How to Install NeoVim and Tmux when you don't have Root Access

2 min read



I love (Neo)Vim + Tmux. I've been using the classic combination as my development environment full-time for more than a year and a half now and I have nothing but good things to say. It's increased my productivity, forced me to get more familiar with bash and the terminal, and made me much more confident when SSHing into servers. Not to mention, it just makes coding more fun.

Anyways, I'm sure I'll be making more posts about NeoVim + Tmux in the future and why they're so awesome, but I wanted to make a really quick post detailing how you can install both locally on a server in case you don't have root access. I recently had to do this as part of my work as a research assistant at the Ivey School of Business and installing NeoVim was easy enough but there was a little bit of a gotcha with Tmux. Pretty much every guide I found online explained how to build Tmux from source and although this should work, it's a bit of a tricky and arduous process that frankly I highly disliked doing.

Luckily for us, Tmux released a pre-built app image for version 3.0a. If you need the app image for the latest version, you can get that following the instructions here but that requires docker so I'll ignore it for now; besides, the chances you'd actually notice a difference between 3.0a and the lastest version (which is 3.1c at the time of writing this) are little to none. For the purposes of this guide, I'll assume you haven't configured anything in your profile yet. Let's get started!

Installing NeoVim

Installing the latest version of NeoVim is simple enough. I've found the easiest and most non-hassle way to be to use the pre-built app image. Just go to your home directory, download using curl and grant yourself permission to execute.

cd ~
curl -LO
chmod u+x nvim.appimage

To confirm everything is working correctly, just run ./nvim.appimage from your root directory and you should see NeoVim open up. Now all that's left to do is to rename the app image to nvim and place it in a location that's on your $PATH. I highly suggest creating a new directory /bin in your home directory if you haven't already done so and adding it to your $PATH to place local executables like nvim in (this is the defacto linux standard, although there are alternatives like $HOME/.local/bin that you can use too).

mkdir $HOME/bin
export PATH="$HOME/bin:$PATH"

Finally, just move nvim.appimage from your home directory to the $HOME/bin folder and rename it to nvim, and you should be good to go!

mv ~/nvim.appimage ~/bin/nvim

Now you should be able to open files under any directory with NeoVim using nvim <filename>.

Installing Tmux

Getting Tmux setup from the app image should be really easy now, especially since we've already created our local ~/bin folder and added it to our $PATH. Let's download the app image directly to the ~/bin folder.

cd ~/bin
curl -LO
chmod u+x tmux-3.0a-x86_64.AppImage
mv tmux-3.0a-x86_64.AppImage tmux

And that's it! You should be able to run tmux from anywhere in your local file system now.

I hope this quick article was helpful to you or provided you what you were looking for. Be on the lookout for future articles where I detail my NeoVim + Tmux config and explain how I use both tools in tandem to improve my workflow.

Thanks for reading and don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.
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