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In my .vimrc I have :set number.

This window-local setting is applied for new windows (e.g., when running :split some_new_file).

However, when I open a help window with :help, there are no line numbers shown, with nonumber set.

I am curious why this is the case.

I don't see anything in ftplugin/help.vim that sets no line numbers.

What are the rules for window-local settings that are defined in .vimrc? Which new windows will these settings be applied for?

3

It turns out many (most?) options in a help buffer are actually hardcoded in the C source code for Vim itself.

See prepare_help_buffer() and the comments in that function that explain which settings are getting tweaked.

So what you're witnessing is pretty much a special case and it's pretty well hidden since you don't even get to search the Vim scripts for filetype "help" to find that setting, or to use :verbose to see where it's coming from.

In the general case, though:

What are the rules for window-local settings that are defined in .vimrc? Which new windows will these settings be applied for?

See :help option-summary, which will tell you that:

When creating a new window the option values from the currently active window are used as a default value for the window-specific options.

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