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15.1 About screen flow control settings

Each window has a flow-control setting that determines how screen deals with the XON and XOFF characters (and perhaps the interrupt character). When flow-control is turned off, screen ignores the XON and XOFF characters, which allows the user to send them to the current program by simply typing them (useful for the emacs editor, for instance). The trade-off is that it will take longer for output from a “normal” program to pause in response to an XOFF. With flow-control turned on, XON and XOFF characters are used to immediately pause the output of the current window. You can still send these characters to the current program, but you must use the appropriate two-character screen commands (typically C-a q (xon) and C-a s (xoff)). The xon/xoff commands are also useful for typing C-s and C-q past a terminal that intercepts these characters.

Each window has an initial flow-control value set with either the ‘-f’ option or the defflow command. By default the windows are set to automatic flow-switching. It can then be toggled between the three states 'fixed on', 'fixed off' and 'automatic' interactively with the flow command bound to C-a f.

The automatic flow-switching mode deals with flow control using the TIOCPKT mode (like rlogin does). If the tty driver does not support TIOCPKT, screen tries to determine the right mode based on the current setting of the application keypad — when it is enabled, flow-control is turned off and visa versa. Of course, you can still manipulate flow-control manually when needed.

If you're running with flow-control enabled and find that pressing the interrupt key (usually C-c) does not interrupt the display until another 6-8 lines have scrolled by, try running screen with the ‘interrupt’ option (add the ‘interrupt’ flag to the flow command in your .screenrc, or use the ‘-i’ command-line option). This causes the output that screen has accumulated from the interrupted program to be flushed. One disadvantage is that the virtual terminal's memory contains the non-flushed version of the output, which in rare cases can cause minor inaccuracies in the output. For example, if you switch screens and return, or update the screen with C-a l you would see the version of the output you would have gotten without ‘interrupt’ being on. Also, you might need to turn off flow-control (or use auto-flow mode to turn it off automatically) when running a program that expects you to type the interrupt character as input, as the ‘interrupt’ parameter only takes effect when flow-control is enabled. If your program's output is interrupted by mistake, a simple refresh of the screen with C-a l will restore it. Give each mode a try, and use whichever mode you find more comfortable.