Enjoy this cheat sheet at its fullest within Dash, the macOS documentation browser.

Escape key

All screen commands are prefixed by an escape key, by default C-a (that's Control-a, sometimes written ^a). To send a literal C-a to the programs in screen, use C-a a. This is useful when when working with screen within screen. For example C-a a n will move screen to a new window on the screen within screen.

Getting in

screen -S <name>

Start a new screen session with session name

screen -ls

List running sessions/screens

screen -x

Attach to a running session

screen -r <name>

Attach to a running session with name

screen -dRR

The "ultimate attach"

Attaches to a screen session. If the session is attached elsewhere, detaches that other display. If no session exists, creates one. If multiple sessions exist, uses the first one.

Getting out

screen -d <name>

Detach a running session

C-a d


C-a D D

Detach and logout (quick exit)

“C-a : quit”

Exit screen

or exit all of the programs in screen

C-a C-\

Force-exit screen

(not recommended)


C-a ?

See help

Lists keybindings. The man page is the complete reference, but it's very long.

Window Management

C-a c

Create new window

C-a C-a

Change to last-visited active window

(commonly used to flip-flop between two windows)

C-a <number>

Change to window by number

(only for windows 0 to 9)

C-a ' <number or title>

Change to window by number or name

C-a n or C-a <space>

Change to next window in list

C-a p or C-a <backspace>

Change to previous window in list

C-a "

See window list

(allows you to select a window to change to)

C-a w

Show window bar

(if you don't have window bar)

C-a k

Kill current window

(not recommended)

C-a \

Kill all windows

(not recommended)

C-a A

Rename current window

Split screen

C-a S

Split display horizontally

C-a |

Split display vertically

or C-a V (for the vanilla vertical screen patch)

C-a tab

Jump to next display region

C-a X

Remove current region

C-a Q

Remove all regions but the current one


Send a command to a named session

screen -S <name> -X <command>

Create a new window and run ping

screen -S <name> -X screen ping

Stuff characters into the input buffer using bash to expand a newline character (from here)

screen -S <name> [-p <page>] -X stuff $'quit\r'

A full example

# run bash within screen

screen -AmdS bash_shell bash

# run top within that bash session

screen -S bash_shell -p 0 -X stuff $'top\r'

# ... some time later

# stuff 'q' to tell top to quit

screen -S bash_shell -X stuff 'q'

# stuff 'exit\n' to exit bash session

screen -S bash_shell -X stuff $'exit\r'


C-a C-l

Redraw window

C-a [

Enter copy mode

or C-a <esc> (also used for viewing scrollback buffer)

C-a ]


C-a M

Monitor window for activity

C-a _

Monitor window for silence

C-a C-v

Enter digraph (for producing non-ascii characters)

C-a x

Lock (password protect) display

C-a :

Enter screen command

C-a H

Enable logging in the screen session