Show your Git Branch Name in your GNU Screen Status Line

Posted by Joe Yates Tue, 09 Mar 2010 07:57:00 GMT

Git Branch Prompt

Many people have written about showing the current git branch in your shell prompt.

There is even the Bash function __git_ps1 provided in the main Git repo.

Screen Status

As I always use screen, I decided to take a different route: put the current branch name in the screen status line.

Changing the Screen Current Directory

When you start screen, it remembers the current directory. Issuing 'cd' commands inside a shell does not change the value. The only way to change it is to issue a screen chdir command.

In order to know the current branch in a particular screen window, I needed to make screen's current directory change to follow the shell it is presenting.

I added the following to my .bashrc:

function set_screen_path() {
  screen -X chdir "`pwd`"

case $TERM in

This is Bash specific, but similar code should work in other shells.


Next, I created the following shell script as 'git-current-branch' in my path:


git branch 2>/dev/null | grep '*' | sed 's/\* //'


And finally, I added a 'backtick' command to my .screenrc file.

Here is a stripped down version:

startup_message off

backtick 1 0 1 git-current-branch

hardstatus alwayslastline "%-w%{.bw}%n %t%{-}%+w %-45= %1`"

screen -t bash 0
screen -t edit 1
select 0

The important parts are:

backtick 1 0 1 git-current-branch

which creates a 'backtick command' (number 1) which calls git-current-branch once a second.


which inserts the output of backtick command 1 into the status line.

The Result


The system is not perfect as the shell only notifies screen of its directory when a new prompt is created.

The result is that if you switch screens, the status line doesn't get updated until after you issue a command.