Swing - Tabs to Spaces

How do you make a swing text component (JTextEditor, JEditorPane, etc.) to insert spaces whenever the user hits the "Tab" key?

The answer is below. It is based on setting a document filter on the component's document object. The (static) install() method can do all the setup for you.

package com.blogspot.javadots;

import javax.swing.text.AbstractDocument;
import javax.swing.text.AttributeSet;
import javax.swing.text.BadLocationException;
import javax.swing.text.DocumentFilter;
import javax.swing.text.JTextComponent;

public class TabToSpaceFilter extends DocumentFilter {

private String spaces = "";
private JTextComponent textComponent;

public TabToSpaceFilter(int tabSize, JTextComponent tc) {
textComponent = tc;
for(int i = 0; i < tabSize; ++i)
spaces += " ";

public void insertString(FilterBypass fb, int offset, String text,
AttributeSet attr) throws BadLocationException {
super.insertString(fb, offset, translate(offset, text), attr);

public void replace(FilterBypass fb, int offset, int length,
String text, AttributeSet attr) throws BadLocationException {
super.replace(fb, offset, length, translate(offset, text), attr);

private String translate(int offset, String s) {
int col = columnOf(offset);

StringBuilder sb = new StringBuilder();
int top = s.length();
for(int i = 0; i < top; ++i, ++col) {
char c = s.charAt(i);
if(c == '\t')
sb.append(spaces.substring(col % spaces.length()));

return sb.toString();

private int columnOf(int i) {
String s = textComponent.getText();
if(i == 0)
return 0;
int prev = s.lastIndexOf("\n", i-1);
if(prev < 0)
return i;

return (i-prev)-1;

public static void install(int tabSize, JTextComponent area) {
AbstractDocument ad = (AbstractDocument) area.getDocument();
ad.setDocumentFilter(new TabToSpaceFilter(tabSize, area));

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