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

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 8, 2018)

2

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

Selecting the First Cell In a Row

When creating macros, you'll often have a need to select different cells in the worksheet. Here's how to select the first ...

Discover More

Extracting Proper Words

If you've got a list of potential words, and you want to know which of those potential words are real, you'll appreciate ...

Discover More

Retrieving Worksheet Names

Want to grab the names of all the worksheets in a workbook? Here's how you can stuff all those names into the cells of a ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More WordTips (menu)

Entering Tabs in a Table

When press the Tab key while entering info into a table, Word dutifully moves to the next table cell. If you don't want ...

Discover More

Automatically Setting Right Leader Tabs

If you have a constant need to define tabs at the edge of the right margin, you'll love the macro-based technique ...

Discover More

Removing Tabs Used to Indent a Paragraph

You get a document from a colleague and you notice that each paragraph starts with a tab character. Here are a couple of ...

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}] 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 six minus 6?

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.

Newest Tips
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.