Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Quickly Changing Tab Alignment.

Quickly Changing Tab Alignment

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 30, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


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Word allows you to insert tabs of all types in your paragraphs. If you use styles, changing the alignment of tab stops in a particular type of paragraph is very easy. It can be more difficult if you use explicit (non-style) formatting, however.

For instance, let's say you have a hundred different paragraphs in your document, and each of them has a left-aligned tab stop at 2.25 inches. What if you want to change that tab stop so it is centered instead? Well, you could select each paragraph and manually make the change, or you could follow these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+H. Word displays the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  2. Figure 1. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box

  3. Make sure the insertion point is in the Find What box and that it contains no text.
  4. Click on the Format button. (You may need to click on More before you can see the Format button.) Word displays a list of format options.
  5. Choose Tabs from the options presented. Word displays the Find Tabs dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  6. Figure 2. The Find Tabs dialog box

  7. In the Tab Stop Position dialog box, type 2.25.
  8. Click on Set.
  9. Click on OK. The text Tabs: 2.25” now appears below the Find What box.
  10. Move the insertion point to the Replace With box and make sure it contains no text.
  11. Click on the Format button. Word displays a list of format options.
  12. Choose Tabs from the options presented. Word displays the Replace Tabs dialog box. (See Figure 3.)
  13. Figure 3. The Replace Tabs dialog box

  14. In the Tab Stop Position dialog box, type 2.25.
  15. In the Alignment area, choose Center.
  16. Click on Set.
  17. Click on OK. The text Tabs: 2.25” Centered now appears below the Replace With box.
  18. Click on Replace 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 (11968) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Quickly Changing Tab Alignment.

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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What is four more than 4?

2023-12-30 17:55:32

Tomek

Further to my earlier comment:
If there are existing tabs in the paragraphs you selected, you can only modify the tabs that are common to all paragraphs selected. The remaining ones will not be affected. You can however clear all tabs in the selected paragraphs.

For modifying the Normal style, the tabs you add, should show in all paragraphs that use that style immediately. Any existing manual tab stops should not be affected, unless you reapply the Normal style, in which case all those will be removed.


2023-12-30 17:40:42

Tomek

I think there is a simpler approach to this task. If you select several paragraphs you can change tabs in all of them at once by adjusting the tabs on the ruler or using the set tabs dialog box.
The paragraphs you select do not need to be consecutive, nor use the same paragraph style. The change will apply to the selected paragraphs only.

I believe however, that most people do not use styles very extensively, but often use only a few styles. These may be for titles, subtitles, headings or numbered/bulleted lists. For the lists, the style is often applied automatically by Word. The rest of the text may just use Normal Style. In such case you can modify the tabs in the whole document by modifying the tabs set for Normal Style. That will avoid changing the tabs for paragraphs using different styles, for example headings.


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