I'm struggling to tell which pane is the current one in tmux if there are only two. The border only seems to highlight the adjoining edge which makes it impossible to tell. Here's a Gif to highlight what I mean.enter image description here

I'm in bash, and the config for that looks thus

set-option -g pane-border-fg white
set-option -g pane-active-border-fg green

Anyone got any tips to make it more obvious?

  • 2
    This issue is resolved in the current version of tmux. When there are only two splits the upper/lower half of the split line is colored to indicate left/right split.
    – Phani
    Aug 14, 2014 at 21:18
  • You might consider posting this as the answer?
    – Wil
    Aug 15, 2014 at 11:18
  • Isn't it possible to get tmux to have 1px borders around each of all panes?
    – sjas
    May 16, 2015 at 11:46
  • The problem is that if each pane has an identical border, you can't determine which is active. As @Phani says, it's less of an issue in more recent versions, though.
    – Wil
    May 18, 2015 at 6:10

4 Answers 4


This issue is resolved in the current version of tmux. When there are only two splits the upper/lower half of the split line is colored to indicate that the left/right split is active

enter image description here

  • 1
    Also gets confusing when it comes to horizontal layout. Left half highlight = top pane, but.. not so very obvious unless you look out for the active cursor.
    – Irfan
    Nov 10, 2017 at 6:26

I think I've finally found a way that makes it really clear for me. Using the following in the .tmux.conf.

set -g window-style 'fg=black,bg=colour253'
set -g window-active-style 'fg=colour234,bg=colour231'

I get the focused / active window in lighter color and the non-focused / inactive ones a bit grayed out.

I've tweaked my color palette a lot, but using your favorite colors (note the british spelling in the tmux.conf) should allow for adjustments.

Example of active (lower right corner) vs inactive:

example of active vs in-active

  • Although the split does change colour half way now, I still find it confusing at times. There's no mistaking this solution!
    – Matt Lacey
    Feb 18, 2019 at 22:09

Good question; I wish I had a better answer. The display-panes command (C-b q by default) shows the active pane with a red number. Given only two panes, you still have to remember that red is active, blue is inactive.

If you set display-panes-color to something with low constrast with your background color, it will be less visible than the (by default) red active pane number.

  • I've pretty much always used display-panes precisely because of this problem. The other issue of course is having to set a low repeat-time so you don't move to Vim then try and move your cursor only to move back to another pane. Will probably continue with display-panes I've got enough contrast on the current pane number to be pretty useful. Thanks a lot for the input, I'll just have to bear it.
    – Wil
    Feb 7, 2013 at 16:45

If you're using @chepner's answer, you can improve your experience by binding Alt + q to display panes for custom milliseconds in your tmux.conf using:

bind -n M-q display-panes -d 300

where 300 is the amount of milliseconds in my case

It is better than just sending the display-panes command with the default combination (C-b q by default) because is quicker to launch and last for a custom time

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