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Browse Dash docsets inside emacs

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Helm Dash

Build Status Coverage Status MELPA MELPA Stable Tag Version License

What's it

This package uses Dash docsets inside emacs to browse documentation. Here's an article explaining the basic usage of it.

It doesn't require Dash app.

What's not

If you're looking for dash.el, the list library, please go to dash.el



It's available on MELPA.

Now, it's possible to choose between install the stable or development version of helm-dash. Here there is an explanation about stable packages and MELPA and here a list of our tags.

m-x package-install helm-dash RET

Installing docsets

Helm-dash uses the same docsets as Dash. You can install them with

m-x helm-dash-install-docset
for the official docsets or
m-x helm-dash-install-user-docset
for user contributed docsets (experimental).

To install a docset from a file in your drive you can use

helm-dash-install-docset-from-file'. That function takes as input
file that you obtained, starting from a folder named
.docset`, with the command:

tar --exclude='.DS_Store' -cvzf .tgz .docset

as explained here.


m-x helm-dash RET
will run helm with your active docsets loaded. Typing substrings of what you search will find-as-you-type.
  • The search starts from 3 chars.
  • Install new docsets with m-x helm-dash-install-docset
  • After installing a new docset, add the name of the docset to `helm-dash-common-docsets' or in 'helm-dash-docsets' (which is ment to be buffer local)

m-x helm-dash-at-point RET
is like helm-dash, but it will prefill the search input with the symbol at point.

The command

will clear the connections to all sqlite db's. Use it in case of errors when adding new docsets. The next call to
will recreate them.

Variables to customize

is the prefix for your docsets. Defaults to ~/.docsets

tells helm-dash from which length to start searching. Defaults to 3.

is a function to encapsulate the way to browse Dash' docsets. Defaults to browse-url. For example, if you want to use eww to browse your docsets, you can do:
(setq helm-dash-browser-func 'eww)


is non-nil stderr from sqlite queries is captured and displayed in a buffer. The default value is
. Setting this to
may speed up queries on some machines (capturing stderr requires the creation and deletion of a temporary file for each query).

Sets of Docsets

Common docsets

`helm-dash-common-docsets' is a list that should contain the docsets to be active always. In all buffers.

Buffer local docsets

Different subsets of docsets can be activated depending on the buffer. For the moment (it may change in the future) we decided it's a plain local variable you should setup for every different filetype. This way you can also do fancier things like project-wise docsets sets.

(defun go-doc ()
  (setq-local dash-docs-docsets '("Go")))

(add-hook 'go-mode-hook 'go-doc)

Only one docset

To narrow the search to just one docset, type its name in the beginning of the search followed by a space. If the docset contains spaces, no problemo, we handle it :D.


  • Does it work in osX?

sqlite queries. Provisionally, we're executing shell-commands directly. Our idea is come back to use esqlite when some issues will be fixed.

helm-dash has been tested only in linux. We've been notified that it doesn't work in Mac, so we ask for elisp hackers who own something that runs Mac OSX if they could take a look at it.

Hints: It looks like something with 'end of line' differences. The suspicious are esqlite (which helm-dash requires) or pcsv (which esqlite requires)

  • I'm using mac osx and pages open but not in the correct anchor

bug on mac osx's browse-url which can't open urls with #. If you find this issue, and want to debug, great, otherwise, you can use eww or w3 or w3m which will work just fine

  • I get nil for every search I do

make sure you don't have sqlite3 .mode column but .mode list (the default). check your .sqliterc

  • When selecting an item in helm-dash, no browser lookup occurs with firefox >= 38.0.and emacs >= 24.4


(setq browse-url-browser-function 'browse-url-generic
      browse-url-generic-program "/path/to/firefox")
(setq helm-dash-browser-func 'browse-url-generic)


We ♥ feedback, issues or pull requests. Feel free to contribute in helm-dash.

We're trying to add tests to the project, if you send a PR please consider add new or update the existing ones.

Install Cask if you haven't already, then:

$ cd /path/to/helm-dash
$ cask

Run all tests with:

$ make


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