Linux Commands

How to Use tmux Send Keys

While GUI methods are popular due to their ease of understanding, they tend to be quite tiresome when trying to complete tasks that require a lot of reading/writing operations for files and directories. This is the purpose of the CLI.

The command-Line interface allows one to execute complex processes related to file navigation, installation, and management by typing a few statements in its terminal. No other operating system does a better job at showing this other than Linux distributions.

Although the command terminal is already versatile on its own, you can add to the work efficiency by using a terminal multiplexer.

One of the most common terminal multiplexers out there is tmux. tmux comes with a lot of features that aid in managing multiple terminal sessions in a single instance. It also offers a lot of customizability to ensure that your work sessions include styles and shortcuts to your liking.

tmux also allows you to remotely execute commands and scripts in a different window/pane with the help of send keys. This guide will help you learn how you can utilize tmux send keys. We will cover the basics of the send keys, their syntax, and how to use them.

Send keys refers to a series of keystrokes that serve as an automated instruction to one of the terminal panes in the tmux window. By using send keys, you can automate certain processes in tmux panes.

Send keys work by simulating keystrokes in a terminal. They translate typed instructions into virtual keystrokes that can be used to execute commands.

The syntax for keystrokes in send keys is similar to the one used for configuring key binds. A detailed list of these keys is available in the tmux documentation.

The Send Keys Command

Send-keys is a subcommand for tmux. The syntax for send keys is as follows:

$ tmux send-keys -t <pane number> <keystrokes>

For example,

$ tmux send-keys -t 1 pwd Enter

This will type and execute the $pwd command in pane 1.

tmux understands certain keystrokes like space and enter via certain reserved words. These reserved words can be viewed here.

To represent more than one word as certain characters, it is necessary to mark the words with double quotes as follows:

$ tmux send-keys -t 1ls .txt” Enter

By not using double quotation marks, the following will be interpreted as “ ls.txt” in terminal pane 1.

Specifying Target Panes for Send Keys

Send keys can also be specified to certain target panes. These panes can be specified in a variety of ways, either by their number or their relative position on the tmux window. You can also use send keys to automatically execute commands on panes that are present in a different window altogether.

Let’s take a look at some useful commands:

$ tmux send-keys -t 1 "echo tmux tutorial" Enter

This will echo “tmux tutorial” in the pane with index 1.

Another way of specifying a pane is by highlighting its relative position in the tmux window.

$ tmux send-keys -t bottom "echo tmux tutorial" Enter

It is also possible to specifically target the last active tmux pane by typing the following command:

$ tmux send-keys -t ! <Keystrokes>

For example,

$ tmux send-keys -t !echo tmux tutorial” Enter

Additionally, you can also use send keys to send instructions to a different tmux window.

$ tmux send-keys -t <Window name>.<pane position> <keystrokes>

For example,

$ tmux send-keys -t “echo tmux tutorial” Enter

By now, you should have an idea of how to implement send keys for different tmux panes and windows.

tmux Options for Send Keys

Link any other command, send keys also has its fair share of options. Knowing how to use and implement these options has its fair share of advantages.

This section of the guide will go over the available options for tmux send keys.

The first option that we’re going to cover is the -l option. This option is used to disable any reserved words for keystrokes. By using -l, you can send certain words as individual characters rather than their keyboard counterparts.

For example,

$ tmux send-keys -lt1echo tmux tutorial” Enter

This will output tmux tutorialEnter rather than tmux tutorial

The next option that we’re going to discuss is “-r”. This option is responsible for resetting the specified terminal pane/window before executing the keystrokes.

For example,

$ tmux send-keys -Rt1echo tmux tutorial” Enter

This command will reset the terminal screen before displaying the tmux tutorial as output.

Another useful option is -M. This option is specific for mouse-related keystrokes.

With this, we’ve successfully covered all useful options for tmux send keys.


This was a guide on how to use the send-keys command in tmux. We went over the basics of send keys, the command syntax along with ways to use it. Lastly, we covered some necessary options that can make working with send keys easier.

About the author

Zeeman Memon

Hi there! I'm a Software Engineer who loves to write about tech. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn.