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: Adding Tabs at the Beginning of a Line.

Adding Tabs at the Beginning of a Line

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated March 24, 2020)
This tip applies to Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003


One of the annoying features of Word is that the program assumes that if you press the Tab key at the beginning of a line, you want to indent the line. The program then proceeds to adjust the left margin by the distance of a normal tab stop. While this can be helpful in some circumstances, I can think of many times when I really want the tab character inserted in the document instead of adjusting margin information.

If you want to make sure that Word inserts a tab character, simply press Ctrl+Tab. This will work any time in Word, but is of the most use at the beginning of lines. As an alternative, you can turn off the indent feature completely by following these steps in Word 2002 or Word 2003:

  1. Choose AutoCorrect Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  2. Click on the AutoFormat As You Type tab. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box.

  4. Make sure that the Set Left- and First-Indent with Tabs and Backspaces check box is not selected.
  5. Click on OK.

If you are using Word 97 and Word 2000 you should follow these steps:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Click on the Edit tab.
  3. Make sure that the Tabs and Backspace Set Left Indent check box is not selected.
  4. Click on OK.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1075) 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: Adding Tabs at the Beginning of a Line.

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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