I'm working with emacs (on the terminal) and I use screen to switch between terminals. The key combination Ctrl+A is grabbed by screen. Is there a way to change screen key binding?

2 Answers 2


Sure, you can change the binding in either Screen or Emacs.

I use Ctrl+\ in Screen, which is used by very few applications. It's used in the terminal to send the QUIT signal — a stronger version of Ctrl+C, which fewer applications catch and may produce a core dump. That's rarely useful, and if you need it you can press Ctrl+\ \. A bigger argument against Ctrl+\ is that it's hard to type on some keyboard layouts. Anyway, pick the key you prefer.

To change the Screen escape key, use the escape directive in ~/.screenrc:

escape ^\\\

In Emacs, C-a normally moves to the beginning of the line; you can use Home instead. C-x C-a is not bound. That leaves modes with custom bindings for C-a or C-x C-a or C-c C-a. If you choose C-\, it's normally bound to toggle-input-method, which is useful if you write in multiple languages and useless otherwise. You can rebind it to a different key with global-set-key in your ~/.emacs:

;; overrides a binding for `suspend-frame', which is also bound on `C-x C-z'
(global-set-key "\C-z" toggle-input-method)

Create ~/.screenrc containing:

escape ^Zz

Then use Ctrl-Z instead of Ctrl-A to control screen.

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