How To Print A Tab In Python

How do you print a tab character in Python?

The easiest way to print a tab character in Python is to use the short-hand abbreviation '\t' (don’t forget the quotation marks – it needs to be parked inside a string). To see the tab-spaced character in the REPL output pane, wrap any variable containing a tab character in the built-in print() function.

Here’s a simple example:

>>> my_tabbed_string = 'Space\tman'
>>> print(my_tabbed_string)
Space	man

What if you’d prefer to see the tab character instead of the actual spacing?

If in the REPL just return the variable containing the tabbed string on a new line, like so:

>>> my_tabbed_string

Here’s a demonstration of both outputs:

It Doesn’t Work For Format String!

You can use the shortcut form of the tab character in most places, but you cannot use any backslash character in an f-string expression (the commands between the curly braces {} ).

For example, using the following produces a SyntaxError :

>>> print(f"{str(1) + '\t' + str(2)}")
  File "<input>", line 1
SyntaxError: f-string expression part cannot include a backslash

As the tab character cannot be used inside the curly braces, simply close the curly braces to enable to tab space to occur within the normal bounds of the string.

If you have to use a tab character within the curly braces, there are a couple of workarounds.

As demonstrated in the post where I use tabs to print a list , you can place the tab character into a variable and reference the “tab variable” in the f-string expression, like so:

>>> tab = "\t"
>>> print(f"{str(1) + tab + str(2)}")
1	2

Using chr() Built-In Function

An alternative approach to the shorthand method '\t' is using the built-in chr() function.

The chr() function takes one parameter, an integer ranging from 0 to 1,114,111 , with each number in that range representing a Unicode character.

To find out what the integer representation of the tab character is, you can use another built-in function ord() that provides the integer representation of a Unicode character. Using it and confirming like so:

>>> ord('\t')
>>> chr(9)

As you can see chr(9) represents the tab character.

Therefore, another way to print the tab character is to use the chr(9) function as it produces the same results as seen from the print statement below:

>>> print(f"{str(1) + chr(9) + str(2)}")
1	2

Here’s a demonstration of each approach:

Print Tab Spaces In Python

To print the tab character, use the abbreviated shorthand method of '\t' or chr(9) if using backslashes in your context will not work.

Be mindful that the tab space is one of the whitespace characters, meaning if a tab is found at the beginning or trailing end of a string, it will be removed if the .strip() method is applied, as follows:

>>> my_string = "\t\tSpaced out\t\t"
>>> print(my_string)
		Spaced out		
>>> my_string.strip()
'Spaced out'

Next, you might want to read another post about the number of spaces in a tab?

A tab size in Python is 4 spaces.

Photo of author
Ryan Sheehy
Ryan has been dabbling in code since the late '90s when he cut his teeth exploring VBA in Excel. Having his eyes opened with the potential of automating repetitive tasks, he expanded to Python and then moved over to scripting languages such as HTML, CSS, Javascript and PHP.