I usually edit Python files with nano, so I need four spaces instead of a tab. How can I get nano to automatically insert spaces for tabs, and control how many of them it inserts?


2 Answers 2


Either create .nanorc in your home folder, including:

set tabsize 4
set tabstospaces

or edit the system /etc/nanorc file.


From the nano Command Manual:

-E, --tabstospaces
Convert typed tabs to spaces.

-T <#cols>, --tabsize=<#cols>
Set the displayed tab length to #cols columns. The value of #cols must be greater than 0. The default value is 8.

For four spaces, the appropriate command would therefore be nano -ET4.

Consider creating a permanent alias.

  • 5
    you could also consider editing /etc/nanorc instead of making an alias. May 6, 2011 at 16:48
  • I feel like patching /etc/nanorc.... and uploading to fix this once and for all. With python3 not accepting mixed tabs&spaces this is silly to have tabs in python files in nano.
    – Dima
    Aug 23, 2012 at 16:46

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