How to insert a Tab character on iPhone or iPad

Have you noticed that a Tab or indent key isn’t there on the default iOS keyboard on your iPhone? Maybe you’ve never needed it, so you didn’t spot the missing key. While the tabulator key may not exist on the keyboard, there are other ways to use one. Here are three ways to insert a tab character on iPhone and iPad.

Tab key on iPhone keyboard

Insert a tab character on iPhone with a text shortcut

Another way you can insert a tab character is by creating a shortcut for it on your Mac to use as a text replacement on your iOS device. If you try to create a text replacement using a tab directly on your iPhone or iPad keyboard, you’ll see an error. However, it does work when you create the shortcut on your Mac.

Shortcut Phrase Error on iPhone

Follow these steps on your Mac running macOS Ventura to create a text replacement that will serve the purpose of the tabular key on your iPhone:

  1. Click  and select System Settings.
  2. Choose Keyboard and click Text Replacements.
  3. Click the plus icon (+) to add a text replacement.
  4. Give it any name in the Replace box. You can use something like “Tabb.”
  5. In the With box, press the Option + Control + Tab keys together, which will insert a tab.
  6. Press the enter key or click Add.
  7. Finally, click Done to save it.
Add tab text replacement on Mac running macOS Ventura

Here’s how it looks on macOS Monterey and earlier versions:

Add tab to Mac Text Replacement
See how there is a space after pressing Option + Control + Tab. The green arrow shows that the cursor has moved a lot to the right.

This text replacement shortcut and phrase will sync automatically to your iPhone with the same Apple ID. Now, when you use the keyboard on your iPhone, just use this text replacement:

  1. Open the document and navigate to where you want the tab character.
  2. Type the name you gave to the shortcut on your Mac (step 4 above).
  3. When the text replacement displays, tap the Space key to insert it.
Insert Tab Character with Shortcut on iPhone

While this second option to insert a tab character on iOS may seem a bit clunky, it still works. So, if you prefer it over using the dictation method, give it a try.

Use the app’s built-in indent text feature

Some Apple apps like Mail, Notes, and Pages have the built-in option to indent text. Additionally, third-party apps like Edison Email and Evernote also offer support to indent your text. Here’s how:

1) Start typing or editing an existing note, document or email. You’ll see a toolbar with multiple options above the keyboard. It appears even if you use a third-party keyboard like SwiftKey.

2) Tap Aa.

3) Tap the indent text button with a right arrow. Its opposite is the adjacent button with a left arrow.

Indent text in Mail app on iPhone

This is how you can indent text easily in supported apps. Please note:

  • You can’t add indentation to note title, email subject line, or similar other fields. Most likely, you’ll see this option only in the main text field.
  • The icon to indent text may not look the same in all apps. But you can easily figure it out. For example, in the Pages app, it’s a tiny button with five lines and a plus icon > Tab.
Tab key in iOS Pages app

It’s great if an app on your iOS device offers the indent feature. If not, the first method and the one below it will come in handy.

Insert a tab character on iPhone with dictation

This works if your iPhone is running iOS 15 or earlier. It doesn’t work with iOS 16 and newer.

Open the document where you want to insert the tab and enable your keyboard if necessary. Just for this example, we’re using a simple email. Then, follow these steps:

1) Move to the point in the document where you want to insert the tab.

2) Tap the microphone button on your keyboard to use dictation.

3) Say “Tab key.”

You’ll then see the tab character inserted into your document. That’s it! We got this cool tip from Six Colors.

Insert Tab Character on iPhone Keyboard
Have you been struggling without the Tab key on your iOS keyboard? And if so, what have you done about it?

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