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A pad character is a character in a field or string that is used to create uniform length for a data set. Using pad characters, a program makes a given "string," which is a programed set of characters, a certain length, regardless of what it contains.
Pad characters work to make random or user-entered strings or fields a consistent length. One easy example is in a database: if the table has to contain fields of 10 character each, and users are entering items in lengths of, say four, five and six characters, the corresponding number of pad characters are attached to each item, in order to create a uniform set of 10-character items.
In older systems, pad characters were often displayed on the screen as asterisks, pound signs, or other characters. This is still commonplace in database systems, where some other types of newer programs might show pad characters as empty spaces. In some cases, programmers have to use commands to let the database or system know that certain characters are pad characters, otherwise it interprets the pad characters as being actual parts of a string.