I'm a regular tmux user, and I normally use it with set -g mouse on and vi bindings. Over time, I've noticed a behaviour that I can't easily find documentation for. Essentially, in a tmux session with multiple split panes, either right-clicking a pane or hitting <C-b>m seems to "select" that pane by inverting the bg/fg colours on the pane separator, giving the impression of a thicker border.

What's actually happening here, and how can I use this functionality?

1 Answer 1


You're "marking" a pane:

-m and -M are used to set and clear the marked pane. There is one marked pane at a time, setting a new marked pane clears the last. The marked pane is the default target for -s to join-pane, swap-pane and swap-window.

Certain actions will now target the marked pane by default. Here's a sample bash script to test with. You can execute this script from within a tmux session.

# /usr/bin/env bash
set -euo pipefail

# Make three vertically split windows with text in each.
tmux split-window -v
tmux split-window -v
tmux select-layout even-vertical
tmux send-keys -t 0 'echo pane zero' C-m
tmux send-keys -t 1 'echo pane one' C-m
tmux send-keys -t 2 'echo pane two' C-m

# You can now swap the current pane with an explicitly targeted pane. Here, we
# change pane ordering from 0-1-2 to 1-0-2, and back again.
tmux select-pane -t 0
tmux swap-pane -t 1
tmux swap-pane -t 1

# You can also swap panes by "marking" one and letting the target of the swap be
# implicit. Here, we change ordering from 0-1-2 to 1-0-2, and back again.
tmux select-pane -t 0
tmux select-pane -t 1 -m
tmux swap-pane
tmux swap-pane

For more, see tmux(1).

  • This is an interesting example but has problems and it dos not really answer the question. For example if you manually open a number of panes and in each ssh into some other server or user account any TMUX command will fall on deaf ears because there is no IPC between ssh sessions.
    – Richard
    Feb 13, 2020 at 14:39
  • Note that as of tmux 3.0 right clicking in tmux opens a contextual menu, which allows to do common pane manipulation actions rapidly, including marking. May 20, 2020 at 23:39

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