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helphelp - Vim Documentation

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helphelp.txt  For Vim version 9.0.  Last change: 2022 Jan 08

                  VIM REFERENCE MANUAL    by Bram Moolenaar

Help on help files                                      helphelp

1. Help commands                online-help
2. Translated help files        help-translated
3. Writing help files           help-writing

1. Help commands                                        online-help

                        help <Help> :h :help <F1> i_<F1> i_<Help>
<Help>          or
:h[elp]                 Open a window and display the help file in read-only
                        mode.  If there is a help window open already, use
                        that one.  Otherwise, if the current window uses the
                        full width of the screen or is at least 80 characters
                        wide, the help window will appear just above the
                        current window.  Otherwise the new window is put at
                        the very top.
                        The 'helplang' option is used to select a language, if
                        the main help file is available in several languages.

                                                {subject} E149 E661
:h[elp] {subject}       Like ":help", additionally jump to the tag {subject}.
                        For example: 
                                :help options

                        {subject} can include wildcards such as "*", "?" and
                           :help z?     jump to help for any "z" command
                           :help z.     jump to the help for "z."
                        But when a tag exists it is taken literally:
                           :help :?     jump to help for ":?"

                        If there is no full match for the pattern, or there
                        are several matches, the "best" match will be used.
                        A sophisticated algorithm is used to decide which
                        match is better than another one.  These items are
                        considered in the computation:
                        - A match with same case is much better than a match
                          with different case.
                        - A match that starts after a non-alphanumeric
                          character is better than a match in the middle of a
                        - A match at or near the beginning of the tag is
                          better than a match further on.
                        - The more alphanumeric characters match, the better.
                        - The shorter the length of the match, the better.

                        The 'helplang' option is used to select a language, if
                        the {subject} is available in several languages.
                        To find a tag in a specific language, append "@ab",
                        where "ab" is the two-letter language code.  See

                        Note that the longer the {subject} you give, the less
                        matches will be found.  You can get an idea how this
                        all works by using commandline completion (type CTRL-D
                        after ":help subject" c_CTRL-D).
                        If there are several matches, you can have them listed
                        by hitting CTRL-D.  Example:
                                :help cont<Ctrl-D>

                        Instead of typing ":help CTRL-V" to search for help
                        for CTRL-V you can type:
                                :help ^V
                        This also works together with other characters, for
                        example to find help for CTRL-V in Insert mode:
                                :help i^V

                        It is also possible to first do ":help" and then
                        use ":tag {pattern}" in the help window.  The
                        ":tnext" command can then be used to jump to other
                        matches, "tselect" to list matches and choose one.
                                :help index
                                :tselect /.*mode

                        When there is no argument you will see matches for
                        "help", to avoid listing all possible matches (that
                        would be very slow).
                        The number of matches displayed is limited to 300.

                        The :help command can be followed by '|' and another
                        command, but you don't need to escape the '|' inside a
                        help command.  So these both work:
                                :help |
                                :help k| only
                        Note that a space before the '|' is seen as part of
                        the ":help" argument.
                        You can also use <NL> or <CR> to separate the help
                        command from a following command.  You need to type
                        CTRL-V first to insert the <NL> or <CR>.  Example:
                                :help so<C-V><CR>only

:h[elp]! [subject]      Like ":help", but in non-English help files prefer to
                        find a tag in a file with the same language as the
                        current file.  See help-translated.

                                                        :helpc :helpclose
:helpc[lose]            Close one help window, if there is one.
                        Vim will try to restore the window layout (including
                        cursor position) to the same layout it was before
                        opening the help window initially.  This might cause
                        triggering several autocommands.

                                                        :helpg :helpgrep
:helpg[rep] {pattern}[@xx]
                        Search all help text files and make a list of lines
                        in which {pattern} matches.  Jumps to the first match.
                        The optional [@xx] specifies that only matches in the
                        "xx" language are to be found.
                        You can navigate through the matches with the
                        quickfix commands, e.g., :cnext to jump to the
                        next one.  Or use :cwindow to get the list of
                        matches in the quickfix window.
                        {pattern} is used as a Vim regexp pattern.
                        'ignorecase' is not used, add "\c" to ignore case.
                        Example for case sensitive search:
                                :helpgrep Uganda
                        Example for case ignoring search:
                                :helpgrep uganda\c
                        Example for searching in French help:
                                :helpgrep backspace@fr
                        The pattern does not support line breaks, it must
                        match within one line.  You can use :grep instead,
                        but then you need to get the list of help files in a
                        complicated way.
                        Cannot be followed by another command, everything is
                        used as part of the pattern.  But you can use
                        :execute when needed.
                        Compressed help files will not be searched (Fedora
                        compresses the help files).

                                                        :lh :lhelpgrep
:lh[elpgrep] {pattern}[@xx]
                        Same as ":helpgrep", except the location list is used
                        instead of the quickfix list.  If the help window is
                        already opened, then the location list for that window
                        is used.  Otherwise, a new help window is opened and
                        the location list for that window is set.  The
                        location list for the current window is not changed

                                                        :exu :exusage
:exu[sage]              Show help on Ex commands.  Added to simulate the Nvi

                                                        :viu :viusage
:viu[sage]              Show help on Normal mode commands.  Added to simulate
                        the Nvi command.

When no argument is given to :help the file given with the 'helpfile' option
will be opened.  Otherwise the specified tag is searched for in all "doc/tags"
files in the directories specified in the 'runtimepath' option.

If you would like to open the help in the current window, see this tip:

The initial height of the help window can be set with the 'helpheight' option
(default 20).
When the help buffer is created, several local options are set to make sure
the help text is displayed as it was intended:
    'iskeyword'         nearly all ASCII chars except ' ', '*', '"' and '|'
    'foldmethod'        "manual"
    'tabstop'           8
    'arabic'            off
    'binary'            off
    'buflisted'         off
    'cursorbind'        off
    'diff'              off
    'foldenable'        off
    'list'              off
    'modifiable'        off
    'number'            off
    'relativenumber'    off
    'rightleft'         off
    'scrollbind'        off
    'spell'             off

Jump to specific subjects by using tags.  This can be done in two ways:
- Use the "CTRL-]" command while standing on the name of a command or option.
  This only works when the tag is a keyword.  "<C-Leftmouse>" and
  "g<LeftMouse>" work just like "CTRL-]".
- use the ":ta {subject}" command.  This also works with non-keyword

Use CTRL-T or CTRL-O to jump back.
Use ":q" to close the help window.

If there are several matches for an item you are looking for, this is how you
can jump to each one of them:
1. Open a help window
2. Use the ":tag" command with a slash prepended to the tag.  E.g.:
        :tag /min
3. Use ":tnext" to jump to the next matching tag.

It is possible to add help files for plugins and other items.  You don't need
to change the distributed help files for that.  See add-local-help.

To write a local help file, see write-local-help.

Note that the title lines from the local help files are automagically added to
the "LOCAL ADDITIONS" section in the "help.txt" help file local-additions.
This is done when viewing the file in Vim, the file itself is not changed.  It
is done by going through all help files and obtaining the first line of each
file.  The files in $VIMRUNTIME/doc are skipped.

If you want to have the help in another xterm window, you could use this
        :!xterm -e vim +help &

                        :helpfind :helpf
:helpf[ind]             Like :help, but use a dialog to enter the argument.
                        Only for backwards compatibility.  It now executes the
                        ToolBar.FindHelp menu entry instead of using a builtin
                        dialog.  {only when compiled with +GUI_GTK}

                                        :helpt :helptags
                                E150 E151 E152 E153 E154 E670
:helpt[ags] [++t] {dir}
                        Generate the help tags file(s) for directory {dir}.
                        When {dir} is ALL then all "doc" directories in
                        'runtimepath' will be used.

                        All "*.txt" and "*.??x" files in the directory and
                        sub-directories are scanned for a help tag definition
                        in between stars.  The "*.??x" files are for
                        translated docs, they generate the "tags-??" file, see
                        help-translated.  The generated tags files are
                        When there are duplicates an error message is given.
                        An existing tags file is silently overwritten.

                        The optional "++t" argument forces adding the
                        "help-tags" tag.  This is also done when the {dir} is
                        equal to $VIMRUNTIME/doc.

                        To rebuild the help tags in the runtime directory
                        (requires write permission there):
                                :helptags $VIMRUNTIME/doc

2. Translated help files                                help-translated

It is possible to add translated help files, next to the original English help
files.  Vim will search for all help in "doc" directories in 'runtimepath'.
This is only available when compiled with the +multi_lang feature.

At this moment translations are available for:
        Chinese  - multiple authors
        French   - translated by David Blanchet
        Italian  - translated by Antonio Colombo
        Japanese - multiple authors
        Polish   - translated by Mikolaj Machowski
        Russian  - translated by Vassily Ragosin
See the Vim website to find them:

A set of translated help files consists of these files:


"ab" is the two-letter language code.  Thus for Italian the names are:


The 'helplang' option can be set to the preferred language(s).  The default is
set according to the environment.  Vim will first try to find a matching tag
in the preferred language(s).  English is used when it cannot be found.

To find a tag in a specific language, append "@ab" to a tag, where "ab" is the
two-letter language code.  Example:
        :he user-manual@it
        :he user-manual@en
The first one finds the Italian user manual, even when 'helplang' is empty.
The second one finds the English user manual, even when 'helplang' is set to

When using command-line completion for the ":help" command, the "@en"
extension is only shown when a tag exists for multiple languages.  When the
tag only exists for English "@en" is omitted.  When the first candidate has an
"@ab" extension and it matches the first language in 'helplang' "@ab" is also

When using CTRL-] or ":help!" in a non-English help file Vim will try to
find the tag in the same language.  If not found then 'helplang' will be used
to select a language.

Help files must use latin1 or utf-8 encoding.  Vim assumes the encoding is
utf-8 when finding non-ASCII characters in the first line.  Thus you must
translate the header with "For Vim version".

The same encoding must be used for the help files of one language in one
directory.  You can use a different encoding for different languages and use
a different encoding for help files of the same language but in a different

Hints for translators:
- Do not translate the tags.  This makes it possible to use 'helplang' to
  specify the preferred language.  You may add new tags in your language.
- When you do not translate a part of a file, add tags to the English version,
  using the "tag@en" notation.
- Make a package with all the files and the tags file available for download.
  Users can drop it in one of the "doc" directories and start use it.
  Report this to Bram, so that he can add a link on
- Use the :helptags command to generate the tags files.  It will find all
  languages in the specified directory.

3. Writing help files                                   help-writing

For ease of use, a Vim help file for a plugin should follow the format of the
standard Vim help files, except for the first line.  If you are writing a new
help file it's best to copy one of the existing files and use it as a

The first line in a help file should have the following format:

plugin_name.txt       {short description of the plugin}

The first field is a help tag where ":help plugin_name" will jump to.  The
remainder of the line, after a Tab, describes the plugin purpose in a short
way.  This will show up in the "LOCAL ADDITIONS" section of the main help
file.  Check there that it shows up properly: local-additions.

If you want to add a version number or last modification date, put it in the
second line, right aligned.

At the bottom of the help file, place a Vim modeline to set the 'textwidth'
and 'tabstop' options and the 'filetype' to "help".  Never set a global option
in such a modeline, that can have undesired consequences.


To define a help tag, place the name between asterisks (*tag-name*).  The
tag-name should be different from all the Vim help tag names and ideally
should begin with the name of the Vim plugin.  The tag name is usually right
aligned on a line.

When referring to an existing help tag and to create a hot-link, place the
name between two bars (|) eg. help-writing.

When referring to a Vim command and to create a hot-link, place the
name between two backticks, eg. inside :filetype.  You will see this is
highlighted as a command, like a code block (see below).

When referring to a Vim option in the help file, place the option name between
two single quotes, eg. 'statusline'


To define a column heading, use a tilde character at the end of the line.
This will highlight the column heading in a different color.  E.g.

Column heading

To separate sections in a help file, place a series of '=' characters in a
line starting from the first column.  The section separator line is highlighted

To quote a block of ex-commands verbatim, place a greater than (>) character
at the end of the line before the block and a less than (<) character as the
first non-blank on a line following the block.  Any line starting in column 1
also implicitly stops the block of ex-commands before it.  E.g.
    function Example_Func()
        echo "Example"

The following are highlighted differently in a Vim help file:
  - a special key name expressed either in <> notation as in <PageDown>, or
    as a Ctrl character as in CTRL-X
  - anything between {braces}, e.g. {lhs} and {rhs}

The word "Note", "Notes" and similar automagically receive distinctive
highlighting.  So do these:
        *Todo   something to do
        *Error  something wrong

You can find the details in $VIMRUNTIME/syntax/help.vim

Vim is for everybody, no matter race, gender or anything.  Some people make a
big deal about using "he" or "his" when referring to the user, thinking it
means we assume the user is male.  That is not the case, it's just a habit of
writing help text, which quite often is many years old.  Also, a lot of the
text is written by contributors for whom English is not their first language.
We do not make any assumptions about the gender of the user, no matter how the
text is phrased.  Some people have suggested using "they", but that is not
regular English. We do not want to spend much time on this discussion.  The
goal is that the reader understands how Vim works, the exact wording is