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I have 256 colors working just fine in konsole,. I thought I'd give tmux a try because, unlike screen, it seems to support vi mode. However I find that the colors of my prompt show up and this is most likely because I have a 256 color mode prompt. What do I need to do to get tmux to recognize all 256 colors?

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tmux -2 I had to do this in terminator and I was somewhat surprised. The -2 flag tells tmux to force the usage of 256 colors ... whether your terminal likes it or not ... dun dun dunnn :P – Dylan Oct 31 '15 at 14:27
up vote 151 down vote accepted

The tmux FAQ ( https://raw.githubusercontent.com/tmux/tmux/master/FAQ ) explicitly advises against setting TERM to anything other than screen or screen-256color in your shell init file, so don't do it!

Here's what I use:

~$ which tmux
tmux: aliased to TERM=xterm-256color tmux

and in in my .tmux.conf:

set -g default-terminal "screen-256color"

Aliasing tmux to "tmux -2" should also do the trick.

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I like the way to set it in the .tmux.conf best... using the shell to set it just doesn't seem right – xenoterracide Aug 24 '10 at 5:38
Weird. You don't need tmux -2 on OSX but you need it with Gnome Terminal. Thanks for the info, added to my aliases! – F.X. Dec 8 '12 at 16:53
In Kubuntu 13.10 the .tmux.conf setting alone did not get me my 256 colors back (which took out highlighting in vim visual mode) but the alias worked. Would certainly prefer a .tmux.conf file only solution. – Jacob Dalton Dec 7 '13 at 21:53
ssh'd into an Ubuntu machine (from OS X Terminal), the .tmux.conf default-terminal was all I needed. – duelin markers Mar 13 '14 at 16:19
for me it seems like all I need to do is TERM=screen-256color tmux without creating a .tmux.conf file. Am I missing something? – cheflo Apr 26 '15 at 12:41

Try setting 256 colors explicitly in your bashrc or zshrc:

export TERM=xterm-256color


export TERM=screen-256color

If you have problems with tmux not clearing the background colors correctly when using the screen term setting, you can try:

export TERM=screen-256color-bce
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the first one is my default TERM setting... I just tried the other 2 and my prompt still doesn't show colors once I enter tmux. (I would like to note that tmux does show colors at the bottom)... it seems that when I enter tmux that it resets the TERM to TERM=screen... perhaps theres a way to override this in a config? – xenoterracide Aug 23 '10 at 9:17
nvm... I guess putting it in a my shell's rc does work... how annoying that it ignores the TERM env variable that's set when I execute tmux... I guess I'll have to put a conditional in my rc. – xenoterracide Aug 23 '10 at 9:21
-bce is not compatible with tmux. Tmux does not support background color erase: – Dustin Kirkland Jan 15 '12 at 14:32
I had this problem with roxterm. Hopefully adding roxterm to this will help people find the same solution that I had. I would end up in vim and selecting lines would make them dissappear. Extremely difficult to search for. roxterm by default sets up with just $TERM=xterm, which is no good. – BeepDog Jul 8 '14 at 1:54
-1, you shouldn't set either unconditionally in your shell initialization file. Setting it to xterm-256color will override it inside tmux as well, and setting it to screen-256color outside of tmux could lead to display bugs. – nyuszika7h Nov 5 '14 at 14:23

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