Using Indents and Tabs

In Word 2010 indents and tabs add structure to documents. Use the MS Word indent ruler and tabs to help make documents clearer.


Tabs are often the best way to control exactly where text is placed. By default, each time you press the Tab key, the insertion point will move 1/2 inch to the right. By adding tab stops to the ruler, you can change the size of the tabs, and you can even have more than one type of alignment in a single line. For example, you could left-align the beginning of the line and right-align the end of the line by adding a right tab.

Using more than one type of alignment Using two types of alignment

Pressing the Tab key can either add a tab or create a first-line indent, depending on where the insertion point is. Generally, if the insertion point is at the beginning of an existing paragraph it will create a first-line indent; otherwise, it will create a tab.

The tab selector

The tab selector is above the vertical ruler on the left. Hover over the tab selector to see the name of the type of tab stop that is active.

The tab selector The tab selector

Types of tab stops include:

Although Bar Tab, First Line Indent, and Hanging Indent appear on the tab selector, they're not technically tabs.

To add tab stops:

  1. Select the paragraph or paragraphs you want to add tab stops to. If you don't select any paragraphs, the tab stops will apply to the current paragraph and any new paragraphs you type below it.
  2. Click the tab selector until the tab stop you want to use appears.
  3. Click the location on the horizontal ruler where you want your text to appear (it helps to click the bottom edge of the ruler). You can add as many tab stops as you want.
    Adding tab stops Adding a Decimal tab stop
  4. Place the insertion point where you want to add the tab, then press the Tab key. The text will jump to the next tab stop.
    Adding tabs Using the Tab key to move the text to each tab stop
  5. To remove a tab stop, drag it off of the Ruler.

Click the Show/Hide ¶ command on the Home tab in the Paragraph group. This will allow you to see nonprinting characters such as the spacebar, paragraph (¶), and Tab key markings.

The Show/Hide Paragraph command The Show/Hide ¶ command
Tab markings Tab markings