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Using Tabbed Text in MS Word

Guest Author - Chris Curtis

When you want to organize your information in tabular columns, you can use the tab feature in Word to keep your text in perfect alignment.

Default Tab Stops
The default tab stops in Word are set at inch increments. When you press the Tab key, the insertion point will move to the next preset tab stop. For example, if you began at the left margin and typed To: then pressed the Tab key, the insertion point would move to inch. You can change the default tab increment in the Format Tabs dialog box.

Tab Stops You Set
Word offers the flexibility to set tab stops as needed on a single line of text or a block of lines within your document. When you set a tab stop, the preset tabs to the left of your tab are cleared, while the preset tabs to the right of your tab remain in place.

There are 5 types of tabs you can set: left, center, right, decimal, and bar. You can also select from 4 leader options. Tabs can be set directly on the ruler or you can use the Format Tabs dialog box.

To set tabs using the ruler:

The Tab button is found on the left side of the ruler. It cycles through the tab choices each time you click on it. You set the tab stop on the ruler by selecting the type of tab you want on the button face, and then click on the gray area below where you want the tab stop to be set. You will see a tab indicator set on the ruler where you clicked. Once the tab is set, you can drag it to another location, if needed.

If you are setting or adjusting a tab position for multiple lines or paragraphs, you MUST pre-select all of the lines you want to have affected.


To set tabs using the Format Tab dialog box:

To open the Format Tab dialog box, select Tab from the Format command on the menu bar.

You can change the default tab settings to suit your needs by increasing or decreasing the 0.5 setting in the Default Tab stop field.

To set custom tabs stops:
Type the incremental position in the tab stop position field
Select the type of alignment (left, right, center, decimal)
Choose a leader style, if desired
Click on the Set button

Repeat the sequence for each tab you want to set.

CAUTION: Whether you use the ruler or the dialog box to set your tab positions, you need to pay attention to where the insertion point is in your document before setting your tab stops. Remember that the settings apply to the active line (where your cursor is), the selected line, or the selected block of text, at the time you set them. Once set, you must press ENTER at the end of the each tabbed line of text for the settings to carry to the next line.

To delete a tab stop:
You can delete a tab stop using the Format Tab dialog box, select the tab you want to delete, and click on the clear button. To clear all tabs at once, click on the Clear All button.

You can also clear a tab from the ruler. Click on the tab marker on the ruler and drag it down off of the ruler.

When you clear a tab stop, the text will revert to the default tab settings of inch. Clearing a tab stop will not remove the Tab keystroke used when typing the tabbed text.

Experiment with tabbed text by setting different types of tabs. For example, set up a name and address list with a column for $s contributed. Set a left tab at .5 for the name, a center tab at 2 for the street address, a right tab at 5 for the City, State, and Zip, and a decimal tab at 6 for the $s contributed.
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Content copyright © 2013 by Chris Curtis. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Chris Curtis. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Laura Nunn for details.

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