tab2space - macOS


tab2space is a versatile macOS command that enables the conversion of tab characters into space characters. It is a commonly encountered need in text processing and can be applied in various settings.


tab2space [-4 | -8 | -s] [input_file]


  • -4: Converts tabs to 4 spaces (default).
  • -8: Converts tabs to 8 spaces.
  • -s: Converts tabs to a single space.
  • [input_file]: Specifies the input file to be processed. If omitted, input is read from standard input.


Convert tabs to 4 spaces:

tab2space -4 input.txt

Convert tabs to 8 spaces:

tab2space -8 input.txt output.txt

Convert tabs to a single space:

tab2space -s input.txt

Process input from a pipe:

cat input.txt | tab2space

Common Issues

File Not Found: Ensure the specified input file exists.

Incorrect Conversion: Verify that the desired conversion type (-4, -8, or -s) is correct.

Unexpected Output: Check for trailing spaces or other text formatting issues in the input file.


With sed: Combine with sed to perform additional text transformations:

sed 's/\t/ /g' input.txt | tab2space

With Python: Use the re module in Python to convert tabs to spaces:

import re
with open('input.txt', 'r') as f:
    text =
text = re.sub('\t', ' ', text)
  • expand: Converts tabs to spaces in reverse.
  • reindent: Indents or unindents text according to conventions.
  • nl: Adds or removes newlines from text.