I recently installed fzf CLI fuzzy search utility, and the accompanying fzf.vim file with it. They both work great, and I have been enjoying my experience with them thus far.

However, I'd like to keep the default key bindings of ctrl+j and ctrl+k to move up and down through things like the buffer list when invoking fzf within vim.

Unfortunately I tend to use Neovim / Vim within tmux sessions quite frequently, and I have ctrl+j and ctrl+k to move about the various panes within a tmux window, thus not allowing me to move about the buffers list presented by fzf.

Does Vim / Neovim support a "contextual key binding"? Not sure if that is what it should be called or not", but basically I'd like to have ctrl+j work within fzf when a buffer list "window / modal" is present, and then also work to move about tmux panes when the buffer list presented by fzf is not present.

Basically I'd like to have my cake 🎂 and eat it 🍰 at the same time.


fzf can be brought up within the context of the Vim command mode, I hope that helps clarify things.

Also, forgot to mention I'm using vim-tmux-navigator to seamlessly switch between panes from a Vim session and those of a tmux session.

Below is a picture of what I attempted to describe above using words.


cheers 🍻

  • 1
    I may be misunderstanding but this seems like a tmux/fzf interaction, not anything to do with vim. How would tmux know what you mean when you type ctrl+j?
    – Mass
    Mar 20, 2018 at 17:06
  • @Mass see my amendment please.
    – ipatch
    Mar 20, 2018 at 17:19

1 Answer 1


I have the following lines in my ~.tmux.conf, and they allow me to continue to use Ctrl-H, Ctrl-J, Ctrl-K, and Ctrl-L for navigation within Vim (between windows and also between CtrlP results), and yet also use them for navigating between tmux panes:

# smart pane switching with awareness of vim splits and of emacs (but not emacs splits)
bind-key -n C-h run "(tmux display-message -p '#{pane_current_command}' | grep -iqE '(vim|emacs)' && tmux send-keys C-h) || tmux select-pane -L"
bind-key -n C-j run "(tmux display-message -p '#{pane_current_command}' | grep -iqE '(vim|emacs)' && tmux send-keys C-j) || tmux select-pane -D"
bind-key -n C-k run "(tmux display-message -p '#{pane_current_command}' | grep -iqE '(vim|emacs)' && tmux send-keys C-k) || tmux select-pane -U"
bind-key -n C-l run "(tmux display-message -p '#{pane_current_command}' | grep -iqE '(vim|emacs)' && tmux send-keys C-l) || tmux select-pane -R"

A quick google suggests that I stole the idea from here, although I bear sole responsibility for the addition of the half-completed support for emacs.

  • thanks for sharing, I'll give this a test drive 🚗 here in a sec.
    – ipatch
    Mar 20, 2018 at 17:26
  • worked as described 👍, thanks again for sharing, and sorry you have to use emacs. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    – ipatch
    Mar 20, 2018 at 17:34

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