Quick Tip: Dynamically Updating Screen Window Titles With The Current Server Hostname

I haven’t had a ton of time for blogging lately but figured this tip was good enough to throw out there for all the screen users. One way I like to organize servers that I’m ssh’d into is using screen windows. As you hopefully know you can use Ctrl-A c to create sub windows within screen. Then you can switch between them in several ways such as using Ctrl-A X where X is the window number, Ctrl-A n or Ctrl-A p for next and previous, and Ctrl-A “ to get a list of the windows for selection. You can move windows around with Ctrl-A : then type number X where X is the window you want to swap with. Finally, you can also name the windows with Ctrl-A A. So usually I ssh into a server, and manually change the window title to the server name I’m ssh’d into so that its easy to organize and remember where my windows are.

Turns out thats a lot of repetitive work that can easily be scripted. You can create a really simple script called ssh-to and place in your ~/bin or somewhere in your path


hostname=`basename $0`

# set screen title to short hostname
echo -n -e "\033k${hostname%%.*}\033\134"

# ssh to the server with any additional args
ssh -X $hostname $*

# set hostname back when session is done (-s on osx)
echo -n -e "\033k`hostname -s`\033\134"

Now, create symbolic links to the script with each server hostname that you use. This can be a little tedious but you only have to do it once and the benefit is that you can now tab complete ssh’ing into servers.

For example you would do something like

<br /> ln -s ssh-to myserver.com<br />

Then anytime you type “myserver.com” the tab completion can fill it out, you’re ssh’d into the server (assuming you have keys setup you don’t have to type a password) and your screen window title is updated with the domain info trimmed off, in this case myserver. Now your screen windows update their own titles anytime you ssh into a new server!