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ISBN : 978-2-7460-9712-4
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CentOS 2.1AS





TITLES (naming windows)


screen − screen manager with VT100/ANSI terminal emulation


screen [ options ] [ cmd [ args ] ]
screen −r
screen −r


Screen is a full-screen window manager that multiplexes a physical terminal between several processes (typically interactive shells). Each virtual terminal provides the functions of a DEC VT100 terminal and, in addition, several control functions from the ISO 6492 (ECMA 48, ANSI X3.64) and ISO 2022 standards (e.g. insert/delete line and support for multiple character sets). There is a scrollback history buffer for each virtual terminal and a copy-and-paste mechanism that allows moving text regions between windows.

When screen is called, it creates a single window with a shell in it (or the specified command) and then gets out of your way so that you can use the program as you normally would. Then, at any time, you can create new (full-screen) windows with other programs in them (including more shells), kill existing windows, view a list of windows, turn output logging on and off, copy-and-paste text between windows, view the scrollback history, switch between windows in whatever manner you wish, etc. All windows run their programs completely independent of each other. Programs continue to run when their window is currently not visible and even when the whole screen session is detached from the user’s terminal. When a program terminates, screen (per default) kills the window that contained it. If this window was in the foreground, the display switches to the previous window; if none are left, screen exits.

Everything you type is sent to the program running in the current window. The only exception to this is the one keystroke that is used to initiate a command to the window manager. By default, each command begins with a control-a (abbreviated C-a from now on), and is followed by one other keystroke. The command character and all the key bindings can be fully customized to be anything you like, though they are always two characters in length.

Screen does not understand the prefix "C-" to mean control. Please use the caret notation ("^A" instead of "C-a") as arguments to e.g. the escape command or the -e option. Screen will also print out control characters in caret notation.

The standard way to create a new window is to type "C-a c". This creates a new window running a shell and switches to that window immediately, regardless of the state of the process running in the current window. Similarly, you can create a new window with a custom command in it by first binding the command to a keystroke (in your .screenrc file or at the "C-a :" command line) and then using it just like the "C-a c" command. In addition, new windows can be created by running a command like:

screen emacs prog.c

from a shell prompt within a previously created window. This will not run another copy of screen, but will instead supply the command name and its arguments to the window manager (specified in the $STY environment variable) who will use it to create the new window. The above example would start the emacs editor (editing prog.c) and switch to its window.

If "/etc/utmp" is writable by screen, an appropriate record will be written to this file for each window, and removed when the window is terminated. This is useful for working with "talk", "script", "shutdown", "rsend", "sccs" and other similar programs that use the utmp file to determine who you are. As long as screen is active on your terminal, the terminal’s own record is removed from the utmp file. See also "C-a L".


Before you begin to use screen you’ll need to make sure you have correctly selected your terminal type, just as you would for any other termcap/terminfo program. (You can do this by using tset for example.)

If you’re impatient and want to get started without doing a lot more reading, you should remember this one command: "C-a ?". Typing these two characters will display a list of the available screen commands and their bindings. Each keystroke is discussed in the section "DEFAULT KEY BINDINGS". The manual section "CUSTOMIZATION" deals with the contents of your .screenrc.

If your terminal is a "true" auto-margin terminal (it doesn’t allow the last position on the screen to be updated without scrolling the screen) consider to use a version of your terminal’s termcap that has automatic margins turned off. This will ensure an accurate and optimal update of the screen in all circumstances. Most terminals nowadays have "magic" margins (automatic margins plus usable last column). This is the VT100 style type and perfectly suited for screen. If all you’ve got is a "true" auto-margin terminal screen will be content to use it, but updating a character put into the last position on the screen may not be possible until the screen scrolls or the character is moved into a safe position in some other way. This delay can be shortened by using a terminal with insert-character capability.


Screen has the following command-line options:


include all capabilities (with some minor exceptions) in each window’s termcap, even if screen must redraw parts of the display in order to implement a function.


Adapt the sizes of all windows to the size of the current terminal. By default, screen tries to restore its old window sizes when attaching to resizable terminals (those with "WS" in its description, e.g. suncmd or some xterm).

−c file

override the default configuration file from "$HOME/.screenrc" to file.

−d|−D [pid.tty.host]

does not start screen, but detaches the elsewhere running screen session. It has the same effect as typing "C-a d" from screen’s controlling terminal. −D is the equivalent to the power detach key. If no session can be detached, this option is ignored. In combination with the −r/−R option more powerful effects can be achieved:

−d −r

Reattach a session and if necessary detach it first.

−d −R

Reattach a session and if necessary detach or even create it first.

−d −RR

Reattach a session and if necessary detach or create it. Use the first session if more than one session is available.

−D −r

Reattach a session. If necessary detach and logout remotely first.

−D −R

Attach here and now. In detail this means: If a session is running, then reattach. If necessary detach and logout remotely first. If it was not running create it and notify the user. This is the author’s favorite.

−D −RR

Attach here and now. Whatever that means, just do it.

Note: It is always a good idea to check the status of your sessions by means of "screen −list".

−e xy

specifies the command character to be x and the character generating a literal command character to y (when typed after the command character). The default is "C-a" and ’a’, which can be specified as "-e^Aa". When creating a screen session, this option sets the default command character. In a multiuser session all users added will start off with this command character. But when attaching to an already running session, this option changes only the command character of the attaching user. This option is equivalent to either the commands "defescape" or "escape" respectively.

−f, −fn, and −fa

turns flow-control on, off, or "automatic switching mode". This can also be defined through the "defflow" .screenrc command.

−h num

Specifies the history scrollback buffer to be num lines high.


will cause the interrupt key (usually C-c) to interrupt the display immediately when flow-control is on. See the "defflow" .screenrc command for details. The use of this option is discouraged.

−l and −ln

turns login mode on or off (for /etc/utmp updating). This can also be defined through the "deflogin" .screenrc command.

−ls and −list

does not start screen, but prints a list of pid.tty.host strings identifying your screen sessions. Sessions marked ’detached’ can be resumed with "screen -r". Those marked ’attached’ are running and have a controlling terminal. If the session runs in multiuser mode, it is marked ’multi’. Sessions marked as ’unreachable’ either live on a different host or are ’dead’. An unreachable session is considered dead, when its name matches either the name of the local host, or the specified parameter, if any. See the -r flag for a description how to construct matches. Sessions marked as ’dead’ should be thoroughly checked and removed. Ask your system administrator if you are not sure. Remove sessions with the -wipe option.


tells screen your auto-margin terminal has a writable last-position on the screen. This can also be set in your .screenrc by specifying ’LP’ in a "termcap" command.


causes screen to ignore the $STY environment variable. With "screen -m" creation of a new session is enforced, regardless whether screen is called from within another screen session or not. This flag has a special meaning in connection with the ’-d’ option:

−m −d

Start screen in "detached" mode. This creates a new session but doesn’t attach to it. This is useful for system startup scripts.

−m −D

This also starts screen in "detached" mode, but doesn’t fork a new process. The command exits if the session terminates.


selects a more optimal output mode for your terminal rather than true VT100 emulation (only affects auto-margin terminals without ’LP’). This can also be set in your .screenrc by specifying ’OP’ in a "termcap" command.


Suppress printing of error messages. In combination with "-ls" the exit value is as follows: 9 indicates a directory without sessions. 10 indicates a directory with running but not attachable sessions. 11 (or more) indicates 1 (or more) usable sessions. In combination with "-r" the exit value is as follows: 10 indicates that there is no session to resume. 12 (or more) indicates that there are 2 (or more) sessions to resume and you should specify which one to choose. In all other cases "-q" has no effect.

−r [pid.tty.host]

resumes a detached screen session. No other options (except combinations with −d/−D) may be specified, though an optional prefix of [pid.]tty.host may be needed to distinguish between multiple detached screen sessions. The second form is used to connect to another user’s screen session which runs in multiuser mode. This indicates that screen should look for sessions in another user’s directory. This requires setuid-root.


attempts to resume the first detached screen session it finds. If successful, all other command-line options are ignored. If no detached session exists, starts a new session using the specified options, just as if −R had not been specified. The option is set by default if screen is run as a login-shell. For combinations with the −d/−D option see there.


sets the default shell to the program specified, instead of the value in the environment variable $SHELL (or "/bin/sh" if not defined). This can also be defined through the "shell" .screenrc command.

−S sessionname

When creating a new session, this option can be used to specify a meaningful name for the session. This name identifies the session for "screen -list" and "screen -r" actions. It substitutes the default [tty.host] suffix.

−t name

sets the title (a.k.a.) for the default shell or specified program. See also the "shelltitle" .screenrc command.


Run screen in UTF-8 mode. This option tells screen that your terminal sends and understands UTF-8 encoded characters. It also sets the default encoding for new windows to ’utf8’.


Print version number.

−wipe [match]

does the same as "screen -ls", but removes destroyed sessions instead of marking them as ’dead’. An unreachable session is considered dead, when its name matches either the name of the local host, or the explicitly given parameter, if any. See the -r flag for a description how to construct matches.


Attach to a not detached screen session. (Multi display mode).


Send the specified command to a running screen session. You can use the -d or -r option to tell screen to look only for attached or detached screen sessions. Note that this command doesn’t work if the session is password protected.


As mentioned, each screen command consists of a "C-a" followed by one other character. For your convenience, all commands that are bound to lower-case letters are also bound to their control character counterparts (with the exception of "C-a a"; see below), thus, "C-a c" as well as "C-a C-c" can be used to create a window. See section "CUSTOMIZATION" for a description of the command.
The following table shows the default key bindings:

C-a ’

C-a " (select)

Prompt for a window name or number to switch to.

C-a 0 (select 0)

... ...

C-a 9 (select 9)

C-a - (select -)

Switch to window number 0 − 9, or to the blank window.

C-a tab (focus)

Switch the input focus to the next region.

C-a C-a (other)

Toggle to the window displayed previously. Note that this binding defaults to the command character typed twice, unless overridden. For instance, if you use the option "−e]x", this command becomes "]]".

C-a a (meta)

Send the command character (C-a) to window. See escape command.

C-a A (title)

Allow the user to enter a name for the current window.

C-a b

C-a C-b (break)

Send a break to window.

C-a B (pow_break)

Reopen the terminal line and send a break.

C-a c

C-a C-c (screen)

Create a new window with a shell and switch to that window.

C-a C (clear)

Clear the screen.

C-a d

C-a C-d (detach)

Detach screen from this terminal.

C-a D D (pow_detach)

Detach and logout.

C-a f

C-a C-f (flow)

Toggle flow on, off or auto.

C-a F (fit)

Resize the window to the current region size.

C-a C-g (vbell)

Toggles screen’s visual bell mode.

C-a h (hardcopy)

Write a hardcopy of the current window to the file "hardcopy.n".

C-a H (log)

Begins/ends logging of the current window to the file "screenlog.n".

C-a i

C-a C-i (info)

Show info about this window.

C-a k

C-a C-k (kill)

Destroy current window.

C-a l

C-a C-l (redisplay)

Fully refresh current window.

C-a L (login)

Toggle this windows login slot. Available only if screen is configured to update the utmp database.

C-a m

C-a C-m (lastmsg)

Repeat the last message displayed in the message line.

C-a M (monitor)

Toggles monitoring of the current window.

C-a space

C-a n

C-a C-n (next)

Switch to the next window.

C-a N (number)

Show the number (and title) of the current window.

C-a backspace

C-a C-h

C-a p

C-a C-p (prev)

Switch to the previous window (opposite of C-a n).

C-a q

C-a C-q (xon)

Send a control-q to the current window.

C-a Q (only)

Delete all regions but the current one.

C-a r

C-a C-r (wrap)

Toggle the current window’s line-wrap setting (turn the current window’s automatic margins on and off).

C-a s

C-a C-s (xoff)

Send a control-s to the current window.

C-a S (split)

Split the current region into two new ones.

C-a t

C-a C-t (time)

Show system information.

C-a v (version)

Display the version and compilation date.

C-a C-v (digraph)

Enter digraph.

C-a w

C-a C-w (windows)

Show a list of window.

C-a W (width)

Toggle 80/132 columns.

C-a x

C-a C-x (lockscreen)

Lock this terminal.

C-a X (remove)

Kill the current region.

