How to Set Tabs in Word 2010 Documents

Tab stops are the answer to lining up text quickly in documents, especially if you’d rather not mess with tables or newsletter columns. They’re a great option if you have an invoice with numbers you want to line up or an agenda with a list of speakers.

Microsoft Word gives you a number of tab stops to work with, based on the alignment you wish to apply.

Use the ruler to set tabs in Word document.

-The default tab alignment is left. Others include the center and right tab alignment, which are self-explanatory.

-The decimal tab alignment is a hidden gem if you’re working with numeric values. It right-aligns any value before the decimal point and left-aligns any values after that.

-The bar alignment is included with the list of tab alignments, but it’s not an alignment per-say. It adds a vertical or pipe line (|) at the tab stop position instead.

In addition, you can specify leaders or the type of dots you want to apply between tabs. Options include none, dots, dashes and a horizontal bar. Leaders help you keep tabbed text together, so you can read it better. For example, you can use leaders to format an agenda or table of contents.

Quick and Easy Way to Set Tab Stops: Use the Ruler

Step 1. The quick and easy way to set up tab stops is to place the insertion point where you want to set your tab. If you’re formatting multiple lines within your document, you can highlight them as well.

Click tab button to change tab alignment in Word 2010.Step 2. Click on the ruler where you’d like to set a tab. If your ruler isn’t visible, checkmark “Ruler” under the “View” tab.

Step 3. To change the alignment for the tab, click the tab button. The tab button sits just above the vertical ruler and to the far left of the horizontal ruler. The default setting is left. Clicking the button once gives you a center alignment. Clicking it again gives you a right tab alignment. Continue clicking the same spot until the tab stop changes to the alignment you wish to apply.

Step 4. To decrease spacing between your text, drag the tab stop to the left. To increase the spacing, drag it to the right. If you make a mistake and want to remove the tab altogether, simply drag the tab above or below the ruler to clear it.

Longer Way to Insert Tab Stops: Use the Tabs Dialog Box

Use the Tabs dialog box if you have a specific position that’s difficult to set on the ruler. You can also use it to edit or clear one or all of your tab stops.

Step 1. Highlight the text you want to format or click on the line where the tab stop goes.

Step 2. Open the Tabs dialog box by either:

(a) Double-clicking the horizontal ruler (or)

(b) Clicking the “Paragraph” dialog box launcher in the “Page Layout” tab and clicking the “Tabs” button at the bottom of the Paragraph dialog box.

Set, edit and clear tab stops in the Tabs dialog box.

Step 3. Type in the tab you want to use, such as 0.7 into the “Tab stop position” box.

Step 4. Specify the alignment for that position and its leader and click “Set.” The tab is added to the “Tab stop position” list. Repeat this step to add more tabs to the line.

If you make a mistake along the way, simply highlight the tab you want to remove from the list and click “Clear.” To remove all tabs instead, click the “Clear All” button.

Step 5. Click “OK” to set the tabs.

Applying the Tab Stops

To use or apply the tab stop, simply place your cursor before the tab position and press the “Tab” key rather than the space bar.

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2 Responses to How to Set Tabs in Word 2010 Documents

  1. Adrienne says:

    Easy tutorial Allyson, you explained that very well. I’ve actually never gone in and set the tab stop position before, it’s always been so easy to just do it at the top of the page. But if you don’t know how, it’s very confusing.

    Once again, great post and showing us exactly what to do.


    P.S. Yey!!! You got CommentLuv and the Twitter ID connected, I’m so excited for you. Now all you need is the Tweet button and you’re set! :-)

    • allyson says:

      Thanks, Adrienne. Yes, the ruler is so much easier. I use it much more than the dialog box, especially when I’m tying to align numbers on my page.

      I love CommentLuv and have had it up for a couple of months now :) And oh, you’re right… I “do” need to add the Tweet button. Thanks for telling me. I appreciate it.

      Have a good one!


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