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?


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.

  • 2
    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.

  • 2
    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
  • 2
    @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 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 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.


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 ....

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