Screen vs tmux

GNU Screen and tmux are terminal multiplexers designed for Unix-like platforms. They are basically window managers for text consoles instead of the X Window System. Screen is the more heard-of terminal multiplexer.

tmux-only features include:

  • Client/server system – a server instance is started automatically when a session runs as a client for that server, which leaves less of a footprint.
  • Synchronize-panes – duplicate input from any pane to all other panes in the same window. A bit like a clusterssh function to simultaneous input to all of the terms all at the same time.
    ctrl+b :set-window-option synchronize-panes [on|off]

Screen only features include:

  • Zmodem transfers – the abilty to transfer files when all you have is a serial connection available. Although this sysadmin does not need to use this feature.
  • Attaching to a serial tty – such as screen -r /dev/ttyS0 115200 in case you lose a session.
  • Naming of invidual panes – you can name each pane in case you loose track of things! TMUX wins for me

I first started using Screen, but I quickly found tmux to be the better option. With less of a footprint to deal with, I could have many hands on one server with out the need to keep spawning servers. I also found tmux had a better mastery of panes (as a terminator user very important!) and the conversion from Screen was simple after getting used to using ctrl+b instead of ctrl+a.

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