In both zsh and bash, Ctrl+arrows allows me to move the position I'm typing at by whole word, but this does not work in tmux, which is a problem as I'm currently launching it automatically every time I open a shell.

How can I fix this?

5 Answers 5

  1. Edit your ~/.tmux.conf and add lines:

    set-window-option -g xterm-keys on
  2. If you don’t want to make it permanent just yet, do:

    C-b :set-window-option xterm-keys on
  3. Reload your config in tmux by doing:

    C-b :source-file ~/.tmux.conf

More information here:

  • 3
    Strange: This works for me only if I reload the ~/.tmux.conf file from tmux or set the action in the :-prompt of tmux, not initially when I open tmux. Any ideas what might be the problem there?
    – AME
    Nov 28, 2013 at 18:06
  • @AME close all tmux sessions then try again.
    – Nathan
    Sep 7, 2015 at 6:13
  • 1
    If reload config doesn't fix the problem (this is the case for me), try a new session. Maybe you need to kill the current session and create a new one. Another option to make it take effect in a pane (not a session) is C-b: respawn-pane -k
    – fstang
    Mar 16, 2016 at 21:28
  • 2
    Killing the session, or whatever set-window-option -g xterm-keys on still doesn't do anything in my case.
    – noraj
    Nov 12, 2017 at 23:57
  • 1
    press C-b then kill-server or tmux kill-server before testing the result Jan 24, 2020 at 9:56
set-window-option -g xterm-keys on

Got me some of the way there and gave me Ctrl-Left/Right on the console, but it was still responding differently in vim.

Unbinding the keys didn't seem to help.

It turned out that at some point I had set my default terminal to screen (set-option -g default-terminal "screen" in .tmux.conf)

Changing this to the following gave me Ctrl-Left/Right in everything else:

set-option -g default-terminal "xterm-256color"

Hope that helps somebody.

  • 1
    Except this breaks colors in vim, tig, and presumably a whole bunch of other stuff...
    – koniiiik
    Oct 10, 2015 at 16:42
  • 1
    see also unix.stackexchange.com/a/1098/250 for an advice against setting TERM like that in tmux
    – phunehehe
    Oct 2, 2016 at 12:06

I'm not sure, but this might be because tmux by default binds C-<up/down/left/right> to shift the focus onto the pane above/below/left of/right of the currently focused pane. If you don't use panes often, you might not have noticed this feature. If this is what the problem is, you can unbind those keys by saying:

unbind C-Left
unbind C-Right

That might be enough on it's own, or you might need to manually bind them again to what you want them to do, via:

bind -n C-Left <the action you want>
bind -n C-Right <other action you want>
  • 1
    It should be enough on it's own, if it isn't grabbed by tmux, it should pass onto the shell.
    – Rob
    Dec 14, 2011 at 17:37

For msys2/Cygwin/mintty:

Add below to ~/.inputrc.

"\e[1;5C": forward-word   # ctrl + right
"\e[1;5D": backward-word  # ctrl + left 

Reload would make tmux work correctly.


For me, the keys were not being bound correctly, because the system preferences in High Sierra were set to being used by Mission Control. Unchecking these then allowed the correct bindings to work in iTerm2 and Tmux

System Preferences

Unchecking all of the items referencing the control key, allowed the bindings to work properly

  • Not sure where OSX or Iterm2 were mentioned by OP. Nov 27, 2023 at 18:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .