One of the most viewed posts on this blog is the unix-join-with-tabs one where I describe the "Ctrl-v
cut -f':' --output-delimiter=<tab>where the output delimiter needs to be a tab.
However, there's a much nicer/easier way of specifying a tab character in bash:
$'\t'. Take a look a the QUOTING section of the bash manpage for all the details.
Here's a simple example of it in action: