+1-650-731-2358 | john@johnshipp.com | Skype: shippjohn

Spaces vs. Tabs – An ongoing debate.

The debate over whether to use spaces or tabs for code indentation is an age-old one, and it mostly boils down to personal preference and team or project-specific conventions. However, there are some advantages and disadvantages associated with each choice.

Using Spaces for Indentation:


  1. Consistency: Spaces are always displayed as a fixed width in all text editors and integrated development environments (IDEs), ensuring consistent appearance of code across different systems and editors.
  2. Language Requirements: Some programming languages like Python may enforce consistent indentation using spaces for code blocks.
  3. Fine-grained Control: Spaces give developers fine-grained control over alignment, which can be especially useful for aligning comments or elements in a list.


  1. More Keystrokes: Using spaces for indentation requires more keystrokes than using tabs, especially for deeper indentation levels. This could be a disadvantage when writing a lot of code. However, most modern text editors and IDEs offer features to automate this.
  2. File Size: Files that use spaces for indentation can be larger than those that use tabs, as a tab character typically takes up only one byte, whereas each space character also takes up one byte.
  3. Harder to Adjust: If you need to adjust the indentation level throughout a file, it can be a bit more time-consuming to replace multiple spaces as opposed to a single tab character.

Using Tabs for Indentation:


  1. Fewer Keystrokes: Using tabs requires fewer keystrokes than using spaces, as a single tab character can represent multiple space characters.
  2. Smaller File Size: Files that use tabs for indentation can be smaller than those that use spaces, as a tab character typically takes up only one byte.
  3. Customizable Width: Users can set their text editor or IDE to display tabs at their preferred width, allowing them to adjust the visual appearance of the indentation to their liking without altering the file.


  1. Inconsistency: Tabs may be displayed differently in different text editors or IDEs depending on the user’s settings, leading to potential readability issues.
  2. Alignment Issues: Tabs can create alignment issues, especially when mixed with spaces, which can make the code less readable.
  3. Language Constraints: Some programming languages may not handle tabs well or may enforce using spaces for indentation.

So, the choice of whether to use spaces or tabs for code indentation should be made based on your personal preference, the conventions of the team or project you’re working on, and the requirements of the programming language you’re using. Whichever option you choose, the key is to be consistent throughout your codebase.