Tabs versus Spaces in Source Code

achates aylwyn at
Wed May 17 00:02:19 CEST 2006

Duncan Booth wrote:

>However the important thing is that a tab does
>not map to a single indentation level in Python: it can map to any number
>of indents, and unless I know the convention you are using to display the
>tabs I cannot know how many indents are equivalent to a tabstop.

Sorry but this is just wrong. Python works out the indentation level
for a source file dynamically: see The particular algorithm
it uses is designed to accommodate people who mix tabs and spaces
(which is unfortunate, and should probably be changed). Nevertheless,
using tabs only, one tab does indeed map to exactly one indentation
level. One tabstop == one indent, on your editor and on mine. You do
not need to know my display convention to run my code.

All I can suggest is that you try it out: create a short source file
indented with tabs only, and play around with your editor's tabstop
setting (and make sure it is writing tab characters, not spaces, to the
source file). I promise you the Python interpreter will neither know
nor care what your editor display settings were when you last wrote the

I realise that a lot of code out there uses spaces only. That's
unfortunate, but it doesn't mean we should stop explaining to people
why tab-indenting is a better standard. This is about freedom:
indenting with spaces lets you control over how other people view your
code; indenting with tabs give them that control.

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