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I'm looking for a way to do something like this without attaching to the session.

tmux attach-session -c <directory> -t <session>
                    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Per tmux(1), there isn't a way to change the default working directory (new windows and new panes) of an entire session without attaching to it.

I cannot attach to the session because I'm doing this in some automated scripts where attaching would break the automation.

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You can simply

tmux attach -c directory -s session 2> /dev/null &

the attaching will exit immediately as the forked background job is not a terminal. But it will succeed in changing the working directory of the tmux session.

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Does

`tmux send-keys -t <session> 'cd <directory>'`

do what you want?

Unsure if this would apply to new windows / panes created after this, but the poor man's workaround would be just to send this to <session>:<windowID>.<paneID> after creating that window/pane.

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