I already posted this on askdifferent, but no luck. Glad to remove if out of scope.

So I am running some Python scripts that print out tab-delimited data (i.e. adding the \t character during the print command).


  • I am trying to copy that tab-delimited data from the shell / Terminal into Excel Mac or other spreadsheet applications, hoping they would recognize the tab-delimination and put the items into separate cells

This does not work; however, if I copy the text into an editor such as Atom or Emacs first, and then into Excel, it recognizes the tabs as delimiters.

  • Why does it work with the additional step?
  • Do the text editors change the nature of the tabs, and how can I emulate this behavior within the Terminal?


print "123\tbeetle\t12.4\n200\tbutterfly\t1.2\n"


Copy from Terminal into Excel:

Copy into Excel directly

Copy from Terminal to Text Editor, then into Excel:

Copy via Text Editor

Any help is much appreciated! I know there are more elegant ways of doing this, but this is still something I'd like to figure out.

I found a somewhat similar, but unresolved question here.

Running Python 2.7.13 , Sierra 10.12.6, Excel 2016 for Mac


It's presumably a limitation of your terminal application. In comparison, tabs copy fine from my (Linux) terminal. Perhaps you could try a different emulator? (I've heard good things about iTerm2.)

Alternatively, you could directly pipe into the clipboard. I believe the command on OS X is pbcopy. i.e.

print "123\tbeetle\t12.4\n200\tbutterfly\t1.2\n" | pbcopy
  • 1
    pbcopy totally does it. Thank you for your help! – patrick Feb 15 '18 at 21:57

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