SHELL/BASH: Convert space to tabs & use tab in Unix Shell Script with examples

How to convert space delimited to tab delimited. How to use tab in unix shell script. How to replace delimitter in Unix using shell script. replace multiple spaces with tab. convert spaces to tabs. Convert space delimited to tab delimited. use tab in unix shell script in a function for different columns.

How to use tab in Unix Shell Script (convert space to tabs) with examples

In this article I will share the steps to display equal alignment of multiple columns i.e. to convert space delimited to tab delimited using shell script.


Example to use TAB in Unix Shell Script

Below is a sample one liner example to print multiple columns with a tab using printf. here you can give a tab length as per your requirement.

[root@master ~]# printf "%-20s%-20s%-20s\n" "col1" "col2" "col3"
col1                col2                col3


To use tab in Unix shell script in a function you can use below solution

[root@master ~]# cat /tmp/

function align_output {

   str_length=`echo -n $1 | wc -c`
   tab_length=`expr 15 - $str_length - 6`
   echo -n -e "$1"
   printf "%${tab_length}s"
   printf ": $2\n"

align_output col1 col2
align_output col3 col4
align_output col5 col6


Here you can modify the highlighted value to change the tab length between columns. Now when we run the script, the output would look like below

[root@master ~]# /tmp/
col1     : col2
col3     : col4
col5     : col6


Lastly I hope the steps from the article to convert space delimited to tab delimited and use tab in Unix shell script was helpful. So, let me know your suggestions and feedback using the comment section.


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Deepak Prasad

He is the founder of GoLinuxCloud and brings over a decade of expertise in Linux, Python, Go, Laravel, DevOps, Kubernetes, Git, Shell scripting, OpenShift, AWS, Networking, and Security. With extensive experience, he excels in various domains, from development to DevOps, Networking, and Security, ensuring robust and efficient solutions for diverse projects. You can reach out to him on his LinkedIn profile or join on Facebook page.

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