C-a z

C-a C-z (suspend)

Suspend screen. Your system must support BSD-style job-control.

C-a Z (reset)

Reset the virtual terminal to its "power-on" values.

C-a . (dumptermcap)

Write out a ".termcap" file.

C-a ? (help)

Show key bindings.

C-a C-\ (quit)

Kill all windows and terminate screen.

C-a : (colon)

Enter command line mode.

C-a [

C-a C-[

C-a esc (copy)

Enter copy/scrollback mode.

C-a ] (paste .)

Write the contents of the paste buffer to the stdin queue of the current window.

C-a {

C-a } (history)

Copy and paste a previous (command) line.

C-a > (writebuf)

Write paste buffer to a file.

C-a < (readbuf)

Reads the screen-exchange file into the paste buffer.

C-a = (removebuf)

Removes the file used by C-a < and C-a >.

C-a , (license)

Shows where screen comes from, where it went to and why you can use it.

C-a _ (silence)

Start/stop monitoring the current window for inactivity.

C-a * (displays)

Show a listing of all currently attached displays.


The "socket directory" defaults either to $HOME/.screen or simply to /tmp/screens or preferably to /usr/local/screens chosen at compile-time. If screen is installed setuid-root, then the administrator should compile screen with an adequate (not NFS mounted) socket directory. If screen is not running setuid-root, the user can specify any mode 700 directory in the environment variable $SCREENDIR.

When screen is invoked, it executes initialization commands from the files "/etc/screenrc" and ".screenrc" in the user’s home directory. These are the "programmer’s defaults" that can be overridden in the following ways: for the global screenrc file screen searches for the environment variable $SYSSCREENRC (this override feature may be disabled at compile-time). The user specific screenrc file is searched in $SCREENRC, then $HOME/.screenrc. The command line option -c takes precedence over the above user screenrc files.

Commands in these files are used to set options, bind functions to keys, and to automatically establish one or more windows at the beginning of your screen session. Commands are listed one per line, with empty lines being ignored. A command’s arguments are separated by tabs or spaces, and may be surrounded by single or double quotes. A ’#’ turns the rest of the line into a comment, except in quotes. Unintelligible lines are warned about and ignored. Commands may contain references to environment variables. The syntax is the shell-like "$VAR " or "${VAR}". Note that this causes incompatibility with previous screen versions, as now the ’$’-character has to be protected with ’\’ if no variable substitution shall be performed. A string in single-quotes is also protected from variable substitution.

Two configuration files are shipped as examples with your screen distribution: "etc/screenrc" and "etc/etcscreenrc". They contain a number of useful examples for various commands.

Customization can also be done ’on-line’. To enter the command mode type ’C-a :’. Note that commands starting with "def" change default values, while others change current settings.

The following commands are available:

acladd usernames [crypted-pw]

Enable users to fully access this screen session. Usernames can be one user or a comma separated list of users. This command enables to attach to the screen session and performs the equivalent of ’aclchg usernames +rwx "#?"’. executed. To add a user with restricted access, use the ’aclchg’ command below. If an optional second parameter is supplied, it should be a crypted password for the named user(s). ’Addacl’ is a synonym to ’acladd’. Multi user mode only.

aclchg usernames permbits list
usernames permbits list

Change permissions for a comma separated list of users. Permission bits are represented as ’r’, ’w’ and ’x’. Prefixing ’+’ grants the permission, ’-’ removes it. The third parameter is a comma separated list of commands and/or windows (specified either by number or title). The special list ’#’ refers to all windows, ’?’ to all commands. if usernames consists of a single ’*’, all known users are affected. A command can be executed when the user has the ’x’ bit for it. The user can type input to a window when he has its ’w’ bit set and no other user obtains a writelock for this window. Other bits are currently ignored. To withdraw the writelock from another user in window 2: ’aclchg username -w+w 2’. To allow read-only access to the session: ’aclchg username -w "#"’. As soon as a user’s name is known to screen he can attach to the session and (per default) has full permissions for all command and windows. Execution permission for the acl commands, ’at’ and others should also be removed or the user may be able to regain write permission. Rights of the special username nobody cannot be changed (see the "su" command). ’Chacl’ is a synonym to ’aclchg’. Multi user mode only.

acldel username

Remove a user from screen’s access control list. If currently attached, all the user’s displays are detached from the session. He cannot attach again. Multi user mode only.

aclgrp username [groupname]

Creates groups of users that share common access rights. The name of the group is the username of the group leader. Each member of the group inherits the permissions that are granted to the group leader. That means, if a user fails an access check, another check is made for the group leader. A user is removed from all groups the special value "none" is used for groupname. If the second parameter is omitted all groups the user is in are listed.

aclumask [[users]+bits |[users]-bits .... ] umask [[users]+bits |[users]-bits .... ]

This specifies the access other users have to windows that will be created by the caller of the command. Users may be no, one or a comma separated list of known usernames. If no users are specified, a list of all currently known users is assumed. Bits is any combination of access control bits allowed defined with the "aclchg" command. The special username "?" predefines the access that not yet known users will be granted to any window initially. The special username "??" predefines the access that not yet known users are granted to any command. Rights of the special username nobody cannot be changed (see the "su" command). ’Umask’ is a synonym to ’aclumask’.

activity message

When any activity occurs in a background window that is being monitored, screen displays a notification in the message line. The notification message can be re-defined by means of the "activity" command. Each occurrence of ’%’ in message is replaced by the number of the window in which activity has occurred, and each occurrence of ’^G’ is replaced by the definition for bell in your termcap (usually an audible bell). The default message is

’Activity in window %n’

Note that monitoring is off for all windows by default, but can be altered by use of the "monitor" command (C-a M).

allpartial on|off

If set to on, only the current cursor line is refreshed on window change. This affects all windows and is useful for slow terminal lines. The previous setting of full/partial refresh for each window is restored with "allpartial off". This is a global flag that immediately takes effect on all windows overriding the "partial" settings. It does not change the default redraw behavior of newly created windows.

at [identifier][#|*|%] command [args ... ]

Execute a command at other displays or windows as if it had been entered there. "At" changes the context (the ’current window’ or ’current display’ setting) of the command. If the first parameter describes a non-unique context, the command will be executed multiple times. If the first parameter is of the form ’identifier*’ then identifier is matched against user names. The command is executed once for each display of the selected user(s). If the first parameter is of the form ’identifier%’ identifier is matched against displays. Displays are named after the ttys they attach. The prefix ’/dev/’ or ’/dev/tty’ may be omitted from the identifier. If identifier has a ’#’ or nothing appended it is matched against window numbers and titles. Omitting an identifier in front of the ’#’, ’*’ or ’%’-character selects all users, displays or windows because a prefix-match is performed. Note that on the affected display(s) a short message will describe what happened. Permission is checked for initiator of the "at" command, not for the owners of the affected display(s). Note that the ’#’ character works as a comment introducer when it is preceded by whitespace. This can be escaped by prefixing a ’\’. Permission is checked for the initiator of the "at" command, not for the owners of the affected display(s).
Caveat: When matching against windows, the command is executed at least once per window. Commands that change the internal arrangement of windows (like "other") may be called again. In shared windows the command will be repeated for each attached display. Beware, when issuing toggle commands like "login"! Some commands (e.g. "stuff", "process" or "paste") require that a display is associated with the target windows. These commands may not work correctly under "at" looping over windows.

attrcolor attrib [attribute/color-modifier]

This command can be used to highlight attributes by changing the color of the text. If the attribute attrib is in use, the specified attribute/color modifier is also applied. If no modifier is given, the current one is deleted. See the "STRING ESCAPES" chapter for the syntax of the modifier.


attrcolor b "R"

Change the color to bright red if bold text is to be printed

attrcolor u "-u b"

Use blue text instead of underline

attrcolor b "I"

Use bright colors for bold text. Most terminal emulators do this already.

autodetach on|off

Sets whether screen will automatically detach upon hangup, which saves all your running programs until they are resumed with a screen -r command. When turned off, a hangup signal will terminate screen and all the processes it contains. Autodetach is on by default.

autonuke on|off

Sets whether a clear screen sequence should nuke all the output that has not been written to the terminal. See also "obuflimit".

bce [on|off]

Change background-color-erase setting. If "bce" is set to on, all characters cleared by an erase/insert/scroll/clear operation will be displayed in the current background color. Otherwise the default background color is used.

bell_msg [message]

When a bell character is sent to a background window, screen displays a notification in the message line. The notification message can be re-defined by this command. Each occurrence of ’%’ in message is replaced by the number of the window to which a bell has been sent, and each occurrence of ’^G’ is replaced by the definition for bell in your termcap (usually an audible bell). The default message is

’Bell in window %n’

An empty message can be supplied to the "bell_msg" command to suppress output of a message line (bell_msg ""). Without parameter, the current message is shown.

bind key [command [args]]

Bind a command to a key. By default, most of the commands provided by screen are bound to one or more keys as indicated in the "DEFAULT KEY BINDINGS" section, e.g. the command to create a new window is bound to "C-c" and "c". The "bind" command can be used to redefine the key bindings and to define new bindings. The key argument is either a single character, a two-character sequence of the form "^x" (meaning "C-x"), a backslash followed by an octal number (specifying the ASCII code of the character), or a backslash followed by a second character, such as "\^" or "\\". The argument can also be quoted, if you like. If no further argument is given, any previously established binding for this key is removed. The command argument can be any command listed in this section.

Some examples:

bind ’ ’ windows

bind ^k

bind k

bind K kill

bind ^f screen telnet foobar

bind \033 screen -ln -t root -h 1000 9 su

would bind the space key to the command that displays a list of windows (so that the command usually invoked by "C-a C-w" would also be available as "C-a space"). The next three lines remove the default kill binding from "C-a C-k" and "C-a k". "C-a K" is then bound to the kill command. Then it binds "C-f" to the command "create a window with a TELNET connection to foobar", and bind "escape" to the command that creates an non-login window with a.k.a. "root" in slot #9, with a superuser shell and a scrollback buffer of 1000 lines.

bindkey [-d] [-m] [-a] [[-k|-t] string [cmd args]]

This command manages screen’s input translation tables. Every entry in one of the tables tells screen how to react if a certain sequence of characters is encountered. There are three tables: one that should contain actions programmed by the user, one for the default actions used for terminal emulation and one for screen’s copy mode to do cursor movement. See section "INPUT TRANSLATION" for a list of default key bindings.
If the -d option is given, bindkey modifies the default table, -m changes the copy mode table and with neither option the user table is selected. The argument string is the sequence of characters to which an action is bound. This can either be a fixed string or a termcap keyboard capability name (selectable with the -k option).
Some keys on a VT100 terminal can send a different string if application mode is turned on (e.g the cursor keys). Such keys have two entries in the translation table. You can select the application mode entry by specifying the -a option.
The -t option tells screen not to do inter-character timing. One cannot turn off the timing if a termcap capability is used.
can be any of screen’s commands with an arbitrary number of args. If cmd is omitted the key-binding is removed from the table.
Here are some examples of keyboard bindings:

bindkey -d
Show all of the default key bindings. The application mode entries are marked with [A].

bindkey -k k1 select 1
Make the "F1" key switch to window one.

bindkey -t foo stuff barfoo
Make "foo" an abbreviation of the word "barfoo". Timeout is disabled so that users can type slowly.

bindkey "\024" mapdefault
This key-binding makes "^T" an escape character for key-bindings. If you did the above "stuff barfoo" binding, you can enter the word "foo" by typing "^Tfoo". If you want to insert a "^T" you have to press the key twice (i.e. escape the escape binding).

bindkey -k F1 command
Make the F11 (not F1!) key an alternative screen escape (besides ^A).

break [duration]

Send a break signal for duration*0.25 seconds to this window. For non-Posix systems the time interval may be rounded up to full seconds. Most useful if a character device is attached to the window rather than a shell process (See also chapter "WINDOW TYPES"). The maximum duration of a break signal is limited to 15 seconds.

breaktype [tcsendbreak|TIOCSBRK |TCSBRK]

Choose one of the available methods of generating a break signal for terminal devices. This command should affect the current window only. But it still behaves identical to "defbreaktype". This will be changed in the future. Calling "breaktype" with no parameter displays the break method for the current window.

bufferfile [exchange-file]

Change the filename used for reading and writing with the paste buffer. If the optional argument to the "bufferfile" command is omitted, the default setting ("/tmp/screen-exchange") is reactivated. The following example will paste the system’s password file into the screen window (using the paste buffer, where a copy remains):

C-a : bufferfile /etc/passwd

C-a < C-a ]

C-a : bufferfile

c1 [on|off]

Change c1 code processing. "C1 on" tells screen to treat the input characters between 128 and 159 as control functions. Such an 8-bit code is normally the same as ESC followed by the corresponding 7-bit code. The default setting is to process c1 codes and can be changed with the "defc1" command. Users with fonts that have usable characters in the c1 positions may want to turn this off.

caption always|splitonly [string]
caption string

This command controls the display of the window captions. Normally a caption is only used if more than one window is shown on the display (split screen mode). But if the type is set to always screen shows a caption even if only one window is displayed. The default is splitonly.

