How to find two or more non-consecutive tabs in a line?

  • Hi all,
    How can I find a line that contains 2 or more non-consecutive tabs? One of the tabs may or may not be at the beginning and/or at the end of the line.

    I tried to adopt a regex for a similar task, but with no success: " ^.(\t){2,}.\r\n ", "^.(?:\t*){2,}\r\n" ,

    Thanks in advance!

  • @glossar

    How about this?:


  • Hi Alan,

    Thank you but sadly it won’t work. It finds only two tabs, each in every other line, at least in my file, whereas it should locate a line that contain 2 or more tabs in it. (e.g.: blah [tab] blah blah more blah [tab] (blah blah [tab] blah)… ).

  • This raises maybe an interesting discussion: When are characters inside a character class notation, which means inside [ and ] non literal? On first crafting the above regex, I thought, this isn’t going to work, it is going to look for \ or t separately, not “tab” characters. But lo and behold, it does look for tabs. What are the rules for this?

    I know that [\R] will match \ or R and not match \R but that may be a special case and invalid because it can match possibly 2 characters, not just one.

    But there must be some general rules on what is special inside [] and [^]besides the “specialness” of - when used as a ranger, example [a-z] and the special way needed to get ] to be included in the set…

  • @glossar said:

    Thank you but sadly it won’t work.

    Hmmm. Works for me with a Mark operation shown here:


    I copied your text from this thread, did a regex replace on it for [tab] with \t…and then applied the regex specified earlier to redmark the text.

  • I can confirm that it finds a line that contains two tabs but if a line doesn’t meet the criteria, it looks further (greedy, you say? :) )and hence finds the following line together, which in the end looks like “every other line”. But I’m pretty sure it skips the \r\n.of a line if this line contains only one tab. Can you limit the regex, so it should look for and within only one line (by line, I mean anything between ^ and \r\n).

  • @glossar

    Ah, yes, okay, that makes sense. The [^\t]+ will capture across line-boundaries. At this point I will bow out and let the regex master @guy038 step in… :)

    And maybe he can comment on my “interesting disussion” post above as well.

  • maybe a screenshot helps:

  • I can’t see the screenshots above - neither on this page nor when clicking on it. All I see is a broken-image-file-icon and “Imgur” next to it.

  • Okay, one more try. It could be as simple(!) as changing it to this:



  • Thanks, that now works like a charm! :)

    While we are at it, how about building another regex that locates a line that contains no tab? :)

  • @glossar said:

    regex that locates a line that contains no tab?

    There might be better ones, but this one seems to work:


  • Hi, @glossar, @alan-kilborn, and All,

    A second solution could be :

    SEARCH (?-s)(?=.*\t.*\t).+

    A third solution could be, using the Mark dialog, w/o checking the Bookmark line option :

    MARK (?-s)\t.*\t

    Note, @alan-kilborn, that your regex should be changed into :

    SEARCH (?-s)^.*?\t[^\t\r\n]+\t.*?$

    To avoid wrong multi-lines match. However, this solution still misses some possibilities !

    You may test these 3 regexes, above, against the sample test, below :

    ---------------------------- 1 TEXT block without TAB -----> KO <----- ( because NO tabulation )
    ---------------------------- 1 TAB  without TEXT ----------> KO <----- ( because ONE tabulation ONLY )
    ---------------------------- 2 TABs without TEXT ----------- OK ------
    ---------------------------- 3 TABs without TEXT ----------- OK ------
    ---------------------------- 1 TAB  + 1 TEXT block --------> KO <----- ( because ONE tabulation ONLY )
    ---------------------------- 1 TAB  + 2 TEXT blocks -------> KO <----- ( because ONE tabulation ONLY )
    abcd	efgh
    ---------------------------- 2 TABs + 1 TEXT block --------- OK ------
    ---------------------------- 2 TABs + 2 TEXT blocks -------- OK ------
    abcd	efgh	
    abcd		ijkm
    	efgh	ijkl
    ---------------------------- 2 TABs + 3 TEXT blocks -------- OK ------
    abcd	efgh	ijkl
    ---------------------------- 3 TABs + 1 Text block --------- OK ------
    ---------------------------- 3 TABs + 2 Text blocks -------- OK ------
    abcd	efgh		
    abcd		ijkl	
    abcd			monp
    	efgh	ijkl	
    	efgh		monp
    		ijkl	monp
    ---------------------------- 3 TABs + 3 Text blocks -------- OK ------
    abcd	efgh	ijkm	
    	efgh	ijkl	mnop
    ---------------------------- 3 TABs + 4 Text blocks -------- OK ------
    abcd	efgh	ijkl	mnop

