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: Replacing Multiple Spaces with Tabs.

Replacing Multiple Spaces with Tabs

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 23, 2013)


You may receive a document from someone that uses multiple spaces to separate items on a line. This is typically done when a person wants to format tabular material, and separates columns using spaces. You can find this quite a bit in information downloaded from the Web.

If you are starting with a source document in this condition, you may be wondering how you can replace all the consecutive spaces with a single tab character. It is possible to go through multiple search-and-replace operations to achieve the desired goal, but there is a quicker way. You can replace any number of consecutive spaces with a single tab character by following these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+H. Word displays the Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
  2. Click on the More button if it is available. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.

  4. In the Find What box, enter a single space followed by the characters {2,}. (Type only the left brace, the number 2, the comma, and the right brace.)
  5. In the Replace With box, type ^t.
  6. Make sure the Use Wildcards check box is selected.
  7. 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 (12741) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Replacing Multiple Spaces with Tabs.

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 5 + 9?

2015-05-04 06:11:08

Ken Endacott

{2,} means repeat the preceding character (which in this case is a space), by at least two with no upper limit, until a non space character is reached.

If you are using two spaces between sentences and you don't want to replace them with a tab then you would use {3,}.

Another example is {2,10} which would find between two and ten repeats of the preceding character.

2015-05-03 19:57:14


I can think of many times I could make use of this tip; most especially when having converted a pdf to Word. However, out of curiosity, just what is the "{2,}" actually instructing the program to do and are there other instances in which this key combination could be used.


2015-02-06 11:55:27


If the document has the Nonbreaking Space which is represented by a superscript "o" character instead of the traditional space marking in your document, you will need to use the Nonbreaking Space in the Step 3 instead of the Single Space before typing {2,}.

To use the Non-Braking Space, you can either use the keyboard shortcut keys and hold down the Ctrl plus Shift keys and then press the Space Bar. Or in the Find and Replace dialog box click on Special button (as seen in Figure 1 in original Tip). Then choose the Nonbreaking Space selection (second from the bottom in the list). This puts the following characters "^s".

2014-08-28 05:53:22

Ron Poole

Brilliant! I was converting reports from an old DOS-based database program (Q&A)into Word 2007. These converted OK but with columns separated by spaces, and to have used multiple search and replace operations would have taken an age. An excellent tip indeed! Many thanks.

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