How to Install Linux screen

Have you experienced working on a remote machine, only for your connection to suddenly drop, thus resulting in unsaved work and a fully terminated Secure Shell (SSH)?

Are you about to create a new window, but worry about what might happen with the progress you’ve made on the previous screen window? Thankfully, ‘screen’ is here to save the day.

By enabling this command, you will not have to worry anymore about your work being unsaved or even corrupted.

Are you a beginner with regards to working with a Linux screen? Do you need help when it comes to understanding what a screen command is?

This article is here to guide you along the way and provide you with the basics of screen play. *pun intended*

Definition of a GNU Screen

A GNU Screen is a terminal multiplexer of a physical terminal between many processes (usually interactive shells).

Basically, it means you can start a new screen session while opening multiple windows, also known as virtual terminals, inside that particular session.

The different processes running on the screen will continue while your windows are closed or even if the entire screen session is detached from the user’s terminal.

When a screen is created, it produces a new window with a  shell/SSH session in it.

This enables you to use the program as normally as you usually would.

At any given time, you can always create new screen sessions with different programs (including shells), turn output logging on and off, etc.

Installation Process

Linux GNU Screen

The screen package is usually pre-installed on most Linux distros. You can see whether it is already installed in your system by typing the following command:

screen --version

However, if your system does not have it pre-installed, the installation process is simple and easy. 

First, log in to your server using the ssh session command. Open up your terminal and type:

ssh your-user@server 

If you are using the following applications and software, here are some of the screen commands you should input to install your respective Linux screens.

If you are using Debian, Ubuntu, or Linux Mint, you can input the following command:

sudo apt install screen
sudo apt install screen

In the case of CentOS Linux or Fedora Core, this is the screen command to input:

sudo yum install screen

If the user cannot run sudo commands, you have to operate it as a root user:

yum install screen

At the end of your installation, you can check the current version of your screen, using the following screen command line:

screen –version 

Step by Step Procedure

Starting Up Screen Linux Window

To get a screen session started, all you have to do is type ‘screen’ on your device.

screen

This will open up a screen session, create a new window, and start a new shell on that particular window. Now that you have opened up a screen session, you can acquire more than one command by typing:

Ctrl+a ? 

Starting Named Session

Naming your sessions comes in handy when it comes to running multiple screen sessions.

By doing this, you can give yourself an easier time in terms of keeping track of your progress and the work you have done. 

In order to create a named session, operate the screen command with the following arguments:

screen -S session_name  

It always pays to come up with a descriptive and unique session name per command screen.

Working with Linux Screen Windows

When it comes to starting a new screen session, it creates a new window that contains a shell in it.

You are allowed to have more than one screen window inside one screen session.

To create a window with shell, type the command Ctrl+a c, the first available number ranging from 0 to 9 will be assigned to it.

Here are some basic commands for handling Linux Screen Windows, regardless of which screen session you are on:

  • Ctrl+a “ – List all window
  • Ctrl+a c – Allows you to create a new window (with shell)
  • Ctrl+a A – For renaming the current window
  • Ctrl+a 0 – Switches to window 0 (by number)
  • Ctrl+a | – Splits the current region vertically into two regions
  • Ctrl+a S – Splits the current region horizontally into two regions
  • Ctrl+a Ctrl+a – If you want to toggle between the current and previous region
  • Ctrl+a tab – Switches the input focus to the next region
  • Ctrl+a Q – Closes all regions except for the current one
  • Ctrl+a X – Lets you close the current region
  • Screen -dms – Gives you the option for submitting jobs in background non interactively
  • Screen -rd – Allows you to detach the screen from outside of the screen session

Detach from Linux Screen Session

If you want to detach from the current session you are in, type:

Ctrl+a d

The program currently running on the screen will resume once you have finished detaching from the screen session.

By doing this, you are now able to work on other screen sessions, without worrying about losing your work from the previous window.

Reattach from Linux Screen

To resume your screen session, type in the following command:

$ screen -r

In case you have many screen sessions concurrently running on your machine, you will need to attach the screen session ID after inputting the ‘r’ switch. To do this list the current running screen sessions with:

$ screen -ls

You’ll then be presented with the output:

There are screens on:
13987.pts-0.linuxize-desktop (detached)
13687.pts-0.linuxize-desktop (detached)
2 sockets in /run/screens/S-linuxize

In order to restore screen 13987.pts-0, type the following command:

screen -r 10835

How to Manage Multiple Sessions with Linux Screen

One of the various features Linux screen has is its ability to perform tasks and leave it in the background so that when you return to it, they won’t be deleted.

Let’s take htop for example. We can install it on Ubuntu, Mint, Debian, and Linux using the following command:

sudo apt install htop

You can run htop on your system by typing this command on your terminal:

htop

The next step is to detach the execution from the terminal using the commands CTRL+a & CTRL+d.

From here, you can continue working on your different screens, while the previous window is still running in the background. If you want to open the same htop terminal, enter this command:

screen -ls

It will present all your saved sessions. To reopen htop, type:

screen -r process_number

Conclusion

In this tutorial, you were given a brief background on how to operate a GNU screen.

It’s vital to know how to install and utilize this, especially when it comes to technical and administrative work.

Knowing and understanding the basics of handling a Linux screen can give you a useful tool that can be beneficial for your overall workflow.

Hopefully, you were able to learn how to install a screen and use its basic commands.

Good luck coding and decoding, my fellow tech-savvy keyboard warriors!