Hello everyone! We are sure this is an issue that a lot of us are familiar with, or have experienced at least once while working on Python. Let us discuss what this error means, for those who might be unfamiliar and a sure-shot way of preventing this from happening.
You will mostly find this error when you try to indent code using either spaces OR tabs in Python. If you use a combination of both these in the program, you are most likely going to encounter the error- “TabError-inconsistent use of spaces and tabs in indentation”
Let us discuss first, what this error means, and why it happens.
The difference between Tabs and Spaces
Tabs and Spaces are essentially two pieces of white space on the screen. There is no common consensus on how wide a ‘Tab’ character should be and this is the reason why many programmers say it occupies as much as 8 spaces and some show it as occupying a width of 4 and 2 and well, you get the drift.
When you are indenting in Python and this is the tricky part, Python is going to assume that you are using the same number of indentations for all the lines of code, irrespective of the number of spaces. This means that if on one line, it is indented with a tab and another with space, Python is going to give you an error, this means that even though it is going to look fine, visually on the editor, Python is going to show you an error.
Therefore, it would be recommended that you use either indentations OR spaces. The problem arises when you are working on someone else’s code, because you never know for sure, what they have used.
If this does arise, a good way to solve this would be to go to your text editor and in your settings, enable the ‘convert spaces to tabs’ option, which will replace the ‘Tab’ character with N space characters, N, here, would define the width your editor will be using.
Three additional reasons why you could be seeing the Error
- If you have placed an indentation in the wrong place, while programming, you will see an error. Python is like a strict parent and tolerates no mistakes. It follows strict guidelines when it comes to placing the code and if you have missed out on that, you will mostly see the error.
- Sometimes, and a lot of us might resonate with this, we might have had a marathon coding session and might have missed out on indenting compound statements such as ‘for’, ‘while’ and ‘if’, and presumably, this will lead to an error.
- If you do not use user-defined classes, then you are most likely going to experience an indentation error.
Python makes use of procedural language, if you miss out on adding tabs or space, you will most likely experience an error. You will find some cases where the entire program is going to work completely fine, however, somewhere during the middle of the program, the error will appear in the middle of the execution process.
The Python style guide mentions that spaces are the preferred method of indentation when coding in Python, however you have the option of using either spaces or tabs.
Why Indentation is important in Python, is because the program does not depend on syntax like curly brackets to denote the beginning and end of a code. Indents are what tell Python what part of code is part of which code block.
numbers = [14, 6, 4, 2, 11]
def calculate_average_ages ():
If there is no indentation in this program, it will be very difficult for the program to know what code should be a part of the calculated average program and what lines of code constitute the main program. If you are using spaces, then stay committed to spaces and likewise with Tabs. If you alternate between the two, then it is going to likely cause confusion for the Python interpreter, causing the error Taberror: inconsistent use of spaces and tabs in indentations.
Let’s look at an example:
Suppose you want to make a sum of purchases and want to calculate the total amount of value that defines the purchases. For the sake of this example- let us assume that this is at your favorite grocery store.
The first step here would be to define the value of the purchases:
Purchases= [ 3.5, 4.9, 6.8, 3.2 ]
Now, we are going to proceed to define a function that calculates the total of the purchases list:
1 def calculate_total_purchases(purchases):
2 total = sum(purchases)
3 return total
Our function is going to accept only one parameter- this parameter is the total value of the list of the purchases that we made. The function’s role is to return the total value of the list, that we have specified as a parameter in the first one.
To calculate the sum, we are going to use the standard sum () method.
Copying this code into your text editor, what you are going to notice is that the ‘return total’ code is indented whereas the ‘total=sum(purchases)” line uses spaces for indentation. The code is going to call for the calculate_total_purchases () function, to calculate the total value of the purchases made at the grocery store. If you are to print that value, you are most likely to see this when you run your code.
File “test1.py”, line 5
TabError: inconsistent use of tabs and spaces in indentation
The reason for this is fairly simple. We have used both indentations and spaces to underline this code. When you are using Python, you need to stick to either of these. The solution to this is as simple as the cause. For this one, we are just going to use spaces, instead of indentations.
total = sum(purchases)
We have used 4 spaces for our new indentation. With this indentation, you are going to see the result.
The program will give you the result that you are looking for.
One easy way of getting out of this problem is to use the in-built Indent Guide that you can find in Python. If you are to keep this option open, it is going to guide you through each line of code and show you where your error really is.
This method can be extremely time-consuming and can be considered ineffective, especially when you have to go through each line of code, it is the surest way of fixing your problem.
Python has been rated as one of the most versatile and adaptable programming languages. With the support that it offers for various programming styles and different languages, it is easily going to remain the widest choice amongst developers. However, you are going to face an indentation error once in a while and when that does happen, you know what you have to do. Now, that you have the knowledge to fix this problem WHEN it does happen, you should easily be able to find your way around this.