigation keys) with copy mode, we should add bindkey -k kI copy to .screenrc and restart the screen session.
    – Small Boy
    Dec 25, 2020 at 15:33

Take a look at GNU Screen: Working with the Scrollback Buffer for a good introduction.

  • And... it's gone. 404 Jan 7, 2014 at 22:12
  • Replaced link with archive.org link Jan 8, 2014 at 16:01
  • I use Ctrl+A Esc to go in copy mode.
  • Then use arrows or PageUp/PageDown to move through the scroll buffer.
  • To exit copy mode, just hit Esc.

that’s a little more intuitive by this way.

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