Suppose I am editing a file.tex. How would I open file.pdf in zathura (or any pdf viewer) from vim?

I understand how to reference file.tex using '%' but I'm not sure how to reference file.pdf.

2 Answers 2


% indeed stands for the current file. %:r (see :help filename-modifiers) strips off the file extension. You can then use :! to launch an external command, e.g. the PDF viewer:

:! zathura %:r.pdf

You can do something like this

let main = expand('%')
let pdf = fnamemod(main, ':r') . '.pdf'

The above steps may of course be combined into a single step. Given the above, you can now open the file in zathura as follows:

silent execute 'zathura' . pdf

I propose you combine all of the above in one function, which makes it easy to map. E.g.:

nnoremap <silent> \lv :call OpenInZathura()<cr>
function! OpenInZathura()
  let main = expand('%')
  let pdf = fnamemod(main, ':r') . '.pdf'
  silent execute 'zathura' . pdf

I'll take the liberty of mentioning my LaTeX-plugin vimtex, which has support for zathura and other pdf viewers. For zathura, vimtex sets up both forward and backward search with synctex. It also handles more complex cases such as multifile projects.

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