Indentation Settings determine the size of the tab stops, and control whether the tab key should insert tabs or spaces. In addition to the automatic detection, they can be customized globally, per-file type, or per-file.


tab_sizeIntegerThe number of spaces a tab is considered equal to
translate_tabs_to_spacesBooleanif true, spaces will be inserted up to the next tab stop when tab is pressed, rather than inserting a tab character
detect_indentationBooleanif true (the default), tab_size and translate_tabs_to_spaces will be calculated automatically when loading a file
use_tab_stopsBooleanIf translate_tabs_to_spaces is true, use_tab_stops will make tab and backspace insert/delete up to the next tab stop Settings Files

Settings files are consulted in this order:

  1. Packages/Default/Preferences.sublime-settings
  2. Packages/Default/Preferences ({platform}).sublime-settings
  3. Packages/User/Preferences.sublime-settings
  4. Packages/{syntax}/{syntax}.sublime-settings
  5. Packages/User/{syntax}.sublime-settings

In general, you should place your settings in Packages/User/Preferences.sublime-settings. If you want to specify settings for a certain file type, for example, Python, you should place them in Packages/User/Python.sublime-settings.

Example Settings File

Try saving this as Packages/User/Preferences.sublime-settings

  "tab_size": 4,
  "translate_tabs_to_spaces": false

Per-syntax Settings

Settings may be specified on a per-syntax basis. You can edit the settings for the current syntax using the Preferences/Settings - More/Syntax Specific - User menu.

Indentation Detection

When a file is loaded, its contents are examined, and the tab_size and translate_tabs_to_spaces settings are set for that file. The status area will report when this happens. While this generally works well, you may want to disable it. You can do that with the detect_indentation setting.

Indentation detection can be run manually via the View/Indentation/Guess Settings From Buffer menu, which runs the detect_indentation command.

Converting Between Tabs and Spaces

The View/Indentation menu has commands to convert leading whitespace in the current file between tabs and spaces. These menu items run the expand_tabs and unexpand_tabs commands.

Automatic Indentation

Automatic indentation guesses the amount of leading whitespace to insert on each line when you press enter. It’s controlled with these settings:

auto_indentBooleanenabled by default. Enables auto indent
smart_indentBooleanenabled by default. Makes auto indent a little smarter, e.g., by indenting the next line after an if statement in C.
trim_automatic_white_spaceBooleanenabled by default. Trims white space added by auto_indent when moving the caret off the line.
indent_to_bracketBooleandisabled by default. Adds whitespace up to the first open bracket when indenting.