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created 2005 · complexity basic · author tlgrok · version 6.0

GNU Screen is a terminal multiplexer. This tip deals with Screen and Vim integration.

Getting the Esc key to work[]

If you use Vim under Screen, you might find that the Esc key doesn't work. To fix this, add the following to your .screenrc:

maptimeout 5

This may be necessary so Screen will wait no more than 5 milliseconds between characters when detecting an input sequence.

Fixing other keys[]

You might find that certain keys, such as <Home> and <End>, don't work properly. To fix this, you need to add something like this to your .vimrc:

" Fix keycodes
map ^[[1~ <Home>
map ^[[4~ <End>
imap ^[[1~ <Home>
imap ^[[4~ <End>

To get the correct key code (the "^[[1~" bit) for your terminal, press Ctrl-v while in Insert mode, and then the required key. Note that you cannot simply copy and paste the above text: you must use Ctrl-v. ("^[" is not a character sequence; it is Vim's on-screen representation of a non-printable character.) Also note that Ctrl-v might be mapped to something else in your configuration. See :help i_CTRL-V.

You can check whether your mapping works by entering the following in Normal mode (not in your .vimrc), and pressing Home:

:map <Home> :echo "It works!"<CR>

Changing Vim's idea of the terminal[]

In addition to the Esc key, you might find that all sorts of other things don't work the way they should. This is because, by default, Screen sets the $TERM environmental variable to "screen", which Vim does not recognize. There are two (or three) ways to fix this:

(I'm going to assume you're using an xterm-compatible terminal, such as gnome-terminal, but you should obviously replace "xterm" with the terminal you use if this is not the case.)

1st alternative: Modify your .screenrc[]

Add the following line to your .screenrc:

term xterm

Note: This changes the $TERM variable, so it affects more than Vim.

Different term[]

You could also use the following :

term screen-256color

This will fix so the colours will look the same as in vim outside screen.

2nd alternative: Modify your .vimrc[]

The very simplest thing to do is to add the following lines to your .vimrc:

if match($TERM, "screen")!=-1
  set term=xterm

If you want different behaviors whenever you're running Screen (see below for ideas), use the following alternative:

if match($TERM, "screen")!=-1
  set term=xterm
  let g:GNU_Screen_used = 1
  let g:GNU_Screen_used = 0

" Screen-ify an external command.
function InScreen(command)
  return g:GNU_Screen_used ? 'screen '.a:command : a:command

Screen-aware commands[]

If you decided you'd like there to be a g:GNU_Screen_used variable, you may use it in all sorts of ways.

Say, for instance, you've defined a command to play a music file under your cursor:

let s:music_player = 'mplayer'
function PlayTune()
  exe '!'.s:music_player.' "'.expand('<cfile>').'"'

If you're using Screen, you may well want mplayer to open in a different terminal window (but open normally if Screen is not in use). To achieve this, use the following alternative:

let s:music_player = InScreen('mplayer')
function PlayTune()
  exe '!'.s:music_player.' "'.expand('<cfile>').'"'


The "Fixing some keys" bits (besides being poorly titled; feel free to change) is not so good. It works, but it's a hack, and there's bound to be a way to fix this at the source - that is, in Screen's own configuration. If anybody reads this and knows how to do this, please contribute. tlgrok 20:36, 21 January 2009 (UTC)

Could you please give an example of the exact control character for the first map example. I am on screen on Mac OS X. I tried C-v <HOME> but HOME already pages to top of screen's buffer. --Preceding unsigned comment added by Rahul benegal (talkcontribs) 07:19, December 30, 2009

I have moved your question from the middle of the tip to the Comments section, as above. I have not tried the scenario described in this tip, and if you really need help you might have to try the mailing list (click "Community portal" in the sidebar). However I can say vaguely what the tip is attempting.

You could type map ^[[1~ <Home> in the following way:

  • Type "map " then Ctrl-v then press the Home key (do all that while in insert mode). When you press the Home key you will see something like "^[[1~".
  • Then type " <Home>" and press Enter. You do not press the Home key. Type the characters exactly as shown.

When you type the following, enter it in normal mode, exactly as shown (do not press the Home key):

:map <Home> :echo "It works!"<CR>

Now pressing the Home key should show the message. JohnBeckett 10:48, December 30, 2009 (UTC)