Use Tabs Command: MS Word

Dennis Faas's picture

When you press the Tab key, the insertion point moves to the right 0.5 inch which means that your typing moves 0.5 inch to the right. This is MS Word's default tab. You use this tab to indent the first line of a paragraph, or even to separate short items, such as the chapter name and page title on a table of contents.

You can also use tabs to place columns of short items side by side, such as those in a schedule of events, but for that use you may want to set a custom tab.

Tabs come in four varieties: left, center, decimal, and right. You use the ruler or the Tabs dialog box to set the tabs. On the left side of the ruler is a button that controls the type of tab.

  • Left tab: Aligns the left edge of text at this spot.
  • Center tab: Centers the text wherever this tab is set.
  • Right tab: Aligns the right edge of text at this spot.
  • Decimal tab: Aligns decimals of numbers wherever this tab is.
  • First line indent: Sets a first line indent: use instead of dragging the top triangle on the ruler.
  • Hanging indent: Sets a hanging indent: use instead of dragging the lower-left triangle on the ruler.

To move text to the right, your first instinct might be to hold down the spacebar to insert a bunch of spaces. The trouble with using the Spacebar in this way is that a space is a variable measurement, and what looks good on your screen may look terrible when you print it. Instead, you should set tabs to align the text correctly.

You may press Tab multiple times to move the insertion point a half-inch farther to the right each time, but that's a lot of keystrokes to get all the way to the right side of the page. Instead, Word allows you to set a tab at any location along the ruler, so that you only have to press the Tab key once to have the insertion point jump immediately to that horizontal position.To place a tab on the ruler so that the new text you type will jump immediately into position when you press Tab, you must first designate the type of tab, and then set it on the ruler.

  1. Click the Tab Alignment button on the left side of the ruler to choose the type of tab.
  2. Click the lower half of the ruler to set the tab.
  3. Drag the tab setting left or right to adjust its location. (Hold down Alt or both mouse buttons while you drag to see the exact setting).
  4. Once the tabs are set, type your text and press Tab to jump to each tab setting. To remove all the tabs and restore the default paragraph formatting, select the paragraphs and press Ctrl + Q.

To display all the times you've pressed Tab, Space or Enter, click the Show/Hide button. Tabs appear as little arrows, spaces look like dots, and Enters appear as pilcrows (paragraph marks). These marks although visible when you have your Show/Hide turned on, do not print.

To see the screenshots for this article, click here.

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