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Most editors have a feature like when you press some keys by placing caret over a function, it pops the documentation of that function along with number and type of arguments that function takes.

I was wondering whether Vim offers such support. For example, while coding in C, I use a built in function qsort(). Since I am not sure about type and number of arguments it takes, I would like to know it without escaping Vim. Is it possible?

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Not sure this is exactly what you want, but if you give the right value to the option 'keywordprg' (the name of a program which can handle the documentation for the language you want), then by hitting K on a keyword (which can be the name of a function), you should get the info you want. For example, if you install cppman ( and add an autocmd inside your vimrc such as autocmd FileType cpp setlocal keywordprg=cppman, then cppman should handle the documentation inside a c++ buffer. Not tested though. – saginaw Jan 23 at 18:33
@saginaw While cppman is an excellent suggestion, if you have the C and C++ manpages (manpages-posix-dev and libstdc++-X.Y-doc packages on Debian-based systems) installed, plain old man should work. – muru Jan 23 at 23:53

If you want proper documentation, the plugin in saginaw's comment seems to cover your C++ needs. I don't know of a generic one but you can probably find alternatives for other languages on


  • your code is already indexed with ctags,
  • your index also includes the standard library,
  • and all you want is a hint,

you can use <C-w>} to open the definition of the keyword under your cursor in a preview window. YMMV, of course.

See :help preview-window, :help tags and :help ctags.

You can also use Vim's built-in "include-search" functionality: press [i to print the "signature" of the word under the cursor in the command-line:


See :help include-search.

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[i is weird. It works for stdlib.h and qsort, but not cstdlib and std::qsort or just qsort. – muru Jan 23 at 20:25

If you can set up YouCompleteMe, it supports C, C++, JavaScript, Go and some other languages. Here's it in action:

enter image description here enter image description here

It's a bit annoying to install, and once it's installed you need to configure it for C and C++ by creating a I lifted one from this repo, and got this effect.

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"t's a bit annoying to install,"... That's an understatement. Still, it is very good. ^_~ – Sardathrion Jan 28 at 9:27
Is there any way to force the completions pop-up to remain opened while the function arguments are typed? For example, as soon as you type the first letter of the first argument qsort(a, the pop-up window disappears, making it difficult to remember the next arguments. – thiagowfx 2 days ago

For C, pressing K on the keyword will pull up the built-in manpage directly. For instance, place the cursor on the printf keyword:

printf("Hello, %s!", foo);

Now press K (upper case K) and the manpage for printf should appear in VIM:

   printf - format and print data

   printf FORMAT [ARGUMENT]...
   printf OPTION

   Print ARGUMENT(s) according to FORMAT, or execute according to OPTION:

   --help display this help and exit

          output version information and exit

   FORMAT controls the output as in C printf.  Interpreted sequences are:

   \"     double quote
   \\     backslash

   ... It continues for quite a few scrollable pages

This seems to work out of the box in all Debian-derived distros that I've tried it on, no specific configuration required.

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That's the manpage of printf(1) the command, not printf(3) the function. In any case, the C function manpages are from manpages-dev, which is usually installed by default, but not always, and POSIX functions are in manpages-posix-dev - usually not installed by default, neither is C++ documentation (libstdc++-X.Y-doc). – muru Jan 24 at 9:24

Vim's C/C++ file type comes with a decent omnicompletion function, which supports "preview" functionality. So add "preview" to your completeopt option and see a function signature when you do insert mode completion.

In normal mode, you could CTRL+W } to open the function declaration in the preview window manually.

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