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

Searching Comments

Need to find that misplaced comment in your worksheet? It's easy to do using the Find and Replace capabilities of Excel.

Discover More

Preventing Someone from Recreating a Protected Worksheet

When you share a protected workbook with other people, you may not want them to get around the protection by creating a new ...

Discover More

Converting to Hexadecimal

Excel allows you to easily convert values from decimal to other numbering systems, such as hexadecimal. This tip explains how ...

Discover More

Do More in Less Time! Are you ready to harness the full power of Word 2013 to create professional documents? In this comprehensive guide you'll learn the skills and techniques for efficiently building the documents you need for your professional and your personal life. Check out Word 2013 In Depth today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Understanding Default Tab Stops

Ever wonder how Word determines the default setting for each tab stop in your document? This article should satisfy any ...

Discover More

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

Setting Decimal Tabs in a Table Using the Keyboard

Most people use the mouse to set tab stops in the paragraphs in a table. If you prefer to not use the mouse, then you'll be ...

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 6 - 0?

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.