I can't get this to work. How can I search the buffer of a tmux shell?

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    What version of tmux (tmux -V)? I believe this was added in version 0.9. – Dennis Williamson Jan 9 '11 at 20:43
  • @Dennis it's 1.3-1 – NES Jan 9 '11 at 21:08
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    Finding the version with tmux -V works only in later versions. In Ubuntu/Debian you can do: dpkg -l | grep tmux – Niels Bom Oct 4 '12 at 11:46

copy mode search

To search in the tmux history buffer for the current window, press Ctrl-b [ to enter copy mode.

If you're using emacs key bindings (the default), press Ctrl-s then type the string to search for and press Enter. Press n to search for the same string again. Press Shift-n for reverse search. Press Escape twice to exit copy mode. You can use Ctrl-r to search in the reverse direction. Note that since tmux is in control of the keyboard in copy mode, Ctrl-s works regardless of the stty ixon setting (which I like to have as stty -ixon to enable forward searches in Bash).

If you're using vi key bindings (Ctrl-b:set-window-option -g mode-keys vi), press / then type the string to search for and press Enter. Press n to search for the same string again. Press Shift-n for reverse search as in emacs mode. Press q twice to exit copy mode. You can use ? to search in the reverse direction.


If you want to switch to a window based on something displayed in it (this also includes window names and titles but not history), (starting with more than one window open) press Ctrl-b f then type the string to search for and press Enter. You will be switched to a window containing that text if it's found. If more than one window matches, you'll see a list to select from.

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    How can I set the binding style? (emacs vs vi) – Daniel Que Aug 12 '14 at 22:39
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    @DanielQue: Take a look at the tmux man page and search for "mode-keys" and "status-keys". Those are sub-commands that allow you to set the binding style. Alternately, it might be simpler to set an environment variable (EDITOR or VISUAL) to the style you want before starting tmux. – Dennis Williamson Aug 12 '14 at 22:55
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    Thanks, I got it to work with set-window-option -g mode-keys vi in my .tmux.conf. But I was curious about the environment variable alternative and couldn't get it to work. Is it a shell environment variable, or a tmux environment variable that has to be set in the conf file? – Daniel Que Aug 12 '14 at 23:38
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    @DanielQue: A shell environment variable. It will need to be exported or placed in tmux's envrionment like this: VISUAL=vi tmux – Dennis Williamson Aug 13 '14 at 4:54
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    Also note that there is no regex search yet, here is an open issue on it sourceforge.net/p/tmux/tickets/9 – Elijah Lynn Oct 28 '14 at 20:58

Enter copy mode and start searching in one go

bind-key / copy-mode \; send-key ?

allows you to do just:

 Ctrl + B /

and start typing the search term.

Dump to a file and use vim

When things get more involved, I just want to use a proper editor: https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/26548/write-all-tmux-scrollback-to-a-file

bind-key P 'capture-pane' \; capture-pane -S - \; save-buffer /tmp/tmux \; delete-buffer

Now P dumps the buffer to a file, and then I just:

vim /tmp/tmux

Tested in tmux 2.6.

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