    Best Regards,


  • @glossar , @Alan-Kilborn , @Meta-Chuh , et alia,

    Unfortunately, the (?-s) only changes the behavior of . with respect to newlines; it doesn’t change character classes, so [^\t]+ means “one or more characters that don’t match a TAB, even if those characters are newlines”. By changing the full regex to (?-s)^.*?\t[^\t\r\n]+\t.*?$, I was able to get it to skip lines like @Meta-Chuh 's example of x instead of the TAB. The class [^\t\r\n] means “match one or more characters that isn’t any of TAB, CR (carriage return), or LF (line-feed)”

    I am not as regex expert as @guy038, so I may be misinterpreting; however, the boost docs say (emphasis mine)

    Escaped Characters
    All the escape sequences that match a single character, or a single character class are permitted within a character class definition. For example [[]] would match either of [ or ] while [\W\d] would match any character that is either a “digit”, or is not a “word” character.

    Since \R doesn’t match a “single character” (it can match a single character or a pair of characters more than one character, see boost’s “Matching Line Endings” section), it doesn’t fall within the allowable escape sequences permitted in the character class.

    edit: while typing this up, four more posts were made. Hopefully, I still added to the discussion.
    edit 2: clarify the \R

  • @PeterJones said:

    Hopefully, I still added to the discussion.

    You did, and you helped make it an “interesting discussion”. thanks.

  • Alan, the second one that finds no-tab :), works, thank you.

    Guy and Peter - Thank you for stepping-in! :) Much appreciated!

    Have a nice day!

  • Hi, @glossar, @alan-kilborn, @meta-chuh, @peterjones, and All,

    Here is an other solution, which looks for all contents of lines containing, at least , 2 tabulation chars ( can’t do shorter ! ) :

    SEARCH (?-s).*\t.*\t.*

    Just for information, an other formulation of the Alan’s regex, which searches lines which do not contain any tabulation char, could be :

    SEARCH (?!.*\t)^.+

    Negative character classes are often misunderstood, Indeed ! When you’re using, for instance, the negative class character below :


    It will match ANY Unicode character which is DIFFERENT from, either <char1>, <char2> and all characters between <char3> and <char4> included. So, most of the time, it probably matches the \r and \n END of Line characters. To avoid matching these line-break chars, just insert \r and \n, inside the negative class, at any location, after the ^, except in ranges :




  • @Alan-Kilborn said:

    @glossar said:

    regex that locates a line that contains no tab?

    There might be better ones, but this one seems to work:


    Hi @alan-kilborn,
    Is it possible for you to modify this regex so shat it should skip blank lines, i.e. the ones containing no characters at all, just (if applicable, ^ and) \r\n. Currently the regex finds blank lines as well since they , too, meet the criteria “no-tab”.

    Thanks in advance!

  • Hi, @glossar, @alan-kilborn, @meta-chuh, @peterjones, and All,

    I may be mistaken but I think that the regex (?!.*\t)^.+, of my previous post, just meet your needs, doesn’t it ?



  • @glossar said:

    Is it possible for you to modify this regex so shat it should skip blank lines

    So we should look at what the original means:


    It says (basically) to match zero or more occurrences (because of the use of *) of anything that is not TAB. If we change it to match ONE or more occurrences (we’re going to change * to + to do this) of anything that is not TAB). Because we have to match at least ONE thing, empty/blank lines are no longer matched:


    Which is basically what @guy038 said, but I wanted to elaborate a bit!

Log in to reply