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Clearing All Tabs in a Document

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Clearing All Tabs in a Document.

If you received a document from someone else, you may be charged with the responsibility to format the document. One of the first steps you may want to take is to remove all the tab stops in the document, thereby returning all paragraphs to their "pristine" state where only default tabs are in place.

If you want to remove all the tabs stops in a document, the quick way is to follow these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+A. This shortcut selects the entire document.
  2. Select the Tabs option from the Format menu. Word display the Tabs dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Tabs dialog box.

  4. Click on the Clear All button.
  5. Click on OK.

That's it. You can now go through the document, on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, and set any tab stops desired.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1427) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Clearing All Tabs in a Document.

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Comments for this tip:

Sue Brown    25 Mar 2014, 07:56
I had some trouble with these directions until I figured out that the best way to change formatting of this type is to elect to strip all formatting.

Once all the dang tabs are gone, you can replace them by using "special" choice and setting the tab stop you want.

Take care when doing this as you may lose other formatting. Unfortunately, I also discovered that some of the formatting I wanted to remove had remained, and I needed to remove each bit individually.

This is almost a nuclear option, so be careful.
Janene    03 Oct 2013, 11:37
Denise, I found it. Ctrl + A to select the entire doc. Home tab, Paragraph drop menu, in the Indent section, click Special and choose None.

awyatt    17 Jan 2013, 15:33
There are two things at play here, Denise: default tabs and explicit tabs.

If you want to change the default tab stops, you can use this tip:


Default tab stops are good when you want them, say, every .75 inches or some other regular increment. If you want to set irregular tab increments (or different types of tab stops) for the entire document, it is best to change the tab stops for the Normal paragraph style. This will then, typically, apply to the entire document.

Denise    17 Jan 2013, 15:20
OK, I know Word pretty well, but this ONE thing drives me nuts.
How do you set new tabs, or change the tabs, for the WHOLE DOCUMENT!!!
I know how to do it on a line-by-line basis, but you have to do it for each line!
Hitting Control A, for "All" does not work.

I changed the size of a document and need to reset the tabs for the WHOLE document.

I've worked with Word for YEARS, I am an legal secretary, and I cannot for the life of me find an answer to this.


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