A lot of the time, when I want to format text within a web page's text box I'll hit the Tab key.

Unfortunately, that doesn't insert the tab character but instead moves the control to the next form element (like a button or a check box).

For browsers like Firefox/IE, is there a way to get the formatting behavior of a tab, within a text box, by typing a key combination?

13 Answers 13


Tabinta is a Firefox add-on that lets you do this.

  • 4
    Any solution for Chrome?
    – sorin
    Mar 16 '12 at 14:47
  • 2
    @SorinSbarnea: See my answer Jan 20 '14 at 12:13
  • 1
    It's not compatible with Firefox anymore.
    – rory.ap
    Nov 5 '18 at 15:02
  • This is a plugin that works in Firefox 64: addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/textarea-tabbing Jan 9 '19 at 22:21
  • 1
    This plugin no longer exists (at no fault of the answer, it has been nearly a decade since the question was answered and Firefox has changed a lot).
    – aoeu
    Apr 15 '19 at 13:23

In Windows, you can push Alt+09. This only works with the number pad number keys. (Release Alt after pressing the last number key.)

  • 6
    Be sure you are using the NumPad keys Mar 17 '10 at 0:30
  • 1
    @Chris: When I follow those exact instructions, it doesn't insert a tab character, but acts like the tab key. Did you try this in a web browser?
    – Casebash
    Apr 9 '10 at 4:39
  • 2
    Only if you have Windows and a keyboard with a numpad. Oct 11 '11 at 4:15
  • 1
    ... and if you are using Chrome. FF sees it like the tab key, IE doesn't seem to do anything. Again, +1 for reminding this simple olden hack :) Dec 18 '11 at 17:48
  • 2
    This does not work for me in FF.
    – Pedro77
    Feb 28 '14 at 13:39

Linux and other POSIX systems (except Mac OS):

To input tabs in GTK+ applications (like Firefox or Chrome):

  1. Ctrl + Shift + U

  2. Type 9

  3. Press Space or Enter

Source: Wikipedia: Unicode Input

  • It works but not useful for indenting multiple lines at once. Dec 27 '16 at 5:17

In Safari and Firefox on Mac OS X, you can press ControlOptionTab to insert a tab in the text field you're currently editing.

  • 10
    Looks like this doesn't work in Chrome 50 on El Cap
    – jcollum
    May 23 '16 at 15:24
  • 2
    Nor on Firefox 53 on Sierra. May 25 '17 at 16:25
  • 1
    @JasonR.Coombs Still works in Safari, so it's safe to assume something changed in Firefox in the four years since I wrote this answer.
    – Daniel Beck
    May 25 '17 at 18:30

Open Notepad or similar text editor, and start a new blank document. Type Tab. Copy your tab character to the clipboard. (On Windows, Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C will do this).

Now switch back to the textarea in your browser. Position the cursor where you want it, and paste the tab character. (Ctrl+V on Windows).

Voila, done!

  • 1
    Ciro, is it broken for regular textboxes and text input fields, or just "contenteditable" elements? Because if it's just a problem for "contenteditable", it might not affect that many people (the OP for example)...
    – Doin
    Aug 1 '15 at 12:46
  • 2
    This was the simplest solution, unless you need to do this frequently.
    – jcollum
    May 23 '16 at 15:33

There is a Chrome plugin called Textarea Code Formatter.

It allows you insert tabs into text boxes in the Chrome browser. It also allows you to highlight multiple lines and insert tabs before each selected line.

However, an issue is that often you want standard tab insertion behaviour. If you do use tab to toggle between boxes, then you may to select "disabled" by default in the options.


If it's your site:

jQuery plugin: http://teddevito.com/demos/textarea.html

jQuery(document).ready(function () {



Load jQuery and the plugin first, then you can tab and make a tab, and shift+tab to "untab" as it were.

For browser-wide support, you will have to use an extension, userscript, plugin, etc. like: 46704 for Greasemonkey.

  • The link is dead. What's with all this jQuery stuff. There's got to be a way to accept tabs using plain JavaScript. The jQuery plugin is always nice for an already-implemented solution, but it's not really the solution.
    – Triynko
    Apr 22 '14 at 22:17
  • Try this chief: stackoverflow.com/a/13130
    – Grizly
    Apr 23 '14 at 2:15

The big advantage of Tabinta in Firefox is that you can map the tab character to another hotkey, since you really don't want to lose the tab key default behavior in the browser.

With Internet Explorer you have no solution in the way of browser extensions that I am aware of. Here the only way is to keep the tab character in the clipboard by having previously copied it from some other program like notepad.

javascript solutions require the name of the textbox where they will act on, so this is far from ideal or practical. While alt keycode combinations under both browsers still execute the normal tab character keypress event so they don't work either.


I've messed wit AutoHotkey a bit to get this ability, and the only 'bulletproof' solution I found is really to paste (not send) the tab character itself.

; TAB character
; pasted from clipboard
; win tab

It turns out that this AHK bind is even useful in text editors that handles the TAB keystroke extra; eg. IDE configured to use autoindent-by-spaces.


Tab Grabber is kinda like Tabinta, only for Chrome (allows TABs in textarea fields).


Use jQuerry's tabby! Supports select row and press tab odr SHIFT TAB



To type the tab key in a text box, you can use a script like this (text box which accepts tab keys is named txtLongText):


txtLongText.Attributes.Add("onkeydown", _
"if(event.which || event.keyCode){if ((event.which == 9)" & _ 
"|| (event.keyCode == 9)) {document.getElementById('" & _ 
txtLongText.ClientID + "').selection = " & _
document.selection.createRange();" & _ 
txtLongText.ClientID & ".selection.text = " & _
" String.fromCharCode(9);return false;}} else {return true}; ")


"if(event.which || event.keyCode){if ((event.which == 9)" +
"|| (event.keyCode == 9)) {document.getElementById('"+
txtLongText.ClientID + "').selection = document.selection.createRange();" + 
txtLongText.ClientID + ".selection.text = String.fromCharCode(9);return false;}} else {return true}; ");

Or better, to avoid hard coding, you can put this code in a function named EnableTabType. The function has only one parameter, which specifies what is TextBox control where you need to enable typing of Tab characters.


Public Sub EnableTabType(tb As TextBox)
    tb.Attributes.Add("onkeydown", _
    "if(event.which || event.keyCode){if((event.which == 9)" & _ 
    "|| (event.keyCode == 9)) {document.getElementById('" & _ 
    tb.ClientID & "').selection=document.selection.createRange();" & _
    tb.ClientID & ".selection.text = " & _
    " String.fromCharCode(9);return false;}}else{return true};")
End Sub 


public void EnableTabType(TextBox tb)
    "if(event.which || event.keyCode){if ((event.which == 9)" +
    "|| (event.keyCode == 9)) {document.getElementById('"+
    tb.ClientID + "').selection = document.selection.createRange();" +
    tb.ClientID + ".selection.text = String.fromCharCode(9);return false;}} else {return true}; ");

Source: http://www.beansoftware.com/ASP.NET-Tutorials/Access-Tab-Key.aspx


or using ahk to insert 4*space in editor:

tabspace:="    "

you can see code details explaintation in ahk code

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