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I would like my default bash shell to go straight into tmux instead of my always having to type tmux every time.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 9 down vote accepted

This seems to work...


Simply add the following line of bash code to your .bashrc before your aliases; the code for other shells is very similar:

[[ $TERM != "screen" ]] && exec tmux
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Please don't post answers that are just links to other pages; at least summarize what it says –  Michael Mrozek Jul 20 '12 at 17:32
For me this also required [[ $- != *i* ]] && return to not being an infinite loop (from the same page) –  Keith Smiley Apr 14 '13 at 1:45

@StarNamer's answer is generally accurate, though I typically include the following tests to make sure that tmux (1) exists on the system and (2) doesn't try to run within itself:

if command -v tmux>/dev/null; then
  [[ ! $TERM =~ screen ]] && [ -z $TMUX ] && exec tmux
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There is command chsh which changes login shell. Consult man chsh.

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tmux is not a shell, it's a terminal multiplexer like GNU screen. Interestingly, it does support the -c option according to the man page, so it may work like a shell just enough to use it as your login shell, but I suspect it won't work properly in all situations, e.g. graphical logins via gdm/kdm. –  Mikel Jul 20 '12 at 15:32
Although this is sensible and backed by the documentation, it seems to break direct command execution via SSH (something like ssh $some_server echo foo). –  n.st May 11 '14 at 2:11
tmux as of at least 1.8 on Ubuntu adds itself to /etc/shells, so it is a valid login shell. –  claytron Mar 26 at 17:14

I'm successfully using

case $- in *i*)
    [ -z "$TMUX" ] && exec tmux

in my .zshrc. If you're using bash, put it in your .bashrc instead.

I also just tried setting tmux as my default shell (chsh -s $(which tmux)) and it seems to break direct command execution via SSH, e.g. ssh $some_server echo foo will not produce any output.

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Add this into your ~/.tmux.conf

set -g default-command /usr/local/bin/fish
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As Mikel already stated in his comment to have tmux as your login shell can have side effects. But you can make tmux your default shell, literally. A user's default shell is defined in /etc/passwd. So you can become root and edit /etc/passwd, e.g. sudo vi /etc/passwd search for the line that begins with your username. It probably ends with :/bin/bash. Change /bin/bash to /usr/bin/tmux and now tmux is your default login shell.

However, no guarantee that this won't cause problems!

What may work better is to NOT do anything that requries root privileges. I would try to create a file in my home directoy named .bash_login and start tmux from within that file: `echo "tmux" >~/.bash_login.

This should work, but you have to try and find our yourself, b/c the bash documentation is not very exact about what file is read and executed when.

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What your first paragraph describes is what chsh does! Except that your way requires being root and is error-prone. Running tmux from .bash_login is more likely to break remote logins. –  Gilles Jul 20 '12 at 23:10

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