I'm looking for either some built-in setting or a simple mode for viewing and editing tab-separated columns (TSV files).

All I need is for the TSV text to be displayed in a way that respects the vertical alignment of the columns, and the horizontal alignment of the rows. If line-wrapping could be toggled that would be sweet, but secondary.

Searching for column viewing in emacs is made difficult by the fact that the word "column" already has a different meaning in Emacs.

(I specified "simple" to discourage answers like org-mode's column view. At the moment my needs are extremely simple, and I don't want to contend with installing, loading, and learning about a monster mode like org.)

  • 3
    You don't need to learn every feature that org-mode offers just to view a file in column view. – nispio Oct 10 '14 at 14:12
  • Not an answer, but maybe helpful as a general tip: There is a built-in command for toggling line-wrapping: toggle-truncate-lines. – itsjeyd Oct 10 '14 at 14:31
  • 5
    You might want to look at csv-mode in ELPA. It supports setting a different separator character from ,. – Vamsi Oct 10 '14 at 16:33
  • @Vamsi please consider posting csv-mode as an answer. – Jordon Biondo Mar 24 '16 at 1:02

This should give you a chance to try out Org tables with virtually no learning curve. Place the following code in your init file and run it:

(defun my-export-to-parent ()
  "Exports the table in the current buffer back to its parent DSV file and
    then closes this buffer."
  (let ((buf (current-buffer)))
    (org-table-export parent-file export-func)
    (set-buffer-modified-p nil)
    (switch-to-buffer (find-file parent-file))
    (kill-buffer buf)))

(defun my-edit-dsv-as-orgtbl (&optional arg)
  "Convet the current DSV buffer into an org table in a separate file. Saving
    the table will convert it back to DSV and jump back to the original file"
  (interactive "P")
  (let* ((buf (current-buffer))
         (file (buffer-file-name buf))
         (txt (substring-no-properties (buffer-string)))
         (org-buf (find-file-noselect (concat (buffer-name) ".org"))))
    (with-current-buffer org-buf
      (insert txt)
      (org-table-convert-region 1 (buffer-end 1) arg)
      (setq-local parent-file file)
       ((equal arg '(4)) (setq-local export-func "orgtbl-to-csv"))
       ((equal arg '(16)) (setq-local export-func "orgtbl-to-tsv"))
       (t (setq-local export-func "orgtbl-to-tsv")))
      (add-hook 'after-save-hook 'my-export-to-parent nil t))
    (switch-to-buffer org-buf)
    (kill-buffer buf)))

;; Open the current TSV file as an Org table
(global-set-key (kbd "C-c |") 'my-edit-dsv-as-orgtbl)

Now, from a TSV file you can press C-c | and your table will be converted to an Org table. (With C-u C-c | it will work for a CSV file too.) Once you are done editing the Org table, press C-x C-s and the Org table will be converted back to TSV and saved back into the original file.

  • This works very well for small tables. However maybe due to the way org-mode deals with tables, things start getting slow, lagged response when tables has about 1000 rows and 10 columns for my case. – biocyberman Apr 15 '16 at 7:46

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