Monday, 3 September 2012

Enter the Tab character in Gmail

If you use Gmail you might have come across a situation where you wanted to enter a Tab in an email. This could be for formatting items in a list, to line up columns. (You could put the data into Excel and attach the spreadsheet but the user at the other end may not have Excel)

This is how the list looks before adding Tabs, for example I'll use a list of items purchased.

There's a little known Windows feature of adding characters by using their ASCII code.  The way to do it is by holding ALT, and then entering the code of the character you want.  You need to use the numeric keypad to enter these characters.  The ASCII code for Tab is 009, so by holding down ALT and then entering 009 we get a Tab character. See

After entering the Tabs in the original email this is now how it looks:


  1. On my PC (running windows XP, and using the Firefox browser), the ALT key with the numeric keypad works for most characters when composing a mail in Gmail, but sadly, not ALT 009!

    E.g. if I hold ALT and then enter 033, I get a "!" character, but if I hold ALT and then enter 009, nothing happens in gmail (nor while entering this comment in blogspot!).

  2. I bet this only works if you are sending HTML email - I use plain text [it's email - not a website!] and I get nothing when using the ALT+009 code also.

  3. Thanks, that worked for me for HTML email as well as Plain Text.
    The Gmail Team could've added an easier keyboard shortcut...

  4. Yep. alt-009 really worked. I knew of ASCII before, but I was surprised this was still implemented. You MUST use the numbers on the ***numeric*** keyboard

  5. The first Microsoft operating system to bear the Windows name was Windows 1.0. Windows 1.0 was released in 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS and was Microsoft's first operating system to have a graphical user interface. Since then each new version of Windows has added new features and changed existing ones.

  6. Interesting. When I entered "ALT+009" from the top row of numerals, nothing happened. When I entered, "ALT+009" with the numerals coming from the keypad, I successfully inserted a TAB character.

    1. See the note on the post - "You need to use the numeric keypad to enter these characters". :)

  7. WOW. THANK YOU !! Worked great for me !

  8. Has anyone confirmed that the tab is not stripped when the email is sent? I.e. does it arrive at the recepient with the tabs still there? Reasons I am skeptical:

    (1) if, after inserting some tabs in the email as above, I use 'paste' function to insert text anywhere else in the email, all the tabs vanish. So, the text processing appears to consider them undesirable characters.

    (2) I sent a plain-text email with tabs in it to myself; it arrived with the tabs missing. It's possible, of course, that they were in the email but stripped on receipt.

    (3) tabs are not visible in that email in the 'sent' mailbox; if I 'reply with quote', plain text, to the sent email, there's no tabs in the quoted text.

    Again, none of this proves that the original email wouldn't arrive at its destination with tabs intact, but it's not really encouraging.

    (by the way, on Linux, the unicode keyboard trick is done with 4 hex digits : (ctrl-shift-u) 0 0 0 9 (enter)

  9. If you write your message in a text editor and use tabs then copy the message into a gmail composition the tabs are preserved both in the outbox message and in the recipient's message.

  10. Using "Alt+009" works perfect in Gmail - but when sending to recipients outside Gmail it does not work. When i.e. receiving in Hotmail all the Tabs are gone and are substituted by spaces.
    Any solutions?

  11. Thanks for sharing this content . I use Gmail 24*7 regarding my business. New updated Gmail Tabs help to increase our productivity.