Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Accurately Setting Tabs Using the Ruler.

Accurately Setting Tabs Using the Ruler

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 23, 2016)

3

You probably know that Word allows you to set tabs in a paragraph by clicking on the Ruler at the top of the document window. The tab that is inserted depends on the tab type selected at the left side of the Ruler. You can then click on the tab and drag it to the location desired.

Sometimes, however, accurately placing the tabs using the Ruler and the mouse can be a pain. In fact, you may notice that the tabs seem to "jump" from one location to another as you are dragging them. If this is the case, and you long for a way to more accurately set the tabs using the mouse on the Ruler, there are a couple of things you can check out.

First, you should understand that the grid settings on the drawing layer can affect the dragging behavior for tabs. (Nobody seems to know why this is the case; it just is.) Word, by default, is configured so that "snap to grid" is turned on, and the grid is set for 1/16-inch increments. Thus, when you drag a tab stop, it seems to "jump" in increments of 1/16 inch. If you don't need the drawing grid, you can turn it off by following these steps:

  1. Display the Page Layout or Layout tab of the ribbon.
  2. In the Arrange group, click the Align drop-down list.
  3. Select the Grid Settings option from the drop-down list. Word displays the Drawing Grid dialog box (Word 2007 and Word 2010) or the Grid and Guides dialog box (Word 2013 and later). (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Grid and Guides dialog box.

  5. Clear the Snap Objects to Other Objects check box.
  6. Clear the Snap Objects to Grid When the Gridlines Are Not Displayed check box.
  7. Click on OK.

You should now be able to drag tabs along the Ruler smoothly and precisely. If you want to see the precise placement of the tabs, just hold down the Alt key as you drag them.

If you still have problems placing the tabs accurately, you might try increasing the zoom setting for viewing the document, and you should make sure that your mouse is clean. (If your mouse uses a mechanical ball for positioning, and there is lint or dirt in the ball housing, that can affect the ability of the mouse to move smoothly.)

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (5930) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Accurately Setting Tabs Using the Ruler.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Displaying Nonprinting Characters

Nonprinting characters are a great boon when you are editing a document. Turn them on and you can easily see what characters ...

Discover More

Sorting by Columns

When you think of sorting Excel data, it is likely that you think of sorting rows. Excel also allows you to sort by column, ...

Discover More

Centering a Paragraph with the Keyboard

Need a quick shortcut that you can use to center your paragraph between the margins? The answer is here.

Discover More

Learning Made Easy! Quickly teach yourself how to format, publish, and share your content using Word 2013. With Step by Step, you set the pace, building and practicing the skills you need, just when you need them! Check out Microsoft Word 2013 Step by Step today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Aligning Text on a Specific Character

Want to use tab stops to align text according to the position of a certain character? It's easy to do if that character is a ...

Discover More

Using Dot Leaders in a Paragraph

Adding dot leaders to your text is easy through the application of tab stops. This tip explains the steps you need to follow ...

Discover More

Deleting Tab Stops

Need to delete some tabs tops in a paragraph? It's easy to do using the Tabs dialog box, as described in this tip.

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is five minus 4?

2016-07-27 06:01:06

Graham

Many thanks for this very useful tip.

I prefer to use a mouse and the ruler to position tabs etc and sometimes I have a problem where the tab will not set where I want it to. Now I know why. I have made the changes as per your tip and it works fine for me. Thank you very much


2016-07-25 10:36:04

Barb

I have Word 2008 for Mac. My Word does not have a Page Layout or Layout option or anything to “arrange” so could not use this tip. Nor does my Word have the ribbon top. Will your tips work for my Word?


2016-07-23 09:39:43

Mary

Thank you!


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.