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How to create Tmux plugins

Creating a new plugin is easy.

For demonstration purposes we'll create a simple plugin that lists all installed TPM plugins. Yes, a plugin that lists plugins :) We'll bind that to prefix + T.

The source code for this example plugin can be found here.

1. create a new git project

TPM depends on git for downloading and updating plugins.

To create a new git project:

$ mkdir tmux_my_plugin
$ cd tmux_my_plugin
$ git init

2. create a *.tmux plugin run file

When it sources a plugin, TPM executes all *.tmux files in your plugins' directory. That's how plugins are run.

Create a plugin run file in plugin directory:

$ touch my_plugin.tmux
$ chmod u+x my_plugin.tmux

You can have more than one *.tmux file, and all will get executed. However, usually you'll need just one.

3. create a plugin key binding

We want the behavior of the plugin to trigger when a user hits prefix + T.

Key T is chosen because:

  • it's "kind of" a mnemonic for TPM
  • the key is not used by Tmux natively. Tmux man page, KEY BINDINGS section contains a list of all the bindings Tmux uses. There's plenty of unused keys and we don't want to override any of Tmux default key bindings.

Open the plugin run file in your favorite text editor:

$ vim my_plugin.tmux
# or
$ subl my_plugin.tmux

Put the following content in the file:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

CURRENT_DIR="$( cd "$( dirname "${BASH_SOURCE[0]}" )" && pwd )"
tmux bind-key T run-shell "$CURRENT_DIR/scripts/tmux_list_plugins.sh"

As you can see, plugin run file is a simple bash script that sets up the binding.

When pressed, prefix + T will execute another shell script: tmux_list_plugins.sh. That script should be in scripts/ directory - relative to the plugin run file.

4. listing plugins

Now that we have the binding, let's create a script that's invoked with prefix + T.

$ mkdir scripts
$ touch scripts/tmux_list_plugins.sh
$ chmod u+x scripts/tmux_list_plugins.sh

And here's the script content:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

# fetching the directory where plugins are installed
plugin_path="$(tmux show-env -g TMUX_PLUGIN_MANAGER_PATH | cut -f2 -d=)"

# listing installed plugins
ls -1 "$plugin_path"

5. try it out

To see if this works, execute the plugin run file:

$ ./my_plugin.tmux

That should set up the key binding. Now hit prefix + T and see if it works.

6. publish the plugin

When everything is ready, push the plugin to an online git repository, preferably Github.

Other users can install your plugin by just adding plugin git URL to the @plugin list in their .tmux.conf.

If the plugin is on Github, your users will be able to use the shorthand of github_username/repository.

Conclusion

Hopefully, that was easy. As you can see, it's mostly shell scripting.

You can use other scripting languages (ruby, python etc) but plain old shell is preferred because of portability.