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Access Python Help

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Tip 556 Printable Monobook Previous Next

created 2003 · complexity basic · author Fritz Cizmarov · version 6.0

This tip presents several ways to access Python documentation using pydoc. The recommended location for the commands in this snippet is ~/.vim/after/ftplugin/python.vim, or $HOME\vimfiles\after\ftplugin\python.vim on Windows.

Using a shell (simple)Edit

To access Python documentation for the word under the cursor using, this mapping can be used

nnoremap <buffer> K :<C-u>execute "!pydoc " . expand("<cword>")<CR>

or for Windows

nnoremap <buffer> K :<C-u>execute "!C:/<PythonDir>/Lib/ " . expand("<cword>")<CR>

To keep the documentation open while you continue editing, this mapping can be used instead

nnoremap <buffer> K :<C-u>execute "!xterm -e 'pydoc " . expand("<cword>") . "'"<CR>

or for Windows

nnoremap <buffer> K :<C-u>execute "!start cmd /c C:/<PythonDir>/Lib/ " . \|
    \ expand("<cword>")<CR>

These mappings only work for single words. To display the documentation for a method or a class in a module, for example os.popen(), modify the mapping in this way

nnoremap <buffer> K :<C-u>let save_isk = &iskeyword \|
    \ set iskeyword+=. \|
    \ execute "!pydoc " . expand("<cword>") \|
    \ let &iskeyword = save_isk<CR>

It is not recommended to permanently add . to 'iskeyword'.

Using the preview window or a scratch bufferEdit

This snippet allows you to use the command :Pyhelp <string> to preview Python documentation in the preview window. It also remaps K in the same manner as above.

If Vim is compiled with +python, it automatically finds the path to Otherwise, set the s:pydoc_path variable to a suitable value. This seemingly indirect approach is used in an effort to make the snippet platform agnostic.

if has("python")
  " let python figure out the path to pydoc
  python << EOF
import sys
import vim
vim.command("let s:pydoc_path=\'" + sys.prefix + "/lib/\'")
  " manually set the path to pydoc
  let s:pydoc_path = "/path/to/python/lib/"

nnoremap <buffer> K :<C-u>let save_isk = &iskeyword \|
    \ set iskeyword+=. \|
    \ execute "Pyhelp " . expand("<cword>") \|
    \ let &iskeyword = save_isk<CR>
command! -nargs=1 -bar Pyhelp :call ShowPydoc(<f-args>)
function! ShowPydoc(what)
  " compose a tempfile path using the argument to the function
  let path = $TEMP . '/' . a:what . '.pydoc'
  let epath = shellescape(path)
  let epydoc_path = shellescape(s:pydoc_path)
  let ewhat = shellescape(a:what)
  " run pydoc on the argument, and redirect the output to the tempfile
  call system(epydoc_path . " " . ewhat . (stridx(&shellredir, '%s') == -1 ? (&shellredir.epath) : (substitute(&shellredir, '\V\C%s', '\=epath', ''))))
  " open the tempfile in the preview window
  execute "pedit" fnameescape(path)

If, instead, you prefer using a scratch buffer to the preview window, change the ShowPydoc function to

function! ShowPydoc(what)
  let bufname = a:what . ".pydoc"
  " check if the buffer exists already
  if bufexists(bufname)
    let winnr = bufwinnr(bufname)
    if winnr != -1
      " if the buffer is already displayed, switch to that window
      execute winnr "wincmd w"
      " otherwise, open the buffer in a split
      execute "sbuffer" bufname
    " create a new buffer, set the nofile buftype and don't display it in the
    " buffer list
    execute "split" fnameescape(bufname)
    setlocal buftype=nofile
    setlocal nobuflisted
    " read the output from pydoc
    execute "r !" . shellescape(s:pydoc_path, 1) . " " . shellescape(a:what, 1)
  " go to the first line of the document

See alsoEdit



For an alternative approach to the same problem, try the pyref.vim plug-in ( script#3104) which provides context-sensitive documentation for Python source code by looking up help topics on (or a local mirror on your file system) and showing them in your favorite web browser.

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