I miss highlighting (reverse mode) on console since I started to use urxvt + tmux as main terminal. The highlights was replaced with with italic font - what looks pretty cool at first - however I can't find the one italic word in thousands non-italic when I try to search something in a less.

This is works properly while the terminal type is set to an xterm* profile (with e.g. set -g default-terminal "xterm-color" in .tmux.conf). However some shortcut can't works, apps can't get proper geometry of terminal, ... in this case.

3 Answers 3


I have found info and solutions about it on tmux's pages:

Screen's terminfo description lacks italics mode and has standout mode in its place, but using the same escape sequence that urxvt uses for italics. This means applications (like vim) looking for italics will not find it and might turn to reverse in its place, while applications (like less) asking for standout will end up with italics instead of reverse.

[Fix 1] Replace terminfo entries and get reverse + italics

(per user!)

To make applications aware that tmux supports italics and to use a proper escape sequence for standout, you'll need to create a new terminfo file with modified sgr, smso, rmso, sitm and ritm entries:

$ mkdir $HOME/.terminfo/
$ screen_terminfo="screen"
$ infocmp "$screen_terminfo" | sed \
  -e 's/^screen[^|]*|[^,]*,/screen-it|screen with italics support,/' \
  -e 's/%?%p1%t;3%/%?%p1%t;7%/' \
  -e 's/smso=[^,]*,/smso=\\E[7m,/' \
  -e 's/rmso=[^,]*,/rmso=\\E[27m,/' \
  -e '$s/$/ sitm=\\E[3m, ritm=\\E[23m,/' > /tmp/screen.terminfo
$ tic /tmp/screen.terminfo

And tell tmux to use it in ~/.tmux.conf:

set -g default-terminal "screen-it"

If your terminal supports 256 colors, use:

$ screen_terminfo="screen-256color"

instead of "screen". See the FAQ entry about 256 colors support for more info. Also note that tmux will still display reverse video on terminals that do not support italics.

If your urxvt cannot display italics at all, make sure you have an italics capable font enabled, for example, add to ~/.Xdefaults:

urxvt.italicFont: xft:Bitstream Vera Sans Mono:italic:autohint=true

[Fix 2] Simply replace italic control characters with reverse

Add this terminal override to ~/.tmux.conf:

set -g terminal-overrides 'rxvt-unicode*:sitm@,ritm@'
  • 2
    Fix 1 seems to work, but it's 2015, can this really be so difficult? Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 16:13
  • Unfortunately, I can not find any better solution for this issue + I have stopped searching when I found this on a tmux mailing list... :(
    – andras.tim
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 21:56
  • 4
    Well, according to tmux FAQ tmux 2.1 should fix the behavior. So I guess this is only needed temporarily. I personally just did what the OP said and set my default-terminal to xterm. Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 12:45
  • Sometimes this is not soo good. E.g. when you have to compatible with PuTTY you can not use xterm, only screeen variants.
    – andras.tim
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 21:14
  • 1
    Fix 1 worked for me, but made my solarized dircolors disappear; I was able to fix it by adding TERM screen-it to the list of terminals in ~/.dircolors. Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 21:45

I run urxvt in arch linux. The op's answer did not help me. This helped me:


search for italic and run that; then, put this in tmux config

set -g default-terminal "tmux"

don't use "tmux-256color". (try it, I suppose, but it didn't work for me.)

finally, add this to your rc (.zshrc, .bashrc, etc):

export TERM="xterm-256color"
  • This is working for me in 2020 with tmux 1.8 andPutty 0.73.
    – jftuga
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 17:44

Quicker way:

set -g terminal-overrides "screen.xterm-new"

Works without any further magic (and still heeds the warning in the tmux manual about the terminal type needing to be "screen" or a derivative thereof).

  • 1
    Works for me perfectly, for example watch -n10 -d COMMAND args.. allows to detect changes now (like blanks! How do you do italic blanks?). I think this should be the accepted answer. Note: When terminal already is open, use TERM=screen.xterm-new; export TERM
    – Tino
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 23:54

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