Click to download this web app for offline and sharing.

Introducing ColorTab

Create or convert guitar tablature using a new compact notation. ColorTab shows strings by color on a single line instead of six lines of dashes. Converted songs are more convenient on screen or printed page. ColorTab saves space but is easy to read and understand. Chords are under gray in low to high string order. Here is Greensleeves in text tablature and converted (this example will load if is clicked while the Tab section is empty).

  1. |
  2. |
  3. -
  4. -
  5. 2
  6. |

  7. |
  8. |
  9. 0
  10. 1
  11. -
  12. 3
  13. 3
  14. 0
  15. -
  16. 1 0
  17. |
  18. 3
  19. 3
  20. -
  21. 0
  22. 0
  23. 0
  24. -
  25. 2
  26. 0
  27. |

  28. |
  29. 0
  30. 1
  31. -
  32. 2
  33. 0
  34. 2
  35. -
  36. 1 2
  37. |
  38. 0
  39. 0
  40. -
  41. 1
  42. 0
  43. 2
  44. -
  45. 2
  46. |

(Reload or change number of strings to clear the example)


ColorTab can be used online or from html files on any device that supports a web browser like Chrome or Firefox. A laptop or desktop is best for editing, but any device can be used. Touch keyboards for phones use to end a measure, Space adds a column of dashes, . cycles through the strings and , moves back a column. Turning off predictive text is recommended. Saved ColorTab song files can be shared by message or email attachment. These small files can be edited, copied and saved to make changes or create new tabs without an internet connection (when device security permits).


Tab for any stringed instrument with 4 to 9 strings can be converted or created. The selector has standard choices with the most common tunings. The instrument name in the ColorTab can be edited. String notes and tab matching starting characters can be customized for any tuning by editing or pasting example tab. There are three columns for notes like Eb and then either |'s or -'s. Spaces and capitalization do not affect copy and paste matching. Instrument selection should be done before adding or composing tab. However, the matching pattern and notes can be changed anytime for combining tab from sources with different formats.

Copy Existing Tab

Copy any text tab and paste to immediately convert into ColorTab. Use the browser menu paste, right click or Ctrl/Cmd+V to insert tab copied from other apps. The button is used for tab sections copied in the editor, while clipboard content is pasted by the browser. Lines of text that do not begin with string notes in proper sequence are ignored so an entire page can be copied and pasted at once. Only the tablature portion of pasted text remains after conversion. If "No tab found" results, starting string note letters do not match the beginnings on any group of tab lines. The matching pattern can be changed to match any tab style.

Editing Tab Text

Tab in the text box can be easily edited and ColorTab below is updated instantly. Composing new tab is also quick and easy. All string lines can be changed together. or part of tab text using the start and end of a highlighted selection. Only one line will show as selected but all will be copied or removed. inserts selected lines at the cursor, click or move elsewhere and paste to insert tab anywhere including the end or beginning. Any line can be used to position the insertion cursor. Copy or Cut tab sections to paste them into other text apps from the clipboard. If nothing is highlighted the entire tab text is copied or cut.

Backspace and Delete keys remove one column at a time. Space or Insert keys add a column of dashes at the cursor position. Measure bars can be inserted using the , Enter or | key, or by copying. Fret numbers or other characters overtype exising tab. Adding a note that would fall on a bar will insert a new column. Adding at the end fills in dashes on all other lines. Fret numbers typed sequentially on the same string will automatically be separated by dashes, saving keystrokes (two digit entries up to fret 24 will not add dashes). and are Page Up and Page Down keys. , Home, End touch or the mouse can be used to move around.

ColorTab Style Choices

starts each tab section on a new line, where double || separates parts of the song. New staves in copied tab will paste as parts, but the |'s can be edited as desired to split or join sections. won't split measures across lines when active. Chords are not broken apart at line ends. keeps tab spacing or removes dashes. When off like this , these buttons make a smaller but possibly less readable conversion. Stray letters or symbols not placed near any fret numbers are shown like  this . Font size   can be adjusted to make text easier to read or fit more notes on each line.


The lower portion of the gray area is used to paste or type lyrics or other text such as chord names. This text will appear below ColorTab lines aligned with measure bars. Spaces in the lyrics area can be used to position text into desired measures. Lyrics for an entire song can be copied and pasted without regard to line breaks, these are removed. Lyric text will skip over measure bars that come from tab text.

Because chords are inline rather than vertical, the position of lyric text is often not perfect. Spaces can adjust positions of words and syllables to match tab notes and chords. When needed, blanks will extend the text tab measures to make room for lyrics. Letter spacing of the lyric text can be adjusted with buttons.


