I have a tab-delimited file that I have opened in Notepad++, was having trouble parsing it, so turned on View->Show Symbol->Show White Space and TAB. I noticed that there were two different types of arrow symbols displayed along with the white space character. Is there a difference between these two arrow symbols?

Example: Notepad++ Show Symbols

2 Answers 2


There is no difference between the types of arrows. Convince yourself by replacing \t with 2 spaces. Make sure the "Search mode" is set to "Extended". There shall be no arrows afterwards.

Replace tabulators by spaces

  • 5
    If there's no difference between the two types of arrows... then why are there two types of arrows? There must be some significance, otherwise there wouldn't be two.
    – lornix
    Nov 9, 2011 at 20:20
  • 1
    notepad++ is showing different arrows based on where the tab character is entered. when I cut and paste "the small arrow" on next line, it shows as big arrow. hence, it looks like - small and long right arrows - both are tab characters only. Why notepad++ does so - not sure.
    – Sushil
    Nov 13, 2014 at 6:54
  • @Sushil because it's the distance between the current character to the next tab stop. All text editors show tab characters like that
    – phuclv
    Mar 20, 2022 at 1:44
  • @lornix there's only one type of arrow, it's just that the length differs because the distance to the next tab stop differs
    – phuclv
    Mar 20, 2022 at 1:44

The other person didn't really answer the question... the reason for the different sizes of arrows (in case you never figured it out) is because the arrow is showing the number of spaces remaining to the next full tab stop. If your tab number is 4 (default setting), when you create a new tab the arrow is 4 spaces long. If you press tab after typing 3 characters, for example, it's a tiny arrow, because there is only one more space left to the next tab stop. Make sense?

Demo to see the tab length decreases when there are fewer characters to the next tab stop:

Tab difference between Notepad and Notepad++

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