I use helm-M-x and helm-descbinds to show functions and keybindings I can execute. I would like to be able to see the help for a function without having to ESC, C-h f, retype function. (Like this answer for smex).

Defining a key as part of helm-map (even after emacs has loaded) doesn't work for me:

(define-key helm-map (kbd "C-u") 'describe-function)

I get this:

helm: Error: Trying to run helm within a running helm session

(Running describe-function from M-x opens helm.)

This helm intro says:

If helm-mode is activated... C-h f, which runs describe-function, automatically takes the symbol at point as default for searching function.

Does that mean C-h f should work in the helm minibuffer? Or is it referring to other functionality?

How can I invoke other commands on the helm results?

(I use spacemacs on Emacs 24, but I don't think that matters?

  • 2
    Press C-z (the default key binding for executing persistent action) and Helm opens a help buffer for you. You don't have to bind anything. But better swap tab and C-z. My helm guide may improve your workflow.
    – Tu Do
    May 11, 2015 at 13:27
  • 1
    C-h f is meant to run separatedly. If you want to invoke other commands on Helm results, press Tab to switch to action menu (or C-z if you follow my guide and swapped the keys).
    – Tu Do
    May 11, 2015 at 14:06
  • So by default, Tab shows a list of actions and C-z executes a persistent action. But a persistent action is not one of those actions. How would I know which persistent action I'll run (buffer-dependent)? Or is it always help?
    – idbrii
    May 12, 2015 at 15:38
  • A persistent action is an action that won't close your current Helm action. An action does. A persistent action of each command depends on the author to decide and not always showing help. For example, in helm-find-files or helm-mini, it opens and show you file/buffer for previewing rather than opening help. Some command don't have persistent action and simply does nothing.
    – Tu Do
    May 12, 2015 at 16:06
  • I see, at the top of the window it shows the persistent action that will run (in this case, describe function).
    – idbrii
    May 13, 2015 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


Somehow I missed that at the top of the helm window it says:

C-z: helm-descbinds-action:describe (keeping session)

That (I think) is the persistent action that will be executed by C-z. So both commands will show help for the selected function.

The other examples, I could use helm-add-action-to-source to add new actions to them menu when you press TAB. Example.

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