I have been using GNU screen for a couple of days and the CTRL-A navigation is beginning to wear on me. How can I remap this key combo and what are some common replacements for these keys? For example, in Vim I use jj instead of <esc> because it doesn't require me to break my typing form.

Note: Alex explains how to map the key combo, however, adding the binding to .screenrc did not work for me. I added it to etc\screenrc and that worked. The .screenrc method seems to work for most people, I am not sure why not on my system.

2 Answers 2


To make it CTRL+J, use the following in .screenrc.

escape ^Jj

To quote the manpage,

 escape xy

Set the command character to x and the character generating a literal command character (by triggering the "meta" command) to y (similar to the -e option). Each argument is either a single character, a two-character sequence of the form "^x" (meaning "C-x"), a backslash followed by an octal number (specifying the ASCII code of the character), or a backslash followed by a second character, such as "\^" or "\". The default is "^Aa".

  • When the changes are made, CTRL+J is supposed to function as CTRL+A is that correct?
    – Dru
    May 8, 2012 at 20:14
  • I have escape ^Jj^ in my root directory's .screenrc file and the user's home directory's file. I rebooted screen and also restarted the ssh session that I was in. None of these worked, I expected CTRL+J to behave as CTRL+A
    – Dru
    May 8, 2012 at 20:15
  • Do you have an extra caret on the end of that? Should be escape ^Jj, not escape ^Jj^. May 8, 2012 at 20:54
  • 1
    Maybe there's a conflict with other bindings but I have tried several keys.
    – Dru
    May 8, 2012 at 21:10
  • 6
    You can also just press Ctrl + a, and type ': escape ^Jj' (like in vi) to change the mapping dynamically.
    – rags
    Oct 31, 2012 at 10:45

Similar to the solution of @Alex Hirzel but I prefer using keybinding Ctrl+^ (Ctrl+Shift+6) as it is never used in emacs keybindings.

Just write in ~/.screenrc as follows:

escape ^^^

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