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: Setting Tab Stops Using the Tabs Dialog Box.

Setting Tab Stops Using the Tabs Dialog Box

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 12, 2018)


Tab stops allow you to quickly and accurately align information on a line in your document. If you are familiar with typewriters, then you are already familiar with the concept of tab stops. Word goes far beyond the rudimentary tab stops in typewriters, however. It allows you to set four different types of tab stop:

Type Effect
Center Text entered after pressing the Tab key is horizontally centered on the position where the tab stop is located.
Decimal Text entered after pressing the Tab key is horizontally aligned so the decimal point (or period) is where the tab stop is located. If there is no decimal point, text is right-aligned to the tab stop.
Left Text entered after pressing the Tab key is horizontally aligned so the left side of the text is where the tab stop is located.
Right Text entered after pressing the Tab key is horizontally aligned so the right side of the text is where the tab stop is located.

Word provides two major ways to set tab stops. One involves using the ruler, which is best deferred to a different tip. The other involves using the Tabs dialog box. To set tab stops using this method, use the following steps:

  1. Make sure the insertion point is in the paragraph in which you want to set tabs stops.
  2. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the small icon in the lower-right corner of the Paragraph group. Word displays the Paragraph dialog box.
  4. Click the Tabs button. Word displays the Tabs dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Tabs dialog box.

  6. In the Tab Stop Position box, enter the measurement for where you want the tab stop located.
  7. Click on the Alignment type desired.
  8. Click on the type of Leader desired, if any.
  9. Click on Set.
  10. Repeat steps 3 through 6 for each tab stop desired.
  11. Click on OK.

You may have noticed from examining the Tabs dialog box that there is also a tab alignment type known as Bar. This is not really a tab stop at all, but a way to place a vertical bar at a particular location in your paragraph. In fact, referring to Bar as an alignment type is a misnomer because no text is aligned at all.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8257) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Setting Tab Stops Using the Tabs Dialog Box.

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. ...


Calculating Statistical Values on Different-Sized Subsets of Data

Discovering different ways to analyze your data can be a challenge. Here's how to work with arbitrary subsets of a large ...

Discover More

Adding and Formatting a Shape via Macro

Excel makes it rather easy to add shapes to your worksheets. If you add a lot of shapes, you quickly discover that it can ...

Discover More

Inserting a File Name without an Extension

Sometimes you might like to insert a file name into your document without including the file extension. The FILENAME ...

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 Changing Tab Stops in the Footer

If you use a tab stop in your footer to align information at the right margin, you may not get what you expect when you ...

Discover More

Using Leaders with Tab Stops

Tab stops allow you to modify the horizontal position at which text is positioned on a line. Word allows you to preface ...

Discover More

Precisely Adjusting Tab Stops

When you need to be very specific about where a tab stop is located, you'll want to become familiar with the Tabs dialog ...

Discover More

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

View most recent newsletter.


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 eight minus 8?

2013-08-31 09:44:44



See here:


2013-08-31 07:33:23

Rod Grealish

If you want to apply the same tabs to a group of paragraphs you will need to select all the paragraphs.

You should also click Clear All if you want to remove any pre-existing tabs in the selected text.

2013-08-31 06:11:58

Frank andrews

If you have not done so already, could you provide an instruction on how to automate a double indent, or perhaps a double indent with its own font size attached to it (for a prolonged quote)? 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

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.