Scripting GNOME Terminal Tabs in Debian

| debian | gnome | linux |

I know folks that have so many Chrome tabs open that they live in fear of their computer turning off because they have no idea how they will get back to work. I suffer from the same problem, but with with terminal tabs.

I run a few services on a server that I connect to remotely over ssh. This includes mutt for email, and weechat for hanging out on irc. I also ssh into my server whenever I want to schedule a new post for social media via the POSSE dagger module that I am working on.

The main reason I do this over SSH is because I work from a few different computers, and a few different operating systems. It feels really nice to always be able to get back to my workspace without having to configure anything anywhere else.

Throughout the day I’ll pop open a GNOME terminal window and ssh into my server, open up mutt, and getting to work. This works really well, except sometimes I’ll be in the middle of writing an email when my connection dies for some reason and my in-progress message is lost forever.

This is where tmux comes to the rescue. tmux allows you create a resilient terminal session that can withstand network issues, create split panes in the same window, move long running tasks to the background, and overall makes doing important work on a server a lot less error prone. When I was at Linode, someone taught me that “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing in tmux”. I think about that often, especially when I am doing things that I should be doing in tmux outside of tmux and live to regret it.

The only downside is that this increases the complexity of the command. Now instead of ssh myserver && mutt I have to ssh myserver && tmux attach -t mutt where mutt in the second example is a named tmux session that I created with tmux new -s mutt.

It’s not so bad, but I also want to open up a separate tab and run a similar command to connect to my irc window that is running weechat. I also want to have a blank prompt directly on the server in case I ever want to do something else.

After about 100 manual invocations, yesterday I finally decided that there has to be a better way. I am running the built in GNOME terminal in Debian right now, so I decided to RTFM to see if there is anything I could find. The good news is that GNOME terminal does have some built-in scripting capabilities.

This allows me to write a script like this which opens up three named tabs with an ssh session that connects to my tmux session and puts my gnome-terminal in the exact state that I want it to be in.

#!/bin/bash

gnome-terminal \
	--tab -t irc -e 'ssh -t myserver.com "tmux attach -t irc"'\
	--tab -t mutt -e 'ssh -t myserver.com "tmux attach -t mutt"'\
	--tab -t myserver -e 'ssh -t myserver.com'

I saved this script as /usr/local/bin/work so now I can call it from any other terminal and it will do the right thing. Better yet, I can open up the “Run a Command” dialog in GNOME using Alt + F2, type in work and get right to work.

Thanks to gnome-terminal, ssh, tmux, and a sprinkle of bash, the next time I accidentally close a gnome-terminal window with a bunch of open tabs I’m a command away from getting right back to where I was.

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