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: Accurately Setting Tabs Using the Ruler.

Accurately Setting Tabs Using the Ruler

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated December 8, 2018)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


3

You probably know that Word allows you to set tabs in a paragraph by clicking on the Ruler at the top of the document window. The tab that is inserted depends on the tab type selected at the left side of the Ruler. You can then click on the tab and drag it to the location desired.

Sometimes, however, accurately placing the tabs using the Ruler and the mouse can be a pain. In fact, you may notice that the tabs seem to "jump" from one location to another as you are dragging them. If this is the case, and you long for a way to more accurately set the tabs using the mouse on the Ruler, there are a couple of things you can check out.

First, you should understand that the grid settings on the drawing layer can affect the dragging behavior for tabs. (Nobody seems to know why this is the case; it just is.) Word, by default, is configured so that "snap to grid" is turned on, and the grid is set for 1/16-inch increments. Thus, when you drag a tab stop, it seems to "jump" in increments of 1/16 inch. If you don't need the drawing grid, you can turn it off by following these steps:

  1. Make sure the Drawing toolbar is displayed. (Choose View | Toolbars | Drawing, or click on the Drawing tool on the Standard toolbar.) The toolbar should appear at the bottom of the Word window.
  2. On the Drawing toolbar, click on Draw, then choose Grid. Word displays the Drawing Grid dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Drawing Grid dialog box.

  4. Clear the Snap Objects to Grid check box.
  5. Click on OK.

You should now be able to drag tabs along the Ruler smoothly and precisely. If you want to see the precise placement of the tabs, just hold down the Alt key as you drag them.

If you still have problems placing the tabs accurately, you might try increasing the zoom setting for viewing the document, and you should make sure that your mouse is clean. (If your mouse uses a mechanical ball for positioning, and there is lint or dirt in the ball housing, that can affect the ability of the mouse to move smoothly.)

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (38) 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: Accurately Setting Tabs Using the Ruler.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Including Headers and Footers when Selecting All

If you are creating a macro that, in the course of processing your document, needs to update all the fields in the ...

Discover More

Turning Off a Dictionary for a Style

There may be some paragraphs in a document that you don't want Word to spell- or grammar-check. You can "turn off" the ...

Discover More

Evaluating Formulas

Need a bit of help in figuring out how Excel is evaluating a particular formula? It's easy to figure out if you use the ...

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 (menu)

Changing Tabs Using the Ruler

Need to adjust the position of tab stops in a paragraph? One simple way to do it is to just drag them around on the ruler.

Discover More

Quickly Displaying the Tabs Dialog Box

Setting tabs in a paragraph is a common task. This is most easily done by using the Tabs dialog box. Displaying the ...

Discover More

Searching for Tabs

Tabs don't normally show up in your printed document, but Word allows you to still search for them. All you need to do is ...

Discover More
Subscribe

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

View most recent newsletter.

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}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) 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 more than 2?

2020-08-17 12:40:43

Marcos Cançado Ribeiro

Didn't work in Word2003. In Word2016, as long as I know, there isn't a 'Drawing Toolbar', or any toolbar. Is there?

Another 2 problems I have with the Word's Ruler :

1) when any tab control in it is in the same place where there is an indent control, I have not found a way to move the indent control instead of the tab one and I have first to move the tab control .
2) there isn't a quick way to select the type of tab to insert, I have to circle along many of them to select the type I want.

This is certainly a very flawed feature in Word.


2019-02-08 08:29:10

Marcos Cançado Ribeiro

When at the ruller there are both : a) a tab control and b) an indent control AT THE SAME PLACE and we want to move one of them, the tab is always the one that is moved. Is there a way to move the indent control instead of the tab control ? Thanks.


2019-02-08 08:24:54

Marcos Cançado Ribeiro

Great tip. Thank you!


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the menu interface (Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, or Word 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Videos
Subscribe

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.