How Do I Create a Tab Delimiter to an Oracle SQL Statement?

by Sara Wayne
Keyboard image by S.Q T from

Oracle database tables are accessed using structured query language (SQL). The user views the SQL results on a screen or spools it to a file for later use. Several SQL commands are used in sequential order to add a delimiter to separate column values in the output file. Using a delimiter makes importing the file into Excel, Access or other applications an easier task because it eliminates the need to define the specific length of each field.

Step 1

Open an SQL*Plus session. Use the "set" command to define "colsep" (column separator) to be the tab special character. Type the following command and press "Enter": set colsep "&TAB"

Step 2

Execute an SQL select statement: select * from test_table

Step 3

View the results. Each column's value should appear separated by a space (a tab special character is not displayable) instead of the pipe (|) that is usually used. Results without changing the delimiter are displayed in the following manner: VALUE 1 | VALUE 2 | VALUE 3 Results after changing the column separator to a tab delimiter are displayed in the following manner: VALUE 1 VALUE 2 VALUE 3

Use the SQL*Plus spool function to write the output to a file. Import the file into any application that requires a tab delimited input file.


  • Depending on the SQL*Plus installation, spooling may need to be started prior to running the SQL and stopped after the SQL to create an output file.


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About the Author

Based in Texas, Sara Wayne has been a freelance writer since 2008, as well as a veteran IT professional. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science in management information systems and an English minor. Wayne's work has been published on and

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