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: Understanding Default Tab Stops.

Understanding Default Tab Stops

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 22, 2020)

1

Word has many different levels of formatting that you can do in a document. Some formatting settings apply to characters, others to paragraphs, still others to sections, and finally there are formatting settings that apply to the entire document.

We normally think of tab stops as being a "paragraph-level setting." However, there is one tab stop option that applies to the entire document, not just to a particular paragraph. The way in which the setting is presented in Word is a bit deceiving, however.

The setting in mind, of course, is for the default tab stop distance. There is a single default tab stop distance that you can set in Word, although you do it from the Tabs dialog box, which is definitely a paragraph-level formatting dialog box. To see what this means, position your insertion point anywhere within your document; it doesn't matter where. Then choose Tabs from the Format menu. You will see the Tabs dialog box. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Tabs dialog box.

In the upper-right corner of the dialog box is the Default Tab Stops value. This value applies to the entire document, even though every other setting in the dialog box applies only to the current paragraph.

To test this out, change the Default Tab Stops value to something different from what it is, then click on OK. The dialog box closes, and the default is changed. Now, position the insertion point somewhere else in the document and again choose Tabs from the Format menu. The Default Tab Stops value should still be set to the new value you entered.

This means that to permanently change (so to speak) the default tab stop value, you need to do it within the templates you use to create new documents. For instance, you would follow these general steps to change the default tab stops in Normal.Dot:

  1. Load the Normal.Dot template.
  2. Choose Tabs from the Format menu. Word displays the Tabs dialog box.
  3. Change the Default Tab Stops value on the dialog box.
  4. Click on OK.
  5. Choose Save from the File menu, or click on the Save tool on the toolbar.

Once these steps are complete, then all new documents based on Normal.Dot will have the default tab stops set the way you want them. (Notice that this is for all new documents; existing documents will still have the old default tab setting. They will have to be changed individually.)

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1187) 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: Understanding 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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Removing Conditional Formats, but Not the Effects

Conditional formatting is very powerful, but at some point you may want to make the formatting "unconditional." In other ...

Discover More

Changing the Office Assistant

The Office Assistant is part of the Help system available in Excel. If you want, you can change which Office Assistant ...

Discover More

Properties for Worksheets

Excel keeps a full set of properties related to workbooks. When it comes to worksheets, however, there is very little ...

Discover More

Do More in Less Time! Are you ready to harness the full power of Word 2013 to create professional documents? In this comprehensive guide you'll learn the skills