Entab And Detab

May 6, 2011

In ancient times, say the 1970s, religious wars were fought about whether to indent blocks of code using tabs or spaces, and how wide the indents should be. Then editing environments got better and programmers stopped arguing about tabs and started arguing about other things, like where the braces go. Now, with the advent of the internet, the problem of tab/space indentation seems to be returning, as copy/paste operations between web browsers and text editors seem to get the indentation wrong (especially when the source is the evil PDF format).

In ancient times, the normal solution to the tab/space indentation problem was a pair of programs, entab and detab, that could easily convert between the two formats. Now, with the internet, it behooves us to resurrect those old programs.

Your task is to write programs that convert files using tabs for indentation to files using spaces for indentation, and vice versa; be sure to permit an argument specifying the width of the tab. When you are finished, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.

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