Measure bars | usually come from the tab text and are automatically added to the lyric text area. Sometimes it is preferable to start with lyrics, adding measures directly in lyric text to create or modify tab |'s. Tab -> | can be changed to Lyric ->| to use lyrics as the measure | source (Shift-Alt shortcut). Highlighting will change from gray to blue to indicate this editing mode. Measure bars can then be added, moved or deleted in the lyrics and the tab bars will follow. Once lyrics and tab measure bars are in place and matching, use the |=Lock=| option (Esc shortcut). Highlighted in green, each measure is edited independantly without affecting others. Tab or lyric text can be added or removed as needed. Measure bars cannot be changed while locked. The measure bar source can be changed anytime. Esc and Tab keyboard shortcuts change from Lock to Tab | modes. Alt moves to lyrics from the tab area, moves back up to the tab.

A warning "Measure |'s not aligned" means there are some extra or missing dashes, or a mistake like I for | in the tab text. Measures should be corrected because some notes might be out of sequence in the conversion. This can be difficult to fix since many measures may be affected and all lines are edited together. Error messages can be stopped by then editing and when done. Sections beginning on new lines can be done by adding or removing ||'s in the text as desired.

Chord Names and Lyric Styles

Special text such as chord names in the lyrics portion of ColorTab can be added using [Am7] like this Am7. Text enclosed in (parenthesis) will be italic. Sections such as Chorus are formed by %Chorus% and will insert a blank line when used after || . Any text style can be created by using {} to enclose CSS (Cascaded Style Sheets) instructions. For example {color:yellow; background:blue; font-family:monospace} is this. The style only applies to the individual measure and can be ended by using \ to separate some later text. To add multiple lines in lyrics use <br> and then an empty part || to make room between the ColorTab lines.

Music Symbols

Notes, rests, articulations, barlines, dynamics, fingering, time signatures etc., can be added in the lyric text or in the tab. The button reveals a table with all music symbols. These will be entered at the cursor location with a single click on the desired symbol. Notes should be placed immediately after a fret number to indicate duration in the ColorTab.

Musical symbols that are not associated with fret number notes can also be added. These are typically at the beginning or end of measures but can be inserted anywhere. Symbols that do not follow fret numbers will appear in the ColorTab on a gray background like this      The text tab is converted to ColorTab from bottom to top and then left to right.

Open and Save Files

The downloads songs as ColorTab web pages (.html files) using the song title as file name. These can be used offline without Internet, they include all editing tools and can resave as new songs or versions. Tab text files are loaded directly with or by drag and drop in the tab area. The new tab from the file will be inserted at the cursor. Print ColorTab to PDF or paper using the browser print function. The background is white, text and controls do not print, and page scaling and rotation can be set as desired. Choose the print background graphics option for color. Import tab from MusicXML using the link at the bottom. tab and paste in a new text file to save ascii tab.


  1. |
  2. 1 2 3
  3. |
  4. 1
  5. -
  6. 3
  7. |
  8. 1
  9. -
  10. 2
  11. -
  12. |
  13. 12 23
  14. |

There are two dash sizes for timing. Long and short dashes are used according to the text tab spacing. If notes in ascii text tab are as close together as possible, they must still be separated, like 1-2-3. This separation is not required in ColorTab so no dash is used. Enough separation to allow adding a note between two notes requires three dashes in tab like this 1---3. This spacing is represented by a long dash in ColorTab. A short dash is used when this 1--2 sequence occurs. Because text tab spacing is affected by two digit fret numbers and extra characters like b and / the timing indication is often not precise.


String colors are chosen for good contrast between any string pair, and for best possible visibility for users with color vision deficiency. They are even usable in grayscale, going dark to light from low to high strings. Fret numbers reverse from black to white for contrast, white for wound strings. Combined with selectable large type size, ColorTab can be easier to read than other notation.

Version 0.9 10/10/2020

  1. C
  2. o
  3. l
  4. o
  5. r
  6. T
  7. a
  8. Ñ
 Jump to measure  
chord timing
  1. E
  2. A
  3. D
  4. G
  5. B
  6. e
  7. Guitar

  8. |
  9. |
  10. 0
  11. 2
  12. 1
  13. 2
  14. 0
  15. 3
  16. 2
  17. 0
  18. 0
  19. 0
  20. 0
  21. 2
  22. 2
  23. 2
  24. 2
  25. 2
  26. 2 
  27. |
  28. 3
  29. 0
  30. 4
  31. 3
  32. 5
  33. 3
  34. |