Tech Tuesday: Tab Stops in Word

Each Tuesday, pleasureinlearning brings you Tech Tuesday.  Come back each week for more ways to become efficient and effective in your use of technology. 

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When working in Word, you know that you can press the tab key to jump to the right 0.5 inches.  You can use the same key multiple times to indent further.  This is due to the magical tab stops that exist every 0.5 inches by default.  That is, when you press tab, your cursor goes until it reaches a tab stop.  These tab stops are actually LEFT tab stops so that your text is left-aligned against them.  Today’s post will enlighten you on how to create your own tab stops at any point on the ruler and introduce you to the different kinds of tab stops.

Tab stops are a form of paragraph formatting.  Whenever you press enter (to start a new paragraph), paragraph formatting is carried over to the next paragraph.  Thus, if you require tab stops, it is easiest to set them before beginning your work.  Otherwise, you must select the paragraphs to which the tab stops will apply.

To create a tab stop:

  1. Be sure your ruler is visible (View Tab | Ruler Checkbox)
  2. On the left side of your ruler, select the type of tab stop you want.  Click to cycle through the options. The default is a left tab stop.
  3. Click on the ruler at the position that you want the tab stop.
  4. To modify a tab stop, drag it to a new location or double-click it to change its settings.  One of the options is a leader line.

Lines 2 through 4 of this piano recital program employ a right tab stop at the 3 inch mark (with a leader line) to align the musical selection on the right.

Right Tab Stop

Because I chose for the program to end at the 3 inch mark on the ruler, centering the title above the listing is difficult… unless you use a center tab stop at the 1.5 inch mark!

Center Tab STopNotice that the tab stops appear differently in each of the above pictures.  When I captured the first image, my cursor was in paragraph 2 (the second line).  For the second picture, my cursor was in the title paragraph.

For all 4 lines, only one tab stop and one use of the tab key was required.  Here I have turned on the formatting marks so that you can see what is going on behind the scenes.  Uses of the Tab key are indicated with an arrow.

Tab Stops with Formatting On

See if you can recreate my document.  Here is my final document: Summer Recital.  After you click this link, you’ll have to click one more to download the file.

Finally, see the other kinds of tab stops that exist.

Come back next week to find out how to stop fighting with that hourglass looking thingy on the left end of the ruler.

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One comment on “Tech Tuesday: Tab Stops in Word

  1. Karen Dougherty says:

    Thank you, Kristen! My number one swear-inducing issue in Word is dealing with the margin/alignment gremlins. Now I think that I can bend them to my will. What a relief! (And, yes, I know I could have looked in a manual or googled a solution, but your explanations are SO much better and easier to follow.) You’re the best.

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