I’ve not used GNU screen too often, just occasional use while running long jobs, uploads, torrents and that sort of thing. To be frank it’s because the default configuration of screen sucks in two important respects: the default escape key is Ctrl-a which conflicts with bash/emacs “go to start of line”, and the very silly “Wuff Wuff” + forced 1 second pause whenever the bell rings.

Thanks go, therefore to Markus Armbruster for giving me some useful screen tips. I dropped the following into my ~/.screenrc and it makes screen very nice and usable:

escape ^^^

vbellwait 0
vbell_msg ^G
bell_msg ^G

hardstatus on
hardstatus alwayslastline
hardstatus string "%H|%w%=|%d/%m %c"

The escape key is Shift-Ctrl-^, not used by anything I know, yet not too inconvenient (and it works over ssh from my laptop and other places). The forced 1 second delay is gone. Nicest of all is a status bar which makes using the multiple window functionality easy.



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10 responses to “Screen

  1. Jim

    I’ve used “escape ^^^” forever, I love it.
    You usually don’t need to hit shift, either — ctrl-6 sends the same thing.

  2. Have you checked out Byobu? There are even RPMs available. Website at

  3. Andreas Schneider


    caption always “%{WB}%?%-Lw%?%{kw}%n*%f %t%?(%u)%?%{WB}%?%+Lw%?%{Wb}”
    hardstatus alwayslastline “%{= RY}%H %{BW} %l %{bW} %c %M %d%=

    My whole config file:

  4. I use escape ^@` so that the escape sequence is ctrl-space. Convenient to type, but doesn’t get in the way of the shell.

  5. jmmv

    I’ve been using ‘escape ^Jj’ for years (that is, Ctrl+J) and haven’t found any incompatibilities yet. Very convenient as J is not as far away as ^.

    • rich

      People have also suggested using ^n ^p ^b ^f, but they forget that I learned to use emacs on a VC4404 terminal which didn’t have arrow keys (best terminal ever though). So I use those keys šŸ™‚

  6. graywh

    I use ctrl-_ (aka ctrl-7) since ctrl-^ (aka ctrl-6) is so useful in Vim.

  7. tmux[1] is an excellent screen replacement and it uses Ctrl-b instead of Ctrl-a as the escape key.

    [1] –

    • rich

      Lots of people jump in advertising tmux whenever screen is mentioned, but I can’t see how it’s 10 times better which is what is needed to make it a decent replacement for screen.

      FWIW I learned emacs on a VC4404 terminal which didn’t have (working) cursor keys, so I use ^B in emacs all the time to go left one character.

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