3 Best Ways to Swap Panes in Tmux

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Last updated: June 25, 2023

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To swap panes in Tmux, you can try these three methods:

  1. Use commands like Ctrl-b + { or Ctrl-b + } to swap panes in Tmux horizontally or vertically.
  2. Use Tmux’s keyboard shortcuts, such as Ctrl+b followed by o, to cycle through panes and swap them effortlessly.
  3. Navigate between panes using arrow keys in Tmux’s command mode and swap panes with prefix + ! combination.

Optimize your Tmux workflow with three key practices for pane swapping. Strategically organize panes, customize keybindings, and leverage automation. Avoid common errors like missing target panes or conflicting keybindings. Enhance your Tmux experience, boost productivity, and become a Tmux power user.

Read the guide below to learn more about swapping panes in Tmux, quick troubleshooting methods, and tips for efficient pane swapping.

Tmux, short for “terminal multiplexer,” is a powerful tool that enhances productivity by allowing you to manage multiple terminal sessions within a single window. Imagine having the power to monitor system processes, edit code, run commands, and view logs, all within a single terminal session. With pane swapping, you can organize your workspaces intelligently, placing related tasks side by side and swiftly swapping between them as needed. In this article, I’ll explore various methods and techniques that allow you to switch between panes within a single terminal window effortlessly. I’ll also discuss common errors that you might encounter and best practices to optimize your workflow.

How to Swap Panes in Tmux

To swap panes in Tmux, you have multiple methods at your disposal. Utilize Tmux commands like Ctrl-b + { or Ctrl-b + } for easy pane repositioning. Alternatively, employ keyboard shortcuts, such as the prefix key + o, for quick and intuitive pane swapping. Tmux’s built-in pane navigation with arrow keys and prefix key + ! also provides a seamless swapping experience.

1. Tmux Commands

Swapping panes within a Tmux window is made easy with Tmux commands. This method is ideal for quickly switching between panes while working on different tasks, such as managing a web server and writing code simultaneously. Follow these steps to swap panes in tmux:

  1. Identify the source pane and the target pane.
current pane
  1. Use the following Tmux command 
<strong>Ctrl-b + { </strong>
pressing keys to move through panes
  1. This command will move the source pane to the left of the target pane.
moving the source pane to left of target pane
  1. To swap panes vertically, utilize the Tmux command:
<strong> Ctrl-b + }</strong>
pressing keys to swap Panes in Tmux above the target pane
  1. Before swapping, the panes are like this:
before swaping above
  1.  After pressing the keys, the source pane will be moved above the target pane.
swaping above the target pane

2. Keyboard Shortcuts

Tmux offers convenient keyboard shortcuts for effortless pane swapping. This method is perfect for quick and intuitive pane swapping. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Press the prefix key combination, typically Ctrl+b, to enter the Tmux command mode.
  2. Press the key combination:

This will swap the pane in a clockwise direction.

swaping clockwise through panes
  1. Repeat the Ctrl+o key combination as needed to cycle through your panes until you reach the desired pane to swap with.

3. Tmux’s Pane Navigation

Tmux provides built-in keybindings for easy pane navigation, which can be utilized to swap panes seamlessly. This method allows for efficient pane swapping without the need for additional commands or shortcuts. Follow these steps:

  1. Enter the Tmux command mode.
  2. Use the arrow keys to navigate to the pane you want to swap with. Once you’re on the desired pane, press the key combination:
<strong>prefix + !</strong>
  1. This will swap the current pane with the target pane.
navigating to panes through arrow keys

3 Best Practices to Swap Panes in Tmux

When it comes to swap panes in Tmux, three best practices can help optimize your workflow and enhance your productivity. Experiment, adapt, and find the approach that best suits your workflow and enhances productivity. Here are three key best practices to keep in mind:

  • 📂 Organize Panes Strategically: To make the most out of Tmux’s pane-swapping capabilities, organizing your panes strategically is crucial. Group related tasks within the same window to maintain context and enable seamless swapping between them. You can easily switch the focus without losing track by placing panes that are part of a specific project or task. Additionally, leverage Tmux’s window layout features to create predefined pane arrangements that suit your workflow. Saving frequently used layouts as templates allows for quick access and ensure consistency, further enhancing your efficiency when working with Tmux.
  • 🔧 Customize Keybindings for Efficiency: Customizing keybindings is a powerful way to enhance your productivity when swapping panes in Tmux. Choose intuitive key combinations that are easy to remember and execute. Opt for shortcuts that align with your muscle memory and minimize finger movement. Consistency in keybindings across different terminal multiplexers or applications can streamline your workflow and reduce the learning curve. By customizing keybindings to match your preferences and working style, you can efficiently navigate and swap panes, saving valuable time and effort.
  • ⚙️ Leverage Automation and Scripting: Tmux provides a robust scripting interface that enables automation and scripting for advanced pane-swapping tasks. Writing custom scripts allows you to automate repetitive actions or perform complex pane-swapping sequences effortlessly. You can save time and enhance efficiency by developing scripts tailored to your specific needs. Furthermore, consider integrating Tmux with external tools, command-line utilities, or automation frameworks to extend its functionality. This integration empowers you to create powerful workflows, leveraging the flexibility and programmability of Tmux to streamline your pane-swapping experience and boost productivity.

3 Common Errors When Swapping Panes in Tmux

When working with Tmux and swapping panes, you may encounter a few common errors. By being aware of these common errors and their solutions, you can troubleshoot and overcome potential obstacles while swapping panes in Tmux, ensuring a smooth and efficient Tmux experience. Here are three of them, along with their possible solutions:

  • 🎯 “No current target pane” error: This error message typically occurs when attempting to execute a pane-swapping command without a valid target pane specified. It usually happens when using keybindings or commands that require a source and target pane. To resolve this error, ensure you have identified the source and target panes correctly and provide the appropriate arguments when executing the command.
  • 💥“Pane not found” error: This error occurs when attempting to interact with a non-existent pane, often due to incorrect pane identification or when trying to reference a pane that has been closed or does not exist in the current window. To resolve this error, verify the correct pane identifier or index and ensure that the pane exists within the Tmux session and window you are working with.
  • ⚠️“Conflicting keybindings” error: Tmux allows customization of keybindings, but conflicts can arise if multiple keybindings are assigned to the same command. This can lead to unexpected behavior or commands not being triggered as intended. To resolve this error, review your Tmux configuration file (~/.tmux.conf) and identify any conflicting keybindings. Modify or remove the conflicting keybindings to ensure that each command has a unique and unambiguous keybinding assigned to it.

To Sum Up

Throughout this article, I have covered various methods to swap panes in Tmux, including using keyboard shortcuts, commands, and built-in key navigation. I have explored the importance of utilizing best practices, and by following these best practices, you can optimize your workflow and make the most out of Tmux’s capabilities. I have also discussed common errors you may encounter while swapping panes in Tmux.

To further deepen your understanding and unlock the full potential of Tmux, I recommend exploring the following resources, Advanced Tmux Configuration for Power Users, Tmux Plugins and Extensions, and Remote Pair Programming with Tmux. These topics will provide you with advanced tips, tricks, and insights, enabling you to harness the true power of Tmux and take your terminal productivity to new heights.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I swap panes between different Tmux sessions?

No, it is not possible to directly swap panes between different Tmux sessions. Tmux sessions are isolated and independent from each other. Pane swapping is designed to work within a single Tmux session context. However, you can achieve similar functionality by attaching to multiple Tmux sessions simultaneously using nested sessions or utilizing tools like tmuxinator. These approaches allow you to switch between different Tmux sessions and perform actions across them, including pane swapping within each individual session.

What happens to running processes when I swap panes in Tmux?

When you swap panes in Tmux, the running processes within each pane are not affected. Tmux allows you to navigate and switch between panes while maintaining the state of the processes running within them. Swapping panes does not interrupt or pause the execution of the processes. This feature is especially useful when working on multiple tasks or monitoring different processes simultaneously. You can easily switch between panes to check the progress of running processes or interact with them as needed without disruption.

Is it possible to change the default keybindings for pane swapping?

Yes, changing the default keybindings for pane swapping in Tmux is possible. Tmux provides extensive customization options, including keybindings. Modifying the Tmux configuration file (~/.tmux.conf) lets you define your keybindings for various Tmux commands, including pane swapping. You can assign intuitive key combinations that suit your workflow and preferences. Ensure that the new keybindings you define do not conflict with existing ones. After making changes to the configuration file, reload the Tmux configuration using the command tmux source-file ~/.tmux.conf to apply the updated keybindings.



Ojash is a skilled Linux expert and tech writer with over a decade of experience. He has extensive knowledge of Linux's file system, command-line interface, and software installations. Ojash is also an expert in shell scripting and automation, with experience in Bash, Python, and Perl. He has published numerous articles on Linux in various online publications, making him a valuable resource for both seasoned Linux users and beginners. Ojash is also an active member of the Linux community and participates in Linux forums.



Akshat is a software engineer, product designer and the co-founder of Scrutify. He's an experienced Linux professional and the senior editor of this blog. He is also an open-source contributor to many projects on Github and has written several technical guides on Linux. Apart from that, he’s also actively sharing his ideas and tutorials on Medium and Attirer. As the editor of this blog, Akshat brings his wealth of knowledge and experience to provide readers with valuable insights and advice on a wide range of Linux-related topics.

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