When I exit the last terminal in a tmux session it will automatically close tmux and return me to the parent terminal. Is it possible to instead have tmux switch to another, already running, session instead of closing?

I create a new named session for every task that I work on, such as TRxxx, email, scratch etc and when I am done with one of them I close all the terminals by running exit in every one. When you run exit in the last terminal of a session tmux will return you to the parent terminal but is it possible to get it to just switch to one of the other open sessions instead so I don't have to reattach?

This question is similar to "Kill a tmux session and select another tmux session" but I want to close my terminals the nice way by using exit rather than killing the window.

3 Answers 3


I added this to my ~/.tmux.conf:

set-option -g detach-on-destroy off

When I destroy the last shell in a session, it switches to another active session. Once all sessions are closed, tmux exits.

  • 6
    right answer should be updated to this
    – cviejo
    Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 10:55
  • Please petition the poster of the question.
    – RichN
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 14:43
  • 2
    It's important to note that tmux does not update that setting when detaching and reattaching to existing sessions. You need to restart the tmux server for it to have an effect.
    – nyi
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 12:21

The closest I got was a tmux function I wrote. I normally exit the shell by hitting Ctrl+D, so I programmed tmux to exit and switch sessions when hitting [PREFIX] Ctrl+D. Put the following in your .tmux.conf:

bind C-d run-shell "                                        \
    if [ #{session_windows} -eq 1 ] &&                      \
       [ #{window_panes}    -eq 1 ] &&                      \
       [ #{pane_current_command}  = 'bash' ]; then          \
        if [ \$(tmux list-sessions | wc -l) -ge 2 ]; then   \
            tmux switch-client -ln;                         \
        fi; tmux kill-session -t \"#S\";                    \
    else                                                    \
        tmux display-message \"Ignoring kill session...\";  \
    fi;                                                     \

Hit [PREFIX] Ctrl+D and it exits the current session if (and only if) it holds only one shell which is not running any other commands. It will switch to another session if possible. I use the bash shell, so you might need to change it to something you are using.

ps: in case it matters, I'm currently using tmux 1.9a.


Add these lines to your .bashrc and try:

if which tmux 2>&1 >/dev/null 
    # start a new session if not exist
    test -z ${TMUX} && tmux

    # when quitting tmux, try to attach to other session
    while test -z ${TMUX}; do
        tmux attach || break
  • 1
    It's almost what I want but is it possible to change it so that it only runs if I exit from inside tmux? This script will attach to existing tmux sessions whenever I open a new terminal. I try to have a tmux session for local stuff and then I open a new terminal when ssh:ing to another machine where I will have a separate tmux session to avoid having them nested.
    – David Holm
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 9:54
  • No, this script will start new tmux session whenever you open a new terminal, not attach to existing. Can you provide more details, what do you mean "inside tmux"?
    – cuonglm
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 10:04
  • 1
    Let's say I have session X and Y, where Y only has one terminal open. I run 'exit' in the last terminal in Y which will cause the session to terminate. In this case I would like tmux to switch to session X instead of terminating. But I don't want a tmux session to be attached/created whenever I launch a new terminal.
    – David Holm
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 11:42

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