The second form changes the text used for the caption. You can use all escapes from the "STRING ESCAPES" chapter. Screen uses a default of ’%3n %t’.

You can mix both forms by providing a string as an additional argument.

charset set

Change the current character set slot designation and charset mapping. The first four character of set are treated as charset designators while the fifth and sixth character must be in range ’0’ to ’3’ and set the GL/GR charset mapping. On every position a ’.’ may be used to indicate that the corresponding charset/mapping should not be changed (set is padded to six characters internally by appending ’.’ chars). New windows have "BBBB02" as default charset, unless a "kanji" command is active.
The current setting can be viewed with the "info" command.

chdir [directory]

Change the current directory of screen to the specified directory or, if called without an argument, to your home directory (the value of the environment variable $HOME). All windows that are created by means of the "screen" command from within ".screenrc" or by means of "C-a : screen ..." or "C-a c" use this as their default directory. Without a chdir command, this would be the directory from which screen was invoked. Hardcopy and log files are always written to the window’s default directory, not the current directory of the process running in the window. You can use this command multiple times in your .screenrc to start various windows in different default directories, but the last chdir value will affect all the windows you create interactively.


Clears the current window and saves its image to the scrollback buffer.

colon [prefix]

Allows you to enter ".screenrc" command lines. Useful for on-the-fly modification of key bindings, specific window creation and changing settings. Note that the "set" keyword no longer exists! Usually commands affect the current window rather than default settings for future windows. Change defaults with commands starting with ’def...’.

If you consider this as the ’Ex command mode’ of screen, you may regard "C-a esc" (copy mode) as its ’Vi command mode’.


This command has the same effect as typing the screen escape character (^A). It is probably only useful for key bindings. See also "bindkey".

compacthist [on|off]

This tells screen weather to suppress trailing blank lines when scrolling up text into the history buffer.

console [on|off]

Grabs or un-grabs the machines console output to a window. Note: Only the owner of /dev/console can grab the console output. This command is only available if the machine supports the ioctl TIOCCONS.


Enter copy/scrollback mode. This allows you to copy text from the current window and its history into the paste buffer. In this mode a vi-like ’full screen editor’ is active:
Movement keys

h, j, k, l move the cursor line by line or column by column.
, ^ and $ move to the leftmost column, to the first or last non-whitespace character on the line.
, M and L move the cursor to the leftmost column of the top, center or bottom line of the window.
and positions one line up and down.
moves to the specified absolute line (default: end of buffer).
moves to the specified absolute column.
, b, e move the cursor word by word.
and C-d scroll the display up/down by the specified amount of lines while preserving the cursor position. (Default: half screen-full).
and C-f scroll the display up/down a full screen.
moves to the beginning of the buffer.
jumps to the specified percentage of the buffer.

Emacs style movement keys can be customized by a .screenrc command. (E.g. markkeys "h=^B:l=^F:$=^E") There is no simple method for a full emacs-style keymap, as this involves multi-character codes.

The copy range is specified by setting two marks. The text between these marks will be highlighted. Press
to set the first or second mark respectively.
and y used to mark one whole line or to mark from start of line.
marks exactly one word.
Repeat count
Any of these commands can be prefixed with a repeat count number by pressing digits
..9 which is taken as a repeat count.
Example: "C-a C-[ H 10 j 5 Y" will copy lines 11 to 15 into the paste buffer.
Vi-like search forward.
Vi-like search backward.
C-a s
Emacs style incremental search forward.
Emacs style reverse i-search.
There are however some keys that act differently than in vi. Vi does not allow one to yank rectangular blocks of text, but screen does. Press
or C to set the left or right margin respectively. If no repeat count is given, both default to the current cursor position.
Example: Try this on a rather full text screen: "C-a [ M 20 l SPACE c 10 l 5 j C SPACE".

This moves one to the middle line of the screen, moves in 20 columns left, marks the beginning of the paste buffer, sets the left column, moves 5 columns down, sets the right column, and then marks the end of the paste buffer. Now try:
"C-a [ M 20 l SPACE 10 l 5 j SPACE"

and notice the difference in the amount of text copied.
joins lines. It toggles between 4 modes: lines separated by a newline character (012), lines glued seamless, lines separated by a single whitespace and comma separated lines. Note that you can prepend the newline character with a carriage return character, by issuing a "crlf on".
is for all the vi users with ":set numbers" − it toggles the left margin between column 9 and 1. Press
before the final space key to toggle in append mode. Thus the contents of the paste buffer will not be overwritten, but is appended to.
toggles in append mode and sets a (second) mark.
sets the (second) mark and writes the contents of the paste buffer to the screen-exchange file (/tmp/screen-exchange per default) once copy-mode is finished.
This example demonstrates how to dump the whole scrollback buffer to that file: "C-A [ g SPACE G $ >".
gives information about the current line and column.
exchanges the first mark and the current cursor position. You can use this to adjust an already placed mark.
does nothing. Does not even exit copy mode.
All keys not described here exit copy mode.

copy_reg [key]

No longer exists, use "readreg" instead.

crlf [on|off]

This affects the copying of text regions with the ’C-a [’ command. If it is set to ’on’, lines will be separated by the two character sequence ’CR’ - ’LF’. Otherwise (default) only ’LF’ is used. When no parameter is given, the state is toggled.

debug on|off

Turns runtime debugging on or off. If screen has been compiled with option -DDEBUG debugging available and is turned on per default. Note that this command only affects debugging output from the main "SCREEN" process correctly. Debug output from attacher processes can only be turned off once and forever.

defc1 on|off

Same as the c1 command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Initial setting is ’on’.

defautonuke on|off

Same as the autonuke command except that the default setting for new displays is changed. Initial setting is ’off’. Note that you can use the special ’AN’ terminal capability if you want to have a dependency on the terminal type.

defbce on|off

Same as the bce command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Initial setting is ’off’.

defbreaktype [tcsendbreak|TIOCSBRK |TCSBRK]

Choose one of the available methods of generating a break signal for terminal devices. The preferred methods are tcsendbreak and TIOCSBRK. The third, TCSBRK, blocks the complete screen session for the duration of the break, but it may be the only way to generate long breaks. Tcsendbreak and TIOCSBRK may or may not produce long breaks with spikes (e.g. 4 per second). This is not only system dependant, this also differs between serial board drivers. Calling "defbreaktype" with no parameter displays the current setting.

defcharset [set]

Like the charset command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Shows current default if called without argument.

defescape xy

Set the default command characters. This is equivalent to the "escape" except that it is useful multiuser sessions only. In a multiuser session "escape" changes the command character of the calling user, where "defescape" changes the default command characters for users that will be added later.

defflow on|off|auto [interrupt]

Same as the flow command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Initial setting is ’auto’. Specifying "defflow auto interrupt" is the same as the command-line options −fa and −i.

defgr on|off

Same as the gr command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Initial setting is ’off’.

defhstatus [status]

The hardstatus line that all new windows will get is set to status. This command is useful to make the hardstatus of every window display the window number or title or the like. Status may contain the same directives as in the window messages, but the directive escape character is ’^E’ (octal 005) instead of ’%’. This was done to make a misinterpretation of program generated hardstatus lines impossible. If the parameter status is omitted, the current default string is displayed. Per default the hardstatus line of new windows is empty.

defkanji jis|sjis|euc

Same as the kanji command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Initial setting is ’off’, i.e. ’jis’.

deflogin on|off

Same as the login command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. This is initialized with ’on’ as distributed (see config.h.in).

defmode mode

The mode of each newly allocated pseudo-tty is set to mode. Mode is an octal number. When no "defmode" command is given, mode 0622 is used.

defmonitor on|off

Same as the monitor command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Initial setting is ’off’.

defobuflimit limit

Same as the obuflimit command except that the default setting for new displays is changed. Initial setting is 256 bytes. Note that you can use the special ’OL’ terminal capability if you want to have a dependency on the terminal type.

defscrollback num

Same as the scrollback command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Initial setting is 100.

defshell command

Synonym to the shell command. See there.

defsilence on|off

Same as the silence command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Initial setting is ’off’.

defslowpaste msec"

Same as the slowpaste command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Initial setting is 0 milliseconds, meaning ’off’.

defutf8 on|off

Same as the utf8 command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Initial setting is ’on’ if screen was started with "-U", otherwise ’off’.

defwrap on|off

Same as the wrap command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Initially line-wrap is on and can be toggled with the "wrap" command ("C-a r") or by means of "C-a : wrap on|off".

defwritelock on|off|auto

Same as the writelock command except that the default setting for new windows is changed. Initially writelocks will off.

defzombie [keys]

Synonym to the zombie command. Both currently change the default. See there.


Detach the screen session (disconnect it from the terminal and put it into the background). This returns you to the shell where you invoked screen. A detached screen can be resumed by invoking screen with the −r option. (See also section "COMMAND-LINE OPTIONS".)


Show what screen thinks about your terminal. Useful if you want to know why features like color or the alternate charset don’t work.


Shows a tabular listing of all currently connected user front-ends (displays). This is most useful for multiuser sessions.

digraph [preset]

This command prompts the user for a digraph sequence. The next two characters typed are looked up in a builtin table and the resulting character is inserted in the input stream. For example, if the user enters ’a"’, an a-umlaut will be inserted. If the first character entered is a 0 (zero), screen will treat the following characters (up to three) as an octal number instead. The optional argument preset is treated as user input, thus one can create an "umlaut" key. For example the command "bindkey ^K digraph ’"’" enables the user to generate an a-umlaut by typing CTRL-K a.


Write the termcap entry for the virtual terminal optimized for the currently active window to the file ".termcap" in the user’s "$HOME/.screen" directory (or wherever screen stores its sockets. See the "FILES" section below). This termcap entry is identical to the value of the environment variable $TERMCAP that is set up by screen for each window. For terminfo based systems you will need to run a converter like captoinfo and then compile the entry with tic.

echo [-n] message

The echo command may be used to annoy screen users with a ’message of the day’. Typically installed in a global /etc/screenrc. The option "-n" may be used to suppress the line feed. See also "sleep". Echo is also useful for online checking of environment variables.

escape xy

Set the command character to x and the character generating a literal command character (by triggering the "meta" command) to y (similar to the −e option). Each argument is either a single character, a two-character sequence of the form "^x" (meaning "C-x"), a backslash followed by an octal number (specifying the ASCII code of the character), or a backslash followed by a second character, such as "\^" or "\\". The default is "^Aa".

exec [[fdpat] newcommand [args ...]]

Run a unix subprocess (specified by an executable path newcommand and its optional arguments) in the current window. The flow of data between newcommands stdin/stdout/stderr, the process originally started in the window (let us call it "application-process") and screen itself (window) is controlled by the filedescriptor pattern fdpat. This pattern is basically a three character sequence representing stdin, stdout and stderr of newcommand. A dot (.) connects the file descriptor to screen. An exclamation mark (!) causes the file descriptor to be connected to the application-process. A colon (:) combines both. User input will go to newcommand unless newcommand receives the application-process’ output (fdpats first character is ’!’ or ’:’) or a pipe symbol (|) is added (as a fourth character) to the end of fdpat.
Invoking ’exec’ without arguments shows name and arguments of the currently running subprocess in this window. Only one subprocess a time can be running in each window.
When a subprocess is running the ’kill’ command will affect it instead of the windows process.
Refer to the postscript file ’doc/fdpat.ps’ for a confusing illustration of all 21 possible combinations. Each drawing shows the digits 2,1,0 representing the three file descriptors of newcommand. The box marked ’W’ is the usual pty that has the application-process on its slave side. The box marked ’P’ is the secondary pty that now has screen at its master side.

Whitespace between the word ’exec’ and fdpat and the command can be omitted. Trailing dots and a fdpat consisting only of dots can be omitted. A simple ’|’ is synonymous for the pattern ’!..|’; the word exec can be omitted here and can always be replaced by ’!’.


exec ... /bin/sh
exec /bin/sh

Creates another shell in the same window, while the original shell is still running. Output of both shells is displayed and user input is sent to the new /bin/sh.

exec !.. stty 19200
exec ! stty 19200
!!stty 19200

Set the speed of the window’s tty. If your stty command operates on stdout, then add another ’!’.

exec !..| less

This adds a pager to the window output. The special character ’|’ is needed to give the user control over the pager although it gets its input from the window’s process. This works, because less listens on stderr (a behavior that screen would not expect without the ’|’) when its stdin is not a tty. Less versions newer than 177 fail miserably here; good old pg still works.

!:sed -n s/.*Error.*/\007/p

Sends window output to both, the user and the sed command. The sed inserts an additional bell character (oct. 007) to the window output seen by screen. This will cause "Bell in window x" messages, whenever the string "Error" appears in the window.


Change the window size to the size of the current region. This command is needed because screen doesn’t adapt the window size automatically if the window is displayed more than once.

flow [on|off|auto]

Sets the flow-control mode for this window. Without parameters it cycles the current window’s flow-control setting from "automatic" to "on" to "off". See the discussion on "FLOW-CONTROL" later on in this document for full details and note, that this is subject to change in future releases. Default is set by ’defflow’.

focus [up|down|top|bottom]

Move the input focus to the next region. This is done in a cyclic way so that the top region is selected after the bottom one. If no subcommand is given it defaults to ’down’. ’up’ cycles in the opposite order, ’top’ and ’bottom’ go to the top and bottom region respectively. Useful bindings are (j and k as in vi)
bind j focus down
bind k focus up
bind t focus top
bind b focus bottom

gr [on|off]

Turn GR charset switching on/off. Whenever screen sees an input character with the 8th bit set, it will use the charset stored in the GR slot and print the character with the 8th bit stripped. The default (see also "defgr") is not to process GR switching because otherwise the ISO88591 charset would not work.


Writes out the currently displayed image to a file hardcopy.n in the window’s default directory, where n is the number of the current window. This either appends or overwrites the file if it exists. See below.

hardcopy_append on|off

If set to "on", screen will append to the "hardcopy.n" files created by the command "C-a h", otherwise these files are overwritten each time. Default is ’off’.

hardcopydir directory

Defines a directory where hardcopy files will be placed. If unset, hardcopys are dumped in screen’s current working directory.

hardstatus [on|off]
[always]lastline|message|ignore [string]
hardstatus string

This command configures the use and emulation of the terminal’s hardstatus line. The first form toggles whether screen will use the hardware status line to display messages. If the flag is set to ’off’, these messages are overlaid in reverse video mode at the display line. The default setting is ’on’.

The second form tells screen what to do if the terminal doesn’t have a hardstatus line (i.e. the termcap/terminfo capabilities "hs", "ts", "fs" and "ds" are not set). If the type "lastline" is used, screen will reserve the last line of the display for the hardstatus. "message" uses screen’s message mechanism and "ignore" tells screen never to display the hardstatus. If you prepend the word "always" to the type, screen will use the type even if the terminal supports a hardstatus.

The third form specifies the contents of the hardstatus line. ’%h’ is used as default string, i.e. the stored hardstatus of the current window (settable via "ESC]0;<string>^G" or "ESC_<string>ESC\") is displayed. You can customize this to any string you like including the escapes from the "STRING ESCAPES" chapter. If you leave out the argument string, the current string is displayed.

You can mix the second and third form by providing the string as additional argument.

height [-w|-d] [lines [cols]]

Set the display height to a specified number of lines. When no argument is given it toggles between 24 and 42 lines display. You can also specify a width if you want to change both values. The -w option tells screen to leave the display size unchanged and just set the window size, -d vice versa.


Not really a online help, but displays a help screen showing you all the key bindings. The first pages list all the internal commands followed by their current bindings. Subsequent pages will display the custom commands, one command per key. Press space when you’re done reading each page, or return to exit early. All other characters are ignored. See also "DEFAULT KEY BINDINGS" section.


Usually users work with a shell that allows easy access to previous commands. For example csh has the command "!!" to repeat the last command executed. Screen allows you to have a primitive way of re-calling "the command that started ...": You just type the first letter of that command, then hit ’C-a {’ and screen tries to find a previous line that matches with the ’prompt character’ to the left of the cursor. This line is pasted into this window’s input queue. Thus you have a crude command history (made up by the visible window and its scrollback buffer).

hstatus status

Change the window’s hardstatus line to the string status.


Uses the message line to display some information about the current window: the cursor position in the form "(column,row)" starting with "(1,1)", the terminal width and height plus the size of the scrollback buffer in lines, like in "(80,24)+50", the current state of window XON/XOFF flow control is shown like this (See also section FLOW CONTROL):

+flow automatic flow control, currently on.
-flow automatic flow control, currently off.
+(+)flow flow control enabled. Agrees with automatic control.
-(+)flow flow control disabled. Disagrees with automatic control.
+(-)flow flow control enabled. Disagrees with automatic control.
-(-)flow flow control disabled. Agrees with automatic control.

The current line wrap setting (’+wrap’ indicates enabled, ’−wrap’ not) is also shown. The flags ’ins’, ’org’, ’app’, ’log’, ’mon’ or ’nored’ are displayed when the window is in insert mode, origin mode, application-keypad mode, has output logging, insert mode, origin mode, application-keypad mode, output logging, activity monitoring or partial redraw enabled.

The currently active character set (G0, G1, G2, or G3) and in square brackets the terminal character sets that are currently designated as G0 through G3 is shown. If the window is in UTF-8 mode, the string "UTF-8" is shown instead.

Additional modes depending on the type of the window are displayed at the end of the status line (See also chapter "WINDOW TYPES").
If the state machine of the terminal emulator is in a non-default state, the info line is started with a string identifying the current state.
For system information use the "time" command.

ins_reg [key]

No longer exists, use "paste" instead.

kanji jis|euc|sjis [jis|euc|sjis]

Tell screen how to process kanji input/output. The first argument sets the kanji type of the current window. Each window can emulate a different type. The optional second parameter tells screen how to write the kanji codes to the connected terminal. The preferred method of setting the display type is to use the "KJ" termcap entry. See also "defkanji", which changes the default setting of a new window.


Kill current window.
If there is an ’exec’ command running then it is killed. Otherwise the process (shell) running in the window receives a HANGUP condition, the window structure is removed and screen (your display) switches to another window. When the last window is destroyed, screen exits. After a kill screen switches to the previously displayed window.
Note: Emacs users should keep this command in mind, when killing a line. It is recommended not to use "C-a" as the screen escape key or to rebind kill to "C-a K".


Redisplay the last contents of the message/status line. Useful if you’re typing when a message appears, because the message goes away when you press a key (unless your terminal has a hardware status line). Refer to the commands "msgwait" and "msgminwait" for fine tuning.


Display the disclaimer page. This is done whenever screen is started without options, which should be often enough. See also the "startup_message" command.


Lock this display. Call a screenlock program (/local/bin/lck or /usr/bin/lock or a builtin if no other is available). Screen does not accept any command keys until this program terminates. Meanwhile processes in the windows may continue, as the windows are in the ’detached’ state. The screenlock program may be changed through the environment variable $LOCKPRG (which must be set in the shell from which screen is started) and is executed with the user’s uid and gid.
Warning: When you leave other shells unlocked and you have no password set on screen, the lock is void: One could easily re-attach from an unlocked shell. This feature should rather be called ’lockterminal’.

log [on|off]

Start/stop writing output of the current window to a file "screenlog.n" in the window’s default directory, where n is the number of the current window. This filename can be changed with the ’logfile’ command. If no parameter is given, the state of logging is toggled. The session log is appended to the previous contents of the file if it already exists. The current contents and the contents of the scrollback history are not included in the session log. Default is ’off’.

logfile filename
logfile flush

Defines the name the logfiles will get. The default is "screenlog.%n". The second form changes the number of seconds screen will wait before flushing the logfile buffer to the file-system. The default value is 10 seconds.

login [on|off]

Adds or removes the entry in the utmp database file for the current window. This controls if the window is ’logged in’. When no parameter is given, the login state of the window is toggled. Additionally to that toggle, it is convenient having a ’log in’ and a ’log out’ key. E.g. ’bind I login on’ and ’bind O login off’ will map these keys to be C-a I and C-a O. The default setting (in config.h.in) should be "on" for a screen that runs under suid-root. Use the "deflogin" command to change the default login state for new windows. Both commands are only present when screen has been compiled with utmp support.

logtstamp [on|off]
logtstamp after
logtstamp string

This command controls logfile time-stamp mechanism of screen. If time-stamps are turned "on", screen adds a string containing the current time to the logfile after two minutes of inactivity. When output continues and more than another two minutes have passed, a second time-stamp is added to document the restart of the output. You can change this timeout with the second form of the command. The third form is used for customizing the time-stamp string (’-- %n:%t -- time-stamp -- %M/%d/%y %c:%s --\n’ by default).


Tell screen that the next input character should only be looked up in the default bindkey table. See also "bindkey".


Like mapdefault, but don’t even look in the default bindkey table.

maptimeout [timo]

Set the inter-character timer for input sequence detection to a timeout of timo ms. The default timeout is 300ms. Maptimeout with no arguments shows the current setting. See also "bindkey".

markkeys string

This is a method of changing the keymap used for copy/history mode. The string is made up of oldchar=newchar pairs which are separated by ’:’. Example: The string "B=^B:F=^F" will change the keys ’C-b’ and ’C-f’ to the vi style binding (scroll up/down fill page). This happens to be the default binding for ’B’ and ’F’. The command "markkeys h=^B:l=^F:$=^E" would set the mode for an emacs-style binding. If your terminal sends characters, that cause you to abort copy mode, then this command may help by binding these characters to do nothing. The no-op character is ’@’ and is used like this: "markkeys @=L=H" if you do not want to use the ’H’ or ’L’ commands any longer. As shown in this example, multiple keys can be assigned to one function in a single statement.


Insert the command character (C-a) in the current window’s input stream.

monitor [on|off]

Toggles activity monitoring of windows. When monitoring is turned on and an affected window is switched into the background, you will receive the activity notification message in the status line at the first sign of output and the window will also be marked with an ’@’ in the window-status display. Monitoring is initially off for all windows.

msgminwait sec

Defines the time screen delays a new message when one message is currently displayed. The default is 1 second.

msgwait sec

Defines the time a message is displayed if screen is not disturbed by other activity. The default is 5 seconds.

multiuser on|off

Switch between singleuser and multiuser mode. Standard screen operation is singleuser. In multiuser mode the commands ’acladd’, ’aclchg’, ’aclgrp’ and ’acldel’ can be used to enable (and disable) other users accessing this screen session.

nethack on|off

Changes the kind of error messages used by screen. When you are familiar with the game "nethack", you may enjoy the nethack-style messages which will often blur the facts a little, but are much funnier to read. Anyway, standard messages often tend to be unclear as well.
This option is only available if screen was compiled with the NETHACK flag defined. The default setting is then determined by the presence of the environment variable $NETHACKOPTIONS.


Switch to the next window. This command can be used repeatedly to cycle through the list of windows.

nonblock [on|off]

Enable or disable flow control for the current user interface (display). It is used to prevent a slow display from slowing down the processing of data output by a window. This command may be helpful when multiple displays show the same window. Nonblock is initially off for all displays.

number [n]

Change the current windows number. If the given number n is already used by another window, both windows exchange their numbers. If no argument is specified, the current window number (and title) is shown.

obuflimit [limit]

If the output buffer contains more bytes than the specified limit, no more data will be read from the windows. The default value is 256. If you have a fast display (like xterm), you can set it to some higher value. If no argument is specified, the current setting is displayed.


Kill all regions but the current one.


Switch to the window displayed previously. If this window does no longer exist, other has the same effect as next.

partial on|off

Defines whether the display should be refreshed (as with redisplay) after switching to the current window. This command only affects the current window. To immediately affect all windows use the allpartial command. Default is ’off’, of course. This default is fixed, as there is currently no defpartial command.

password [crypted_pw]

Present a crypted password in your ".screenrc" file and screen will ask for it, whenever someone attempts to resume a detached. This is useful if you have privileged programs running under screen and you want to protect your session from reattach attempts by another user masquerading as your uid (i.e. any superuser.) If no crypted password is specified, screen prompts twice for typing a password and places its encryption in the paste buffer. Default is ’none’, this disables password checking.

paste [registers [dest_reg]]

Write the (concatenated) contents of the specified registers to the stdin queue of the current window. The register ’.’ is treated as the paste buffer. If no parameter is given the user is prompted for a single register to paste. The paste buffer can be filled with the copy, history and readbuf commands. Other registers can be filled with the register, readreg and paste commands. If paste is called with a second argument, the contents of the specified registers is pasted into the named destination register rather than the window. If ’.’ is used as the second argument, the displays paste buffer is the destination. Note, that "paste" uses a wide variety of resources: Whenever a second argument is specified no current window is needed. When the source specification only contains registers (not the paste buffer) then there need not be a current display (terminal attached), as the registers are a global resource. The paste buffer exists once for every user.

pastefont [on|off]

Tell screen to include font information in the paste buffer. The default is not to do so. This command is especially useful for multi character fonts like kanji.


Reopen the window’s terminal line and send a break condition. See ’break’.


Power detach. Mainly the same as detach, but also sends a HANGUP signal to the parent process of screen. CAUTION: This will result in a logout, when screen was started from your login shell.

pow_detach_msg [message]

The message specified here is output whenever a ’Power detach’ was performed. It may be used as a replacement for a logout message or to reset baud rate, etc. Without parameter, the current message is shown.


Switch to the window with the next lower number. This command can be used repeatedly to cycle through the list of windows.

printcmd [cmd]

If cmd is not an empty string, screen will not use the terminal capabilities "po/pf" if it detects an ansi print sequence ESC [ 5 i, but pipe the output into cmd. This should normally be a command like "lpr" or "’cat > /tmp/scrprint’". printcmd without a command displays the current setting. The ansi sequence ESC \ ends printing and closes the pipe.
Warning: Be careful with this command! If other user have write access to your terminal, they will be able to fire off print commands.

process [key]

Stuff the contents of the specified register into screen’s input queue. If no argument is given you are prompted for a register name. The text is parsed as if it had been typed in from the user’s keyboard. This command can be used to bind multiple actions to a single key.


Kill all windows and terminate screen. Note that on VT100-style terminals the keys C-4 and C-\ are identical. This makes the default bindings dangerous: Be careful not to type C-a C-4 when selecting window no. 4. Use the empty bind command (as in "bind ’^\’") to remove a key binding.

readbuf [filename]

Reads the contents of the specified file into the paste buffer. If no file is specified, the screen-exchange filename is used. See also "bufferfile" command.

readreg [register [filename]]

Does one of two things, dependent on number of arguments: with zero or one arguments it it duplicates the paste buffer contents into the register specified or entered at the prompt. With two arguments it reads the contents of the named file into the register, just as readbuf reads the screen-exchange file into the paste buffer. The following example will paste the system’s password file into the screen window (using register p, where a copy remains):

C-a : readreg p /etc/passwd

C-a : paste p


Redisplay the current window. Needed to get a full redisplay when in partial redraw mode.

register key string

Save the specified string to the register key. See also the "paste" command.


Kill the current region. This is a no-op if there is only one region.


Unlinks the screen-exchange file used by the commands "writebuf" and "readbuf".


Reset the virtual terminal to its "power-on" values. Useful when strange settings (like scroll regions or graphics character set) are left over from an application.


Resize the current region. The space will be removed from or added to the region below or if there’s not enough space from the region above.

resize +N

increase current region height by N

resize -N

decrease current region height by N

resize N

set current region height to N

resize =

make all windows equally high

resize max

maximize current region height

resize min

minimize current region height

screen [-opts] [n] [cmd [args]]

Establish a new window. The flow-control options (−f, −fn and −fa), title (a.k.a.) option (−t), login options (-l and -ln) , terminal type option (-T <term>), the all-capability-flag (-a) and scrollback option (-h <num>) may be specified with each command. The option (-M) turns monitoring on for this window. The option (-L) turns output logging on for this window. If an optional number n in the range 0..9 is given, the window number n is assigned to the newly created window (or, if this number is already in-use, the next available number). If a command is specified after "screen", this command (with the given arguments) is started in the window; otherwise, a shell is created. Thus, if your ".screenrc" contains the lines

# example for .screenrc:

screen 1

screen -fn -t foobar -L 2 telnet foobar

screen creates a shell window (in window #1) and a window with a TELNET connection to the machine foobar (with no flow-control using the title "foobar" in window #2) and will write a logfile ("screenlog.2") of the telnet session. Note, that unlike previous versions of screen no additional default window is created when "screen" commands are included in your ".screenrc" file. When the initialization is completed, screen switches to the last window specified in your .screenrc file or, if none, opens a default window #0.
Screen has built in some functionality of "cu" and "telnet". See also chapter "WINDOW TYPES".

scrollback num

Set the size of the scrollback buffer for the current windows to num lines. The default scrollback is 100 lines. See also the "defscrollback" command and use "C-a i" to view the current setting.

select [WindowID]

Switch to the window identified by WindowID. This can be a prefix of a window title (alphanumeric window name) or a window number. The parameter is optional and if omitted, you get prompted for an identifier. When a new window is established, the first available number is assigned to this window. Thus, the first window can be activated by "select 0". The number of windows is limited at compile-time by the MAXWIN configuration parameter.

sessionname [name]

Rename the current session. Note, that for "screen -list" the name shows up with the process-id prepended. If the argument "name" is omitted, the name of this session is displayed. Caution: The $STY environment variables still reflects the old name. This may result in confusion. The default is constructed from the tty and host names.

setenv [var [string]]

Set the environment variable var to value string. If only var is specified, the user will be prompted to enter a value. If no parameters are specified, the user will be prompted for both variable and value. The environment is inherited by all subsequently forked shells.

shell command

Set the command to be used to create a new shell. This overrides the value of the environment variable $SHELL. This is useful if you’d like to run a tty-enhancer which is expecting to execute the program specified in $SHELL. If the command begins with a ’-’ character, the shell will be started as a login-shell.

shelltitle title

Set the title for all shells created during startup or by the C-A C-c command. For details about what a title is, see the discussion entitled "TITLES (naming windows)".

silence [on|off|sec]

Toggles silence monitoring of windows. When silence is turned on and an affected window is switched into the background, you will receive the silence notification message in the status line after a specified period of inactivity (silence). The default timeout can be changed with the ’silencewait’ command or by specifying a number of seconds instead of ’on’ or ’off’. Silence is initially off for all windows.

silencewait sec

Define the time that all windows monitored for silence should wait before displaying a message. Default 30 seconds.

sleep num

This command will pause the execution of a .screenrc file for num seconds. Keyboard activity will end the sleep. It may be used to give users a chance to read the messages output by "echo".

slowpaste msec

Define the speed at which text is inserted into the current window by the paste ("C-a ]") command. If the slowpaste value is nonzero text is written character by character. screen will make a pause of msec milliseconds after each single character write to allow the application to process its input. Only use slowpaste if your underlying system exposes flow control problems while pasting large amounts of text.

sorendition [attr [color]]

Change the way screen does highlighting for text marking and printing messages. See the "STRING ESCAPES" chapter for the syntax of the modifiers. The default is currently "=s dd" (standout, default colors).


Split the current region into two new ones. All regions on the display are resized to make room for the new region. The blank window is displayed on the new region.

startup_message on|off

Select whether you want to see the copyright notice during startup. Default is ’on’, as you probably noticed.

stuff string

Stuff the string string in the input buffer of the current window. This is like the "paste" command but with much less overhead. You cannot paste large buffers with the "stuff" command. It is most useful for key bindings. See also "bindkey".

su [username [password [password2]]

Substitute the user of a display. The command prompts for all parameters that are omitted. If passwords are specified as parameters, they have to be specified un-crypted. The first password is matched against the systems passwd database, the second password is matched against the screen password as set with the commands "acladd" or "password". "Su" may be useful for the screen administrator to test multiuser setups. When the identification fails, the user has access to the commands available for user nobody. These are "detach", "license", "version", "help" and "displays".


Suspend screen. The windows are in the ’detached’ state, while screen is suspended. This feature relies on the shell being able to do job control.

term term

In each window’s environment screen opens, the $TERM variable is set to "screen" by default. But when no description for "screen" is installed in the local termcap or terminfo data base, you set $TERM to − say − "vt100". This won’t do much harm, as screen is VT100/ANSI compatible. The use of the "term" command is discouraged for non-default purpose. That is, one may want to specify special $TERM settings (e.g. vt100) for the next "screen rlogin othermachine" command. Use the command "screen -T vt100 rlogin othermachine" rather than setting and resetting the default.

termcap term terminal-tweaks [window-tweaks]
term terminal-tweaks [window-tweaks]
term terminal-tweaks [window-tweaks]

Use this command to modify your terminal’s termcap entry without going through all the hassles involved in creating a custom termcap entry. Plus, you can optionally customize the termcap generated for the windows. You have to place these commands in one of the screenrc startup files, as they are meaningless once the terminal emulator is booted.
If your system works uses the terminfo database rather than termcap, screen will understand the ’terminfo’ command, which has the same effects as the ’termcap’ command. Two separate commands are provided, as there are subtle syntactic differences, e.g. when parameter interpolation (using ’%’) is required. Note that termcap names of the capabilities have to be used with the ’terminfo’ command.
In many cases, where the arguments are valid in both terminfo and termcap syntax, you can use the command ’termcapinfo’, which is just a shorthand for a pair of ’termcap’ and ’terminfo’ commands with identical arguments.

The first argument specifies which terminal(s) should be affected by this definition. You can specify multiple terminal names by separating them with ’|’s. Use ’*’ to match all terminals and ’vt*’ to match all terminals that begin with "vt".

Each tweak argument contains one or more termcap defines (separated by ’:’s) to be inserted at the start of the appropriate termcap entry, enhancing it or overriding existing values. The first tweak modifies your terminal’s termcap, and contains definitions that your terminal uses to perform certain functions. Specify a null string to leave this unchanged (e.g. ’’). The second (optional) tweak modifies all the window termcaps, and should contain definitions that screen understands (see the "VIRTUAL TERMINAL" section).

Some examples:

termcap xterm* LP:hs@

Informs screen that all terminals that begin with ’xterm’ have firm auto-margins that allow the last position on the screen to be updated (LP), but they don’t really have a status line (no ’hs’ − append ’@’ to turn entries off). Note that we assume ’LP’ for all terminal names that start with "vt", but only if you don’t specify a termcap command for that terminal.

termcap vt* LP
termcap vt102|vt220 Z0=\E[?3h:Z1=\E[?3l

Specifies the firm-margined ’LP’ capability for all terminals that begin with ’vt’, and the second line will also add the escape-sequences to switch into (Z0) and back out of (Z1) 132-character-per-line mode if this is a VT102 or VT220. (You must specify Z0 and Z1 in your termcap to use the width-changing commands.)

termcap vt100 "" l0=PF1:l1=PF2:l2=PF3:l3=PF4

This leaves your vt100 termcap alone and adds the function key labels to each window’s termcap entry.

termcap h19|z19 am@:im=\E@:ei=\EO dc=\E[P

Takes a h19 or z19 termcap and turns off auto-margins (am@) and enables the insert mode (im) and end-insert (ei) capabilities (the ’@’ in the ’im’ string is after the ’=’, so it is part of the string). Having the ’im’ and ’ei’ definitions put into your terminal’s termcap will cause screen to automatically advertise the character-insert capability in each window’s termcap. Each window will also get the delete-character capability (dc) added to its termcap, which screen will translate into a line-update for the terminal (we’re pretending it doesn’t support character deletion).

If you would like to fully specify each window’s termcap entry, you should instead set the $SCREENCAP variable prior to running screen. See the discussion on the "VIRTUAL TERMINAL" in this manual, and the termcap(5) man page for more information on termcap definitions.


Uses the message line to display the time of day, the host name, and the load averages over 1, 5, and 15 minutes (if this is available on your system). For window specific information use "info".

title [windowalias]

Set the name of the current window to windowalias. If no name is specified, screen prompts for one. This command was known as ’aka’ in previous releases.

unsetenv var

Unset an environment variable.

utf8 [on|off [on|off]]

Change the encoding used in the current window. If utf8 is enabled, the strings sent to the window will be UTF-8 encoded and vice versa. Omitting the parameter toggles the setting. If a second parameter is given, the display’s encoding is also changed (this should rather be done with screen’s "-U" option). See also "defutf8", which changes the default setting of a new window.

vbell [on|off]

Sets the visual bell setting for this window. Omitting the parameter toggles the setting. If vbell is switched on, but your terminal does not support a visual bell, a ’vbell-message’ is displayed in the status line when the bell character (^G) is received. Visual bell support of a terminal is defined by the termcap variable ’vb’ (terminfo: ’flash’).
Per default, vbell is off, thus the audible bell is used. See also ’bell_msg’.

vbell_msg [message]

Sets the visual bell message. message is printed to the status line if the window receives a bell character (^G), vbell is set to "on", but the terminal does not support a visual bell. The default message is "Wuff, Wuff!!". Without parameter, the current message is shown.

vbellwait sec

Define a delay in seconds after each display of screen’s visual bell message. The default is 1 second.

verbose [on|off]

If verbose is switched on, the command name is echoed, whenever a window is created (or resurrected from zombie state). Default is off. Without parameter, the current setting is shown.


Print the current version and the compile date in the status line.

wall message

Write a message to all displays. The message will appear in the terminal’s status line.

width [-w|-d] [cols [lines]]

Toggle the window width between 80 and 132 columns or set it to cols columns if an argument is specified. This requires a capable terminal and the termcap entries "Z0" and "Z1". See the "termcap" command for more information. You can also specify a new height if you want to change both values. The -w option tells screen to leave the display size unchanged and just set the window size, -d vice versa.


Uses the message line to display a list of all the windows. Each window is listed by number with the name of process that has been started in the window (or its title); the current window is marked with a ’*’; the previous window is marked with a ’-’; all the windows that are "logged in" are marked with a ’$’; a background window that has received a bell is marked with a ’!’; a background window that is being monitored and has had activity occur is marked with an ’@’; a window which has output logging turned on is marked with ’(L)’; windows occupied by other users are marked with ’&’; windows in the zombie state are marked with ’Z’. If this list is too long to fit on the terminal’s status line only the portion around the current window is displayed.

wrap [on|off]

Sets the line-wrap setting for the current window. When line-wrap is on, the second consecutive printable character output at the last column of a line will wrap to the start of the following line. As an added feature, backspace (^H) will also wrap through the left margin to the previous line. Default is ’on’.

writebuf [filename]

Writes the contents of the paste buffer to the specified file, or the public accessible screen-exchange file if no filename is given. This is thought of as a primitive means of communication between screen users on the same host. The filename can be set with the bufferfile command and defaults to "/tmp/screen-exchange".

writelock [on|off|auto]

In addition to access control lists, not all users may be able to write to the same window at once. Per default, writelock is in ’auto’ mode and grants exclusive input permission to the user who is the first to switch to the particular window. When he leaves the window, other users may obtain the writelock (automatically). The writelock of the current window is disabled by the command "writelock off". If the user issues the command "writelock on" he keeps the exclusive write permission while switching to other windows.


Insert a CTRL-s / CTRL-q character to the stdin queue of the current window.

zombie [keys]

Per default screen windows are removed from the window list as soon as the windows process (e.g. shell) exits. When a string of two keys is specified to the zombie command, ’dead’ windows will remain in the list. The kill command may be used to remove such a window. Pressing the first key in the dead window has the same effect. When pressing the second key, screen will attempt to resurrect the window. The process that was initially running in the window will be launched again. Calling zombie without parameters will clear the zombie setting, thus making windows disappear when their process exits.

As the zombie-setting is manipulated globally for all windows, this command should only be called defzombie. Until we need this as a per window setting, the commands zombie and defzombie are synonymous.


Screen displays informational messages and other diagnostics in a message line. While this line is distributed to appear at the bottom of the screen, it can be defined to appear at the top of the screen during compilation. If your terminal has a status line defined in its termcap, screen will use this for displaying its messages, otherwise a line of the current screen will be temporarily overwritten and output will be momentarily interrupted. The message line is automatically removed after a few seconds delay, but it can also be removed early (on terminals without a status line) by beginning to type.

The message line facility can be used by an application running in the current window by means of the ANSI Privacy message control sequence. For instance, from within the shell, try something like:

echo ’<esc>^Hello world from window ’$WINDOW’<esc>\\’

where ’<esc>’ is an escape, ’^’ is a literal up-arrow, and ’\\’ turns into a single backslash.


Screen provides three different window types. New windows are created with screen’s screen command (see also the entry in chapter "CUSTOMIZATION"). The first parameter to the screen command defines which type of window is created. The different window types are all special cases of the normal type. They have been added in order to allow screen to be used efficiently as a console multiplexer with 100 or more windows.

The normal window contains a shell (default, if no parameter is given) or any other system command that could be executed from a shell (e.g. slogin, etc...)

If a tty (character special device) name (e.g. "/dev/ttya") is specified as the first parameter, then the window is directly connected to this device. This window type is similar to "screen cu -l /dev/ttya". Read and write access is required on the device node, an exclusive open is attempted on the node to mark the connection line as busy. An optional parameter is allowed consisting of a comma separated list of flags in the notation used by stty(1):


Usually 300, 1200, 9600 or 19200. This affects transmission as well as receive speed.

cs8 or cs7

Specify the transmission of eight (or seven) bits per byte.

ixon or -ixon

Enables (or disables) software flow-control (CTRL-S/CTRL-Q) for sending data.

ixoff or -ixon

Enables (or disables) software flow-control for receiving data.

istrip or -istrip

Clear (or keep) the eight bit in each received byte.

You may want to specify as many of these options as applicable. Unspecified options cause the terminal driver to make up the parameter values of the connection. These values are system dependant and may be in defaults or values saved from a previous connection.

For tty windows, the info command shows some of the modem control lines in the status line. These may include ’RTS’, ’CTS’, ’DTR’, ’DSR’, ’CD’ and more. This depends on the available ioctl()’s and system header files as well as the on the physical capabilities of the serial board. Signals that are logical low (inactive) have their name preceded by an exclamation mark (!), otherwise the signal is logical high (active). Signals not supported by the hardware but available to the ioctl() interface are usually shown low.
When the CLOCAL status bit is true, the whole set of modem signals is placed inside curly braces ({ and }). When the CRTSCTS or TIOCSOFTCAR bit is set, the signals ’CTS’ or ’CD’ are shown in parenthesis, respectively.

For tty windows, the command break causes the Data transmission line (TxD) to go low for a specified period of time. This is expected to be interpreted as break signal on the other side. No data is sent and no modem control line is changed when a break is issued.

If the first parameter is "//telnet", the second parameter is expected to be a host name, and an optional third parameter may specify a TCP port number (default decimal 23). Screen will connect to a server listening on the remote host and use the telnet protocol to communicate with that server.

For telnet windows, the command info shows details about the connection in square brackets ([ and ]) at the end of the status line.


BINARY. The connection is in binary mode.


ECHO. Local echo is disabled.


SGA. The connection is in ’character mode’ (default: ’line mode’).


TTYPE. The terminal type has been requested by the remote host. Screen sends the name "screen" unless instructed otherwise (see also the command ’term’).


NAWS. The remote site is notified about window size changes.


LFLOW. The remote host will send flow control information. (Ignored at the moment.)

Additional flags for debugging are x, t and n (XDISPLOC, TSPEED and NEWENV).

For telnet windows, the command break sends the telnet code IAC BREAK (decimal 243) to the remote host.

This window type is only available if screen was compiled with the BUILTIN_TELNET option defined.


Screen provides an escape mechanism to insert information like the current time into messages or file names. The escape character is ’%’ with one exception: inside of a window’s hardstatus ’^%’ (’^E’) is used instead.

Here is the full list of supported escapes:


the escape character itself


either ’am’ or ’pm’


either ’AM’ or ’PM’


current time HH:MM in 24h format


current time HH:MM in 12h format


day number


weekday name


hardstatus of the window


current load of the system


month number


month name


window number




window title


all other users on this window


all window numbers and names


all window numbers and names except the current one


last two digits of the year number


full year number


the part to the next ’%?’ is displayed only if an escape expands to an nonempty string


else part of ’%?’


attribute/color modifier string terminated by the next "}"

The ’c’ and ’C’ escape may be qualified with a ’0’ to make screen use zero instead of space as fill character. The ’n’ escape understands a length qualifier (e.g. ’%3n’).

An attribute/color modifier is is used to change the attributes or the color settings. Its format is "[attribute modifier] [color description]". The attribute modifier must be prefixed by a change type indicator if it can be confused with a color desciption. The following change types are known:


add the specified set to the current attributes


remove the set from the current attributes


invert the set in the current attributes


change the current attributes to the specified set

The attribute set can either be specified as a hexadecimal number or a combination of the following letters:











Colors are coded either as a hexadecimal number or two letters specifying the desired background and foreground color (in that order). The following colors are known:


















default color


leave color unchanged

The capitalized versions of the letter specify bright colors. You can also use the pseudo-color ’i’ to set just the brightness and leave the color unchanged.
A one digit/letter color description is treated as foreground or background color dependant on the current attributes: if reverse mode is set, the background color is changed instead of the foreground color. If you don’t like this, prefix the color with a ".". If you want the same behaviour for two-letter color descriptions, also prefix them with a ".".



set color to bright green

"+b r"

use bold red

"= yd"

clear all attributes, write in default color on yellow background.


Each window has a flow-control setting that determines how screen deals with the XON and XOFF characters (and perhaps the interrupt character). When flow-control is turned off, screen ignores the XON and XOFF characters, which allows the user to send them to the current program by simply typing them (useful for the emacs editor, for instance). The trade-off is that it will take longer for output from a "normal" program to pause in response to an XOFF. With flow-control turned on, XON and XOFF characters are used to immediately pause the output of the current window. You can still send these characters to the current program, but you must use the appropriate two-character screen commands (typically "C-a q" (xon) and "C-a s" (xoff)). The xon/xoff commands are also useful for typing C-s and C-q past a terminal that intercepts these characters.

Each window has an initial flow-control value set with either the −f option or the "defflow" .screenrc command. Per default the windows are set to automatic flow-switching. It can then be toggled between the three states ’fixed on’, ’fixed off’ and ’automatic’ interactively with the "flow" command bound to "C-a f".

The automatic flow-switching mode deals with flow control using the TIOCPKT mode (like "rlogin" does). If the tty driver does not support TIOCPKT, screen tries to find out the right mode based on the current setting of the application keypad − when it is enabled, flow-control is turned off and visa versa. Of course, you can still manipulate flow-control manually when needed.

If you’re running with flow-control enabled and find that pressing the interrupt key (usually C-c) does not interrupt the display until another 6-8 lines have scrolled by, try running screen with the "interrupt" option (add the "interrupt" flag to the "flow" command in your .screenrc, or use the −i command-line option). This causes the output that screen has accumulated from the interrupted program to be flushed. One disadvantage is that the virtual terminal’s memory contains the non-flushed version of the output, which in rare cases can cause minor inaccuracies in the output. For example, if you switch screens and return, or update the screen with "C-a l" you would see the version of the output you would have gotten without "interrupt" being on. Also, you might need to turn off flow-control (or use auto-flow mode to turn it off automatically) when running a program that expects you to type the interrupt character as input, as it is possible to interrupt the output of the virtual terminal to your physical terminal when flow-control is enabled. If this happens, a simple refresh of the screen with "C-a l" will restore it. Give each mode a try, and use whichever mode you find more comfortable.

TITLES (naming windows)

You can customize each window’s name in the window display (viewed with the "windows" command (C-a w)) by setting it with one of the title commands. Normally the name displayed is the actual command name of the program created in the window. However, it is sometimes useful to distinguish various programs of the same name or to change the name on-the-fly to reflect the current state of the window.

The default name for all shell windows can be set with the "shelltitle" command in the .screenrc file, while all other windows are created with a "screen" command and thus can have their name set with the −t option. Interactively, there is the title-string escape-sequence (<esc>kname<esc>\) and the "title" command (C-a A). The former can be output from an application to control the window’s name under software control, and the latter will prompt for a name when typed. You can also bind pre-defined names to keys with the "title" command to set things quickly without prompting.

Finally, screen has a shell-specific heuristic that is enabled by setting the window’s name to "search|name" and arranging to have a null title escape-sequence output as a part of your prompt. The search portion specifies an end-of-prompt search string, while the name portion specifies the default shell name for the window. If the name ends in a ’:’ screen will add what it believes to be the current command running in the window to the end of the window’s shell name (e.g. "name:cmd"). Otherwise the current command name supersedes the shell name while it is running.

Here’s how it works: you must modify your shell prompt to output a null title-escape-sequence (<esc>k<esc>\) as a part of your prompt. The last part of your prompt must be the same as the string you specified for the search portion of the title. Once this is set up, screen will use the title-escape-sequence to clear the previous command name and get ready for the next command. Then, when a newline is received from the shell, a search is made for the end of the prompt. If found, it will grab the first word after the matched string and use it as the command name. If the command name begins with either ’!’, ’%’, or ’^’ screen will use the first word on the following line (if found) in preference to the just-found name. This helps csh users get better command names when using job control or history recall commands.

Here’s some .screenrc examples:

screen -t top 2 nice top

Adding this line to your .screenrc would start a nice-d version of the "top" command in window 2 named "top" rather than "nice".

shelltitle ’> |csh’

screen 1

These commands would start a shell with the given shelltitle. The title specified is an auto-title that would expect the prompt and the typed command to look something like the following:

/usr/joe/src/dir> trn

(it looks after the ’> ’ for the command name). The window status would show the name "trn" while the command was running, and revert to "csh" upon completion.

bind R screen -t ’% |root:’ su

Having this command in your .screenrc would bind the key sequence "C-a R" to the "su" command and give it an auto-title name of "root:". For this auto-title to work, the screen could look something like this:

% !em

emacs file.c

Here the user typed the csh history command "!em" which ran the previously entered "emacs" command. The window status would show "root:emacs" during the execution of the command, and revert to simply "root:" at its completion.

bind o title

bind E title ""

bind u title (unknown)

The first binding doesn’t have any arguments, so it would prompt you for a title. when you type "C-a o". The second binding would clear an auto-title’s current setting (C-a E). The third binding would set the current window’s title to "(unknown)" (C-a u).

One thing to keep in mind when adding a null title-escape-sequence to your prompt is that some shells (like the csh) count all the non-control characters as part of the prompt’s length. If these invisible characters aren’t a multiple of 8 then backspacing over a tab will result in an incorrect display. One way to get around this is to use a prompt like this:

set prompt=’^[[0000m^[k^[\% ’

The escape-sequence "<esc>[0000m" not only normalizes the character attributes, but all the zeros round the length of the invisible characters up to 8. Bash users will probably want to echo the escape sequence in the PROMPT_COMMAND:

PROMPT_COMMAND=’echo -n -e "\033k\033\134"’

(I used "134" to output a ’\’ because of a bug in bash v1.04).


Each window in a screen session emulates a VT100 terminal, with some extra functions added. The VT100 emulator is hard-coded, no other terminal types can be emulated.
Usually screen tries to emulate as much of the VT100/ANSI standard as possible. But if your terminal lacks certain capabilities, the emulation may not be complete. In these cases screen has to tell the applications that some of the features are missing. This is no problem on machines using termcap, because screen can use the $TERMCAP variable to customize the standard screen termcap.

But if you do a rlogin on another machine or your machine supports only terminfo this method fails. Because of this, screen offers a way to deal with these cases. Here is how it works:

When screen tries to figure out a terminal name for itself, it first looks for an entry named "screen.<term>", where <term> is the contents of your $TERM variable. If no such entry exists, screen tries "screen" (or "screen-w" if the terminal is wide (132 cols or more)). If even this entry cannot be found, "vt100" is used as a substitute.

The idea is that if you have a terminal which doesn’t support an important feature (e.g. delete char or clear to EOS) you can build a new termcap/terminfo entry for screen (named "screen.<dumbterm>") in which this capability has been disabled. If this entry is installed on your machines you are able to do a rlogin and still keep the correct termcap/terminfo entry. The terminal name is put in the $TERM variable of all new windows. Screen also sets the $TERMCAP variable reflecting the capabilities of the virtual terminal emulated. Notice that, however, on machines using the terminfo database this variable has no effect. Furthermore, the variable $WINDOW is set to the window number of each window.

The actual set of capabilities supported by the virtual terminal depends on the capabilities supported by the physical terminal. If, for instance, the physical terminal does not support underscore mode, screen does not put the ’us’ and ’ue’ capabilities into the window’s $TERMCAP variable, accordingly. However, a minimum number of capabilities must be supported by a terminal in order to run screen; namely scrolling, clear screen, and direct cursor addressing (in addition, screen does not run on hardcopy terminals or on terminals that over-strike).

Also, you can customize the $TERMCAP value used by screen by using the "termcap" .screenrc command, or by defining the variable $SCREENCAP prior to startup. When the is latter defined, its value will be copied verbatim into each window’s $TERMCAP variable. This can either be the full terminal definition, or a filename where the terminal "screen" (and/or "screen-w") is defined.

Note that screen honors the "terminfo" .screenrc command if the system uses the terminfo database rather than termcap.

When the boolean ’G0’ capability is present in the termcap entry for the terminal on which screen has been called, the terminal emulation of screen supports multiple character sets. This allows an application to make use of, for instance, the VT100 graphics character set or national character sets. The following control functions from ISO 2022 are supported: lock shift G0 (SI), lock shift G1 (SO), lock shift G2, lock shift G3, single shift G2, and single shift G3. When a virtual terminal is created or reset, the ASCII character set is designated as G0 through G3. When the ’G0’ capability is present, screen evaluates the capabilities ’S0’, ’E0’, and ’C0’ if present. ’S0’ is the sequence the terminal uses to enable and start the graphics character set rather than SI. ’E0’ is the corresponding replacement for SO. ’C0’ gives a character by character translation string that is used during semi-graphics mode. This string is built like the ’acsc’ terminfo capability.

When the ’po’ and ’pf’ capabilities are present in the terminal’s termcap entry, applications running in a screen window can send output to the printer port of the terminal. This allows a user to have an application in one window sending output to a printer connected to the terminal, while all other windows are still active (the printer port is enabled and disabled again for each chunk of output). As a side-effect, programs running in different windows can send output to the printer simultaneously. Data sent to the printer is not displayed in the window. The info command displays a line starting ’PRIN’ while the printer is active.

Screen maintains a hardstatus line for every window. If a window gets selected, the display’s hardstatus will be updated to match the window’s hardstatus line. If the display has no hardstatus the line will be displayed as a standard screen message. The hardstatus line can be changed with the ANSI Application Program Command (APC): "ESC_<string>ESC\". As a convenience for xterm users the sequence "ESC]0..2;<string>^G" is also accepted.

Some capabilities are only put into the $TERMCAP variable of the virtual terminal if they can be efficiently implemented by the physical terminal. For instance, ’dl’ (delete line) is only put into the $TERMCAP variable if the terminal supports either delete line itself or scrolling regions. Note that this may provoke confusion, when the session is reattached on a different terminal, as the value of $TERMCAP cannot be modified by parent processes.

The following is a list of control sequences recognized by screen. "(V)" and "(A)" indicate VT100-specific and ANSI- or ISO-specific functions, respectively.


Next Line




Reverse Index


Horizontal Tab Set


Send VT100 Identification String

ESC 7 (V)

Save Cursor and Attributes

ESC 8 (V)

Restore Cursor and Attributes

ESC [s (A)

Save Cursor and Attributes

ESC [u (A)

Restore Cursor and Attributes


Reset to Initial State


Visual Bell

ESC Pn p

Cursor Visibility (97801)

Pn = 6




ESC = (V)

Application Keypad Mode

ESC > (V)

Numeric Keypad Mode

ESC # 8 (V)

Fill Screen with E’s

ESC \ (A)

String Terminator

ESC ^ (A)

Privacy Message String (Message Line)


Global Message String (Message Line)


A.k.a. Definition String


Device Control String. Outputs a string directly to the host terminal without interpretation.

ESC _ (A)

Application Program Command (Hardstatus)

ESC ] 0 ; string ^G (A)

Operating System Command (Hardstatus, xterm title hack)

ESC ] 83 ; cmd ^G (A)

Execute screen command. This only works if multi-user support is compiled into screen. The pseudo-user ":window:" is used to check the access control list. Use "addacl :window: -rwx #?" to create a user with no rights and allow only the needed commands.

Control-N (A)

Lock Shift G1 (SO)

Control-O (A)

Lock Shift G0 (SI)

ESC n (A)

Lock Shift G2

ESC o (A)

Lock Shift G3


Single Shift G2


Single Shift G3

ESC ( Pcs (A)

Designate character set as G0

ESC ) Pcs (A)

Designate character set as G1

ESC * Pcs (A)

Designate character set as G2

ESC + Pcs (A)

Designate character set as G3

ESC [ Pn ; Pn H

Direct Cursor Addressing

ESC [ Pn ; Pn f

same as above

ESC [ Pn J

Erase in Display

Pn = None or 0

From Cursor to End of Screen


From Beginning of Screen to Cursor


Entire Screen

ESC [ Pn K

Erase in Line

Pn = None or 0

From Cursor to End of Line


From Beginning of Line to Cursor


Entire Line

ESC [ Pn X

Erase character

ESC [ Pn A

Cursor Up

ESC [ Pn B

Cursor Down

ESC [ Pn C

Cursor Right

ESC [ Pn D

Cursor Left

ESC [ Pn E

Cursor next line

ESC [ Pn F

Cursor previous line

ESC [ Pn G

Cursor horizontal position

ESC [ Pn

same as above

ESC [ Pn d

Cursor vertical position

ESC [ Ps ;...; Ps m

Select Graphic Rendition

Ps = None or 0

Default Rendition



2 (A)


3 (A)

Standout Mode (ANSI: Italicized)






Negative Image

22 (A)

Normal Intensity

23 (A)

Standout Mode off (ANSI: Italicized off)

24 (A)

Not Underlined

25 (A)

Not Blinking

27 (A)

Positive Image

30 (A)

Foreground Black

31 (A)

Foreground Red

32 (A)

Foreground Green

33 (A)

Foreground Yellow

34 (A)

Foreground Blue

35 (A)

Foreground Magenta

36 (A)

Foreground Cyan

37 (A)

Foreground White

39 (A)

Foreground Default

40 (A)

Background Black


49 (A)

Background Default

ESC [ Pn g

Tab Clear

Pn = None or 0

Clear Tab at Current Position


Clear All Tabs

ESC [ Pn ; Pn r (V)

Set Scrolling Region

ESC [ Pn I (A)

Horizontal Tab

ESC [ Pn Z (A)

Backward Tab

ESC [ Pn L (A)

Insert Line

ESC [ Pn M (A)

Delete Line

ESC [ Pn @ (A)

Insert Character

ESC [ Pn P (A)

Delete Character

ESC [ Pn S

Scroll Scrolling Region Up

ESC [ Pn T

Scroll Scrolling Region Down

ESC [ Pn ^

same as above

ESC [ Ps ;...; Ps h

Set Mode

ESC [ Ps ;...; Ps l

Reset Mode

Ps = 4 (A)

Insert Mode

20 (A)

Automatic Linefeed Mode


Normal Cursor Visibility

?1 (V)

Application Cursor Keys

?3 (V)

Change Terminal Width to 132 columns

?5 (V)

Reverse Video

?6 (V)

Origin Mode

?7 (V)

Wrap Mode


X10 mouse tracking

?25 (V)

Visible Cursor

?1000 (V)

VT200 mouse tracking

ESC [ 5 i (A)

Start relay to printer (ANSI Media Copy)

ESC [ 4 i (A)

Stop relay to printer (ANSI Media Copy)

ESC [ 8 ; Ph ; Pw t

Resize the window to ’Ph’ lines and ’Pw’ columns (SunView special)

ESC [ c

Send VT100 Identification String

ESC [ x

Send Terminal Parameter Report

ESC [ > c

Send VT220 Secondary Device Attributes String

ESC [ 6 n

Send Cursor Position Report


In order to do a full VT100 emulation screen has to detect that a sequence of characters in the input stream was generated by a keypress on the user’s keyboard and insert the VT100 style escape sequence. Screen has a very flexible way of doing this by making it possible to map arbitrary commands on arbitrary sequences of characters. For standard VT100 emulation the command will always insert a string in the input buffer of the window (see also command stuff in the command table). Because the sequences generated by a keypress can change after a reattach from a different terminal type, it is possible to bind commands to the termcap name of the keys. Screen will insert the correct binding after each reattach. See the bindkey command for further details on the syntax and examples.

Here is the table of the default key bindings. (A) means that the command is executed if the keyboard is switched into application mode.

Key name Termcap name Command ______________________________________________________

Cursor up


stuff \033[A

stuff \033OA


Cursor down


stuff \033[B

stuff \033OB


Cursor right


stuff \033[C

stuff \033OC


Cursor left


stuff \033[D

stuff \033OD


Function key 0


stuff \033[10~

Function key 1


stuff \033OP

Function key 2


stuff \033OQ

Function key 3


stuff \033OR

Function key 4


stuff \033OS

Function key 5


stuff \033[15~

Function key 6


stuff \033[17~

Function key 7


stuff \033[18~

Function key 8


stuff \033[19~

Function key 9


stuff \033[20~

Function key 10


stuff \033[21~

Function key 11


stuff \033[22~

Function key 12


stuff \033[23~



stuff \010



stuff \033[1~



stuff \033[4~



stuff \033[2~



stuff \033[3~

Page up


stuff \033[5~

Page down


stuff \033[6~

Keypad 0


stuff 0

stuff \033Op


Keypad 1


stuff 1

stuff \033Oq


Keypad 2


stuff 2

stuff \033Or


Keypad 3


stuff 3

stuff \033Os


Keypad 4


stuff 4

stuff \033Ot


Keypad 5


stuff 5

stuff \033Ou


Keypad 6


stuff 6

stuff \033Ov


Keypad 7


stuff 7

stuff \033Ow


Keypad 8


stuff 8

stuff \033Ox


Keypad 9


stuff 9

stuff \033Oy


Keypad +


stuff +

stuff \033Ok


Keypad -


stuff -

stuff \033Om


Keypad *


stuff *

stuff \033Oj


Keypad /


stuff /

stuff \033Oo


Keypad =


stuff =

stuff \033OX


Keypad .


stuff .

stuff \033On


Keypad ,


stuff ,

stuff \033Ol


Keypad enter


stuff \015

stuff \033OM



The following table describes all terminal capabilities that are recognized by screen and are not in the termcap(5) manual. You can place these capabilities in your termcap entries (in ’/etc/termcap’) or use them with the commands ’termcap’, ’terminfo’ and ’termcapinfo’ in your screenrc files. It is often not possible to place these capabilities in the terminfo database.

LP (bool)

Terminal has VT100 style margins (’magic margins’). Note that this capability is obsolete because screen uses the standard ’xn’ instead.

Z0 (str)

Change width to 132 columns.

Z1 (str)

Change width to 80 columns.

WS (str)

Resize display. This capability has the desired width and height as arguments. SunView(tm) example: ’\E[8;%d;%dt’.

NF (bool)

Terminal doesn’t need flow control. Send ^S and ^Q direct to the application. Same as ’flow off’. The opposite of this capability is ’nx’.

G0 (bool)

Terminal can deal with ISO 2022 font selection sequences.

S0 (str)

Switch charset ’G0’ to the specified charset. Default is ’\E(%.’.

E0 (str)

Switch charset ’G0’ back to standard charset. Default is ’\E(B’.

C0 (str)

Use the string as a conversion table for font ’0’. See the ’ac’ capability for more details.

CS (str)

Switch cursor-keys to application mode.

CE (str)

Switch cursor-keys back to normal mode.

AN (bool)

Turn on autonuke. See the ’autonuke’ command for more details.

OL (num)

Set the output buffer limit. See the ’obuflimit’ command for more details.

KJ (str)

Set the kanji type of the terminal. Valid strings are "jis", "euc" and "sjis".

AF (str)

Change character foreground color in an ANSI conform way. This capability will almost always be set to ’\E[3%dm’ (’\E[3%p1%dm’ on terminfo machines).

AB (str)

Same as ’AF’, but change background color.

AX (bool)

Does understand ANSI set default fg/bg color (\E[39m / \E[49m).

XC (str)

Describe a translation of characters to strings depending on the current font. More details follow in the next section.

XT (bool)

Terminal understands special xterm sequences (OSC, mouse tracking).

TF (bool)

Add missing capabilities to the termcap/info entry. (Set by default).


Screen has a powerful mechanism to translate characters to arbitrary strings depending on the current font and terminal type. Use this feature if you want to work with a common standard character set (say ISO8851-latin1) even on terminals that scatter the more unusual characters over several national language font pages.

:= <designator><template>{,<mapping>}
:= <char-to-be-mapped><template-arg>

The things in braces may be repeated any number of times.

A <charset-mapping> tells screen how to map characters in font <designator> (’B’: Ascii, ’A’: UK, ’K’: german, etc.) to strings. Every <mapping> describes to what string a single character will be translated. A template mechanism is used, as most of the time the codes have a lot in common (for example strings to switch to and from another charset). Each occurrence of ’%’ in <template> gets substituted with the <template-arg> specified together with the character. If your strings are not similar at all, then use ’%’ as a template and place the full string in <template-arg>. A quoting mechanism was added to make it possible to use a real ’%’. The ’\’ character quotes the special characters ’\’, ’%’, and ’,’.

Here is an example:

termcap hp700 ’XC=B\E(K%\E(B,\304[,\326\\\\,\334]’

This tells screen how to translate ISOlatin1 (charset ’B’) upper case umlaut characters on a hp700 terminal that has a german charset. ’\304’ gets translated to ’\E(K[\E(B’ and so on. Note that this line gets parsed *three* times before the internal lookup table is built, therefore a lot of quoting is needed to create a single ’\’.

Another extension was added to allow more emulation: If a mapping translates the unquoted ’%’ char, it will be sent to the terminal whenever screen switches to the corresponding <designator>. In this special case the template is assumed to be just ’%’ because the charset switch sequence and the character mappings normally haven’t much in common.

This example shows one use of the extension:

termcap xterm ’XC=K%,%\E(B,[\304,\\\\\326,]\334’

Here, a part of the german (’K’) charset is emulated on an xterm. If screen has to change to the ’K’ charset, ’\E(B’ will be sent to the terminal, i.e. the ASCII charset is used instead. The template is just ’%’, so the mapping is straightforward: ’[’ to ’\304’, ’\’ to ’\326’, and ’]’ to ’\334’.



Number of columns on the terminal (overrides termcap entry).


Directory in which to look for .screenrc.


Number of lines on the terminal (overrides termcap entry).


Screen lock program.


Turns on nethack option.


Used for locating programs to run.


For customizing a terminal’s TERMCAP value.


Alternate socket directory.


Alternate user screenrc file.


Default shell program for opening windows (default "/bin/sh").


Alternate socket name.


Alternate system screenrc file.


Terminal name.


Terminal description.




Examples in the screen distribution package for private and global initialization files.



screen initialization commands



Read in after /etc/screenrc



Socket directories (default)


Alternate socket directories.

<socket directory>/.termcap

Written by the "termcap" output function




screen ’interprocess communication buffer’


Screen images created by the hardcopy function


Output log files created by the log function




Terminal capability databases


Login records


Program that locks a terminal.


termcap(5), utmp(5), vi(1), captoinfo(1), tic(1)


Originally created by Oliver Laumann, this latest version was produced by Wayne Davison, Juergen Weigert and Michael Schroeder.


Copyright (C) 1993-2001

Juergen Weigert (jnweiger@immd4.informatik.uni-erlangen.de)

Michael Schroeder (mlschroe@immd4.informatik.uni-erlangen.de)

Copyright (C) 1987 Oliver Laumann
This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2, or (at your option) any later version.
This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.
You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program (see the file COPYING); if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307, USA


Ken Beal (kbeal@amber.ssd.csd.harris.com),
Rudolf Koenig (rfkoenig@immd4.informatik.uni-erlangen.de),
Toerless Eckert (eckert@immd4.informatik.uni-erlangen.de),
Wayne Davison (davison@borland.com),
Patrick Wolfe (pat@kai.com, kailand!pat),
Bart Schaefer (schaefer@cse.ogi.edu),
Nathan Glasser (nathan@brokaw.lcs.mit.edu),
Larry W. Virden (lvirden@cas.org),
Howard Chu (hyc@hanauma.jpl.nasa.gov),
Tim MacKenzie (tym@dibbler.cs.monash.edu.au),
Markku Jarvinen (mta@{cc,cs,ee}.tut.fi),
Marc Boucher (marc@CAM.ORG),
Doug Siebert (dsiebert@isca.uiowa.edu),
Ken Stillson (stillson@tsfsrv.mitre.org),
Ian Frechett (frechett@spot.Colorado.EDU),
Brian Koehmstedt (bpk@gnu.ai.mit.edu),
Don Smith (djs6015@ultb.isc.rit.edu),
Frank van der Linden (vdlinden@fwi.uva.nl),
Martin Schweikert (schweik@cpp.ob.open.de),
David Vrona (dave@sashimi.lcu.com),
E. Tye McQueen (tye%spillman.UUCP@uunet.uu.net),
Matthew Green (mrg@mame.mu.oz.au),
Christopher Williams (cgw@unt.edu),
Matt Mosley (mattm@access.digex.net),
Gregory Neil Shapiro (gshapiro@wpi.WPI.EDU).


This is version 3.9.9. Its roots are a merge of a custom version 2.3PR7 by Wayne Davison and several enhancements to Oliver Laumann’s version 2.0. Note that all versions numbered 2.x are copyright by Oliver Laumann.


The latest official release of screen available via anonymous ftp from gnudist.gnu.org, nic.funet.fi or any other GNU distribution site. The home site of screen is ftp.uni-erlangen.de, in the directory pub/utilities/screen. The subdirectory ’private’ contains the latest beta testing release. If you want to help, send a note to screen@uni-erlangen.de.


’dm’ (delete mode) and ’xs’ are not handled correctly (they are ignored). ’xn’ is treated as a magic-margin indicator.

Screen has no clue about double-high or double-wide characters. But this is the only area where vttest is allowed to fail.

It is not possible to change the environment variable $TERMCAP when reattaching under a different terminal type.

The support of terminfo based systems is very limited. Adding extra capabilities to $TERMCAP may not have any effects.

Screen does not make use of hardware tabs.

Screen must be installed as set-uid with owner root on most systems in order to be able to correctly change the owner of the tty device file for each window. Special permission may also be required to write the file "/etc/utmp".

Entries in "/etc/utmp" are not removed when screen is killed with SIGKILL. This will cause some programs (like "w" or "rwho") to advertise that a user is logged on who really isn’t.

Screen may give a strange warning when your tty has no utmp entry.

When the modem line was hung up, screen may not automatically detach (or quit) unless the device driver is configured to send a HANGUP signal. To detach a screen session use the -D or -d command line option.

If a password is set, the command line options -d and -D still detach a session without asking.

Both "breaktype" and "defbreaktype" change the break generating method used by all terminal devices. The first should change a window specific setting, where the latter should change only the default for new windows.

When attaching to a multiuser session, the user’s .screenrc file is not sourced. Each user’s personal settings have to be included in the .screenrc file from which the session is booted, or have to be changed manually.

A weird imagination is most useful to gain full advantage of all the features.

Send bug-reports, fixes, enhancements, t-shirts, money, beer & pizza to screen@uni-erlangen.de.