I'm editing a plain text file on my iPhone and need to type a TAB (\t) character. However, I am unable to find it and starting to wonder if it even exists.

Anyone able to help me out?

  • 1
    What app are you editing with? – Mark Feb 24 '13 at 11:02
  • Should be the same since they all use the same virtual keyboard? Either way, in this particular case the app is called PlainText. – Svish Feb 24 '13 at 11:32
  • Try other apps. This one advertises a tab key: itunes.apple.com/us/app/kwrite-text-editor-pdf-export/… – Tom Gewecke Feb 24 '13 at 15:55
  • 1
    PS You can ask for this to be added via www.apple.com/feedback , but after 6 years without it I suspect the prospects are not great. – Tom Gewecke Feb 25 '13 at 21:27
  • 2
    Well, i feel tab is a bit different as that's actually a "visible" character similar to a space. Could've been an option if I pressed the space button long enough for example. – Svish Feb 25 '13 at 22:35

11 Answers 11


Using keyboard text replacement:

  1. Use OS X to create a new note in Notes which can by synched to your iOS device.
  2. Using OS X keyboard, type a tab character in a note.
  3. From your iOS device, select and copy the tab character, then go to Keyboard → Text replacement → create new phrase.
  4. Paste the tab character into it and add another character at the end. You can't create an empty "TAB" or "SPACE" phrase, in my case I added "-" at the end.
  5. Choose a shortcut you prefer such as "tab", "/tab".

following answer is not to insert tab, but for indent line.

(currently 2016/05) for the user of iPhone while using Note app,

  1. on the line you want to indent, touch screen on the current cursor
  2. then pop-up appear for more editing, you can select indent among of these.

I keep a list of special characters here: http://dontpad.com/sy

  • Low tech and ok for the "once in a while" case :) – Svish Jul 1 '14 at 13:02

If you want the tab character for a specific purpose (e.g. a SSH client), I recommend getting an app that has this feature built in via a quick click or two. Many SSH clients have this.

If you want to just be able to type the Tab character everywhere, you'll probably need a special keyboard. The Emoji keyboard might have the tab key buried in their "600+ unicode symbols". Additionally, this Unicode Map app that allows copying of unicode characters into the copy-buffer also might have support for the tab key. If neither of those apps have what you want, try contacting the developers, as it would be a trivial change to add support for the tab character.

One other potential solution just came to mind: try creating a document in Evernote or the Notes app that contains a tab character generated on your computer. See if you can copy-and-paste this character.

  • 1
    This is how I solved it. Already had a tab character in the text file I was editing in PlainText, so was able to select it and copy it to the other places I needed it. Not great though :/ – Svish Feb 25 '13 at 22:36

I recomend you to use a Sourcecode editing App like Textastic which has a Tab Key.


Get TextExpander. It's an app for osx and ios that let's you type predefined bits of text with text shortcuts. It can create very complicated snippets of text, but for this issue I set it up to type a tab character with my shortcut of "tab.."

  1. Create a new shortcut in the new Apple Shortcuts app.
  2. Add a Text element and type %09 in it.
  3. Add a URL Encode element and set it to decode.
  4. Add a Copy to Clipboard element.
  5. Save and use.

After running the shortcut there is a tab character in the clipboard.

For this you only need an iOS device with the free Apple Shortcuts app found on the App Store.enter image description here


Use talk button and just say "tab". Works great!

  • Failing on iOS 9.3. – dan Mar 17 '17 at 14:31
  • Is this a joke? – Matthew Lock Sep 22 '18 at 3:26

Hmm? When typing in this comment box, all shows correctly but when posting the formatting changes and the tabs (below) disappear. Hmmm? But when editing, the tabs return. So the site doesn't display correctly though the formatting is saved. Hmmm?

Holding your finger in place lets me indent in Notes, but not in Mail. It also doesn't let me tab though.., Pages lets me insert a tab (and many other things). I can then copy and paste the tab as seen here: <--TAB

I can also set up a keyboard shortcut for a tab as seen here: tab

that is a tab before the word tab; you can't put just a tab in a shortcut so I copied in a tab then added the word tab.

BTW: This comment box doesn't let me indent or insert.


To insert tab, on the line you want to insert tab, touch the current cursor then a pop-up appear should appear for more editing. Select Insert; then tab.

  • This doesn't seem to work in all apps. – nohillside Sep 13 '16 at 6:29

Easy. Just copy one of the tab characters below while on your iPhone.

Tab: --> <--


--> <--
  • 3
    Think you forgot a pair of sarcastic quotation marks around that first word there? – Svish Sep 20 '16 at 19:32

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