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: Adding Tabs at the Beginning of a Line.

Adding Tabs at the Beginning of a Line

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 4, 2018)

4

One of the annoying features of Word is that the program assumes that if you press the Tab key at the beginning of a line, you want to indent the line. The program then proceeds to adjust the left margin by the distance of a normal tab stop. While this can be helpful in some circumstances, I can think of many times when I really want the tab character inserted in the document instead of adjusting margin information.

If you want to make sure that Word inserts a tab character, simply press Ctrl+Tab. This will work any time in Word, but is of the most use at the beginning of lines. As an alternative, you can turn off the indent feature completely by following these steps:

  1. Display the Word Options dialog box. (In Word 2007 click the Office button and then click Word Options. In Word 2010 or a later version, display the File tab of the ribbon and then click Options.)
  2. At the left side of the dialog box click Proofing.
  3. Click AutoCorrect Options button. Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  4. Make sure the AutoFormat As You Type tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  6. Make sure the Set Left- and First-Indent with Tabs and Backspaces option is cleared.
  7. Click OK to dismiss the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  8. Click OK to dismiss the Word Options dialog box.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (8721) 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: Adding Tabs at the Beginning of a Line.

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. ...

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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 5 + 9?

2017-03-28 14:39:28

Peter Kirkpatrick

@Elaine, I think you've misunderstood. "Tab character" and "tab" are in practice the same thing. When you insert a tab in a document, Word understands that as a character just like other characters in your document. The only difference is the purpose: the Tab character is for formatting, not displayed text. The point of this Tip is to handle the keystroke. When I hit Tab, do I want a tab inserted, or do I want the margin reset?


2016-06-20 06:47:49

Elaine Hurst

I love your Word tips, they are really helpful.
However, I have wracked my brains but I cannot think of any instance when I would want a tab character (at the beginning of a line or anywhere else) in a document, without a tab. You say that you can "think of many times when I really want the tab character inserted in the document instead of adjusting margin information".
Please put me out of my brain strain and tell me what these instances might be?!


2014-03-04 09:14:56

Barry

Alice,

This sounds like a browser problem. What browser (including version) are you using?


2014-03-04 09:11:11

Alice Walton

Mr. Wyatt, when I get these tips, and there are Figures in them, i.e., Figure 1, Figure 2, the picture is not visible, but only a square box with an x in it. I have tried to get it to show, but to no avail. Is there a way to get the pictures to show? Thank you.


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