I know I can browse Vim help with :help, but this opens a split. Sometimes, I just like to study documentation. How read documentation in a "full screen" mode?

12 Answers 12


Just expand the help window to be the only visible window: Ctrlw-o

When you're done you can switch back to your other buffers.

  • 4
    Similarly, you can switch to the other window with Ctrl-w w and close it with Ctrl-w c, leaving you with just the help. – bsmith89 Feb 4 '15 at 23:47
  • Picking highest voted answer. – Ruslan Osipov Feb 5 '15 at 0:06

Alternatively, you could open the help window in a new tab: :tab help foo, and then use :q to close it.

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    Is there also a way to do this by default? So that :help foo would act as :tab help foo? – Martin Tournoij Feb 6 '15 at 14:44
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    @Carpetsmoker Yes, you could do something like cnoremap help tab help. – Doorknob Feb 6 '15 at 14:45

The other answers have already answered your question, but for the sake of completeness:

If you just want to temporarily get a larger window for your help-viewing, you can use either or both of the Ctrl-w _ and Ctrl-w | mappings to maximise the help window as much as possible vertically or horizontally, respectively, but without closing your existing split windows.

When you subsequently close the help window with Ctrl-w c or :q, your window layout will be returned to exactly how it was before you opened the help window.

This is useful if you have a slightly more complicated window layout which you would like to preserve.


You can move the help screen to its own tab with

ctrl+w T (note the T is upper case).

Then you can switch between the tabs with gt.


You can make the help window full width and height by eliminating all other split windows, using Control-wo while inside the help window. This command makes the current window the only window, removing all other windows.


Another option that gets rid of the pesky extra "new file" tab is vim +"tab help | -tabc". This creates a help tab on vim start (tab help) and removes the new file (-tabc).


You can also the command:only. It's the same with C-W C-O couple. More on :h only

  • 1
    Welcome to this site Adem, we usually encourage our users to explain why they recommend using a specific command and how it works. It is also usually a best practice to link the relevant help topic like :h :only – statox Jan 15 '20 at 12:28
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    Got it and changed. Thank you very much. – adembudak Jan 15 '20 at 12:36

My personal variation:

command! -nargs=1 -complete=help H help <args> | silent only

This let's you to use :H as you would normally use :help.

only then does the Ctrlw-o combo that others have mentioned.


I often open a new vim instance in another workspace/screen just to pop open a help window so this article was enormously helpful to me. Here Is a bit of VimScript that I just wrote that will open a help page in a new tab, and automatically close a new/empty buffer if necessary. Hopefully it is useful to folks in the future. Thank y'all for your help!

" Help: Open a `help` page in a new tab, or replace the current buffer if it
" is unnamed and empty.
function! Help( query )
  " Is the current buffer empty?
  let l:empty = line( '$' ) ==# 1 && getline( 1 ) ==# ''
  " Store the current tab number so we can close it later if need be.
  let l:tabnr = tabpagenr()
  let l:bufname = bufname( winbufnr( 0 ) )
    " Open the help page in a new tab. (or bail if it's not found)
    execute "tab help " . a:query
    " The help page opened successfully. Close the original tab if it's empty.
    if l:bufname ==# '' && l:empty
      execute "tabclose " . l:tabnr

command! -nargs=1 Help call Help( <f-args> )

I wrote a tiny plugin to do this a few years ago: vim-helptab. It opens help docs in their own tab when you type :h .... To bypass it you can do :he ... or :help ....


I found this on the vim.fandom.com website. It works by making a session before maximizing, then it reloads the previous session view.

Because I have lots of tabs, I had to add exec "tabo" (tabonly) before reloading the session, otherwise you end up with double the number of tabs.

nnoremap <a-m> :call MaximizeToggle()<CR>

function! MaximizeToggle()
  if exists("s:maximize_session")
    exec "tabo"
    exec "source " . s:maximize_session
    call delete(s:maximize_session)
    unlet s:maximize_session
    let &hidden=s:maximize_hidden_save
    unlet s:maximize_hidden_save
    let s:maximize_hidden_save = &hidden
    let s:maximize_session = tempname()
    set hidden
    exec "mksession! " . s:maximize_session

However, when working with a lot of files, I found this 'reload session' method lagged a bit. Maybe someone can comment on how to reduce the lag.


I'm rarely use tabs, but if I make a help window :only, (which is what I have done in the past), and then I switch to the file buffer to try what I learned, the help buffer is gone, and I have to reopen it and re-navigate to the place where I was before to continue reading the help content.

After reading all the answers here, I find that for me :tab is the right solution. The biggest bonus is that I can swap back and forth (gt) between the file buffer tab and the help tab without losing my place, at the cost of one line of terminal real estate.

And, to open help initially in a new tab:

:tab help xxyyzz

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