In a directory window (:Explore or :Vexplore) every 'o' or 'v' creates a new window, I just want 1 directory view window on the left and 1 file view window on the right like a classic IDE. When opening a file, how do I open it in the right window that already exists?

Thank you!

  • That was me. I just corrected myself. :) This is related info: Replace netrw window when opening a file/ (I'm not sure if it qualifies as a duplicate even though it has all the relevant info in it.)
    – B Layer
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 9:43
  • I decided duping this didn't make sense even though I was able to reuse some of my answer there in the new answer below.
    – B Layer
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 9:55
  • Welcome to Vi and Vim!
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 17:49
  • @BogdanBalan You left before my comment became an answer. If/when you come back please vote/accept. Thanks.
    – B Layer
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 8:38

1 Answer 1


Two things are needed. First you need to change g:netrw_browse_split. Here's the help for that setting:

  *g:netrw_browse_split*    when browsing, <cr> will open the file by:
                =0: re-using the same window  (default)
                =1: horizontally splitting the window first
                =2: vertically   splitting the window first
                =3: open file in new tab
                =4: act like "P" (ie. open previous window)

"Open previous window" is what we want so

let g:netrw_browse_split = 4

Then you just need to press the right key when the cursor is over the file you want to open. The help excerpt also gives us that information (<cr> will open the file by...).

So, not O or V but Enter. That should do it.

Note: Per the help on the line about value 4 the approach I use above is "like" pressing P. When I tried P it didn't work as expected so I chose an approach which did work. To be fair, my netrw configuration is not default so you may want to try P for yourself (without changing the variable from 0).

  • 1
    Would pressing P just work with no hassle though ?
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 14:10
  • Not for me though I have non-defaults for various settings. I've not spent any time looking into it, but why would they have the above setting if it weren't necessary due to always having P do the same thing?
    – B Layer
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 0:18
  • Not sure, just noticed that the docs said act like "P"
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 1:03
  • 1
    Yes, pressing P for me "just works" (in my vim and in vim --clean w/ :runtime plugin/netrwPlugin.vim)
    – D. Ben Knoble
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 1:05
  • I never doubted it can work. All I know is when I was writing this it didn't work so I chose what worked (and what I have experience with) and what has documentation explicitly differentiating it from other split modes and what seems more robust based on my having non-default configuration. But I'll mention P has a possible alternative.
    – B Layer
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 2:57

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