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: Changing Default Tab Stops.

Changing Default Tab Stops

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 17, 2013)


Normally, Word assumes that when you press this Tab key in a paragraph that you want to move the insertion point to the next half inch. This assumes, of course, that you have not set any tabs for the current paragraph. If you want to change the default tab stops for a document, you can do so as follows:

  1. Choose Tabs from the Format menu. Word displays the Tabs dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  2. Figure 1. The Tabs dialog box.

  3. Change the value in the Default Tab Stops control. You can change it in .01-inch increments, from 0.01 inches to 22 inches.
  4. Click on OK.

Remember that the change you make affects the current document and only those paragraphs that don't have any explicit tab stops set.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (632) 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: Changing Default Tab Stops.

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 four less than 8?

2017-01-16 06:56:31

Alison M

Need to know how to set default tabs for all documents - not just this one. Cannot seem to do this via New->Blank document->set desired tabs and exit.

2015-09-22 07:00:10


I have a block of text with short items separated only by spaces (typically 5 per line). I am trying to replace all spaces with tabs. In principle this is simple to do: find/replace all " " with "^t" (omitting quote marks).

I have cleared all tabs in my document and set the default tab size to 0.5cm. The above procedure 'works' but the tabs that are introduced are variable in size, some very large.

My expectation is that 'replace all' will do the substitution on a line-by-line basis, replacing all tabs on that line with the tabs I've set - in this case all 0.5cm.

What am I doing wrong? Thanks..

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