Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, and 2013. 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: Changing Default Tab Stops.

Changing Default Tab Stops

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 2, 2017)

7

Normally, Word assumes that when you press this Tab key in a paragraph that you want to move the insertion point to the next half inch. This assumes, of course, that you have not set any tabs for the current paragraph. If you want to change the default tab stops for a document, you can do so as follows:

  1. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the icon at the bottom-right of the Paragraph group. Word displays the Paragraph dialog box.
  3. Click the Tabs button. Word displays the Tabs dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Tabs dialog box.

  5. Change the value in the Default Tab Stops control. You can change it in .01-inch increments, from 0.01 inches to 22 inches.
  6. Click on OK.

Remember that the change you make affects the current document and only those paragraphs that don't have any explicit tab stops set.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7067) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Changing Default Tab Stops.

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

Deleting All Names but a Few

Want to get rid of most of the names defined in your workbook? You can either delete them one by one or use the handy ...

Discover More

Exporting Latitude and Longitude

A handy way to store latitude and longitude values in Excel is to treat them as regular time values. When it comes around ...

Discover More

Using Forms for Parental Feedback

If you are a teacher, you know how difficult it can be to get consistent feedback from parents. Here is an idea on how ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Automatically Setting Right Leader Tabs

If you have a constant need to define tabs at the edge of the right margin, you'll love the macro-based technique ...

Discover More

Quickly Displaying the Tabs Dialog Box

Setting tabs in a paragraph is a common task. This is most easily done by using the Tabs dialog box. Displaying the ...

Discover More

Accurately Setting Tabs Using the Ruler

If you try to set tabs by clicking on the Ruler, you may not be able to set them exactly where you want. This is normally ...

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 - 1?

2018-02-21 14:34:25

N

To permanently change open normal.dotm in MSWord and apply same technique of changing default tab. Then save the normal.dotm doc. All new docs using the normal template will keep the desired tab spacing.


2017-02-02 13:59:15

Peter Kirkpatrick

@Frank, and others: The general process for changing defaults for all documents is to edit templates. All documents in Word are derived from an existing template - either the Normal template, or a custom designed template. So for instance if you want all your documents to have a new tab setting, then you will change the tab setting in the underlying template, not your current document. All future documents will then have the new setting.

(How to do that is described elsewhere on this site and on other sites.)


2016-04-03 07:31:06

Frank Bonadonna

Dear Mr. Wyatt,

I routinely use 1/4" tabs vice the Word default of 1/2". Every Word document I create I must reset the default tab setting. I have not been able to find a way to make 1/4" tabs the standard for all Word documents I create. Is there a way to change the default for all documents as you can easily do in WordPerfect?

Your help is greatly appreciated. Also, may I comment that your article is well done - clear, concise and easy to follow. Thank you.


2015-05-06 17:55:55

awyatt

Greg: You and I have a different definition of "default." You apparently want to set the default for all documents, whereas I specifically say (at the end of the first paragraph in the article) "...if you want to change the default tab stops for a document...".

I also suggest reading the last paragraph in the article.

-Allen


2015-05-06 17:33:40

Greg

This article is NOT ABOUT HOW TO CHANGE

D E F A U L T TAB STOPS!

It merely changes the tabs for the current document.


2013-09-26 17:17:56

Frank in Spokane

PS: If anything, shouldn't all of the doc's text align according to the "Alignemnt" button in the "Tabs" dialog? Because it simply stays center-aligned, regardless of which "Alignment" button is selected.

One more thing: I *am* able to "undo" the alignment glitch.


2013-09-26 17:13:10

Frank in Spokane

I am using Word 2007 to work on a document that was written by somebody else. I don't know what version of Word he used.

The ruler shows a continuous row of little gray dashes in the narrow blue margin just below the white section showing the ruler's increments. I think they are default tab stops that are set to 0.01 inches apart, but I cannot make them go away.

This is because, when I merely click the "Tabs..." button in the "Paragraph" group, the text throughout my entire document suddenly becomes center-aligned.

My hunch is that this issue is due to some unpatched incompatibility between the Word version with which the document was originally created and my version.


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.