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For example, I wanted to use the sort utility with the -t option to specify tab separators, but

sort -t "\t"

doesn't work.

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up vote 38 down vote accepted

Don't use double quotes.

sort -t $'\t'

Or I think Ctrl V inserts a Tab??


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Doesn't tab insert a tab? – RedGrittyBrick Nov 28 '11 at 16:32
@RedGrittyBrick Tab completes. – Daniel Beck Nov 28 '11 at 16:48
Control-V alone won't work; Control-V + Tab will. I like the $'...' trick, though; now I've learned something new. :-) – L2G Nov 28 '11 at 17:04
I've always learned it as $' '. It allows you to enter a string, but also have escaped characters. Double quoting literally prints \t If you leave off the quotes you get a tab character. – surfasb Nov 28 '11 at 17:09

Try Control-V, then tab. If you see the cursor tab over to the right, it worked.

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When I do this, I get a real tab (i.e. indentation). – Daniel Beck Nov 28 '11 at 16:49
Oops. You're right. But it is entering the tab character, not doing command-line completion (which is what bash normally does with a tab). I tried sort -t " " (with the literal tab as described above) and it worked for me. – L2G Nov 28 '11 at 16:57
Yep, that's what I meant by indentation. Didn't know a better term. – Daniel Beck Nov 28 '11 at 17:13
Ctrl-v, Ctrl-i will also work (I found this answer here). Also, I think a Ctrl-q, Ctrl-v, Tab will work. Thanks L2G! – Mark Nov 28 '11 at 17:20
BTW, I would love to accept both answers, but since I think surfasb's solution is more readable, I accepted hers. I like yours, too, though, so voted it up. Thanks! – Mark Nov 28 '11 at 17:23

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