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: Aligning Decimal Numbers in Tables.

Aligning Decimal Numbers in Tables

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated February 19, 2022)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


When working in tables, there is no documented way of aligning decimal numbers. You can, if desired, add a decimal tab stop in a cell and then press Ctrl+Tab to align the number to the tab stop, but there is an even easier way. All you need to do is follow these steps:

  1. Select the cell or cells whose contents you want aligned.
  2. Click repeatedly on the tab stop marker at the left edge of the ruler, stopping when you see the symbol for a decimal tab.
  3. Click on the ruler above the selected cells, at the location where you want the numbers aligned.

Presto! The numbers get aligned as per the tab stop. You should note, however, that this is the only tab option (decimal) that works in this manner.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (611) 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: Aligning Decimal Numbers in Tables.

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 6 + 1?

2023-09-10 10:01:58


Just a note about the post below:

In the second paragraph, I wrote poorly. OTHER columns of cells, not the totals column to the right edge of the table, are regarded as one would expect columns to be. One can set formatting, including tabs, for the whole set of cells in the column. In the rightmost column, that of the totals, it is not so: each cell seems to be treated as a separate entity for formatting, except in the case of the "column's" left border, which can be dragged as a whole to adjust gross column size. So, all other columns work as columns more or less ought to, but the rightmost column does not.

No knowledge as to whether it has to do with their different invoicing softwares following some odd convention, or if it is a Word issue as to that rightmost column, likely due to how the table might be getting created when their softwares output it into Word format.

2023-09-09 08:22:08


I cannot make this Tip make sense.

My usual problem is invoices from China in which a table has screwy organization including a totals column that I'd like to align the decimals in. Unfortunately, Word regards the cells as not in any way associated with each other although it DOES regard cell columns as all one for things like tabs... but I don't care to bother trying to put tabs into them (sigh...).

So I have to do, say, 5-10 lines of cells and the column total one by one. Then go back and redo a couple that used the same position value (say, .80) but ended up not aligned and upon closer examination, their little indicators in the horizontal ruler show they start at different horizontal positions from the rest of the page so "x" amount over puts the decimal in different places than their mates above and below.

All this even though mouse-grabbing ANY of their left borders and dragging left or right moves said column border, not just that cell's border, in its entirety. So it seems to me the refusal to regard them all the same for such things as tabs is due to their individual widths, not some inherent difficulty. Well, inherent other than that... I have not tested dragging the right edge as that never occurs to me (except when writing here, I guess), probably because I figure it would be the table border moving then and not a column border, so far as Word is concerned.

After reading the Tip, I decided to get around to trying a wheeze that I thought might coerce the column into a monolith, that of going into the properties for the column, forcing a column width, exiting, then going back in and restoring the starting width. And that worked. But... it still won't take an appropriate tab.

I enter a tab, say at .80, and it shows it but grayed out. Apparently there, but not. And its effect is very odd. The whole column is 1.30 so the decimal points should be right of center in the cell, but they are very near the left edge with the numbers scrunched tight to the left border. I got around that by dragging the grayed out tab stop past the table's right border, in fact, past the page border, and the decimal points move to the right, but... folks, that's deuced odd and shaky seeming to say the least.

So, alright, I did work out a way after reading the Tip, to achieve the basic goal, I guess, but it's still a lot of work and seems built on a shaky base that fall apart any time. On the other hand, I just need to get them acceptably readable and printed, then never care again, so it isn't fatal to anything.

But the Tip sound vastly easier so I'd love to make it work.

But what in the world is the "tab stop marker at the left edge of the ruler"??? I can't find any such thing anywhere in the horizontal ruler. Nothing I doubleclick on, with either mouse button, leads to tab settings. And therefore not to any magical place with tab settings somehow Word's focus in life to the point at which it will let me leave the dialog box and just click in the ruler.

So my real question ends up being "What is this thing being talked about and how do I access it?" It seems likely it would be a very nice thing to have available in regular use of Word, outside this particular problem so for this problem and maybe general use, I'd love to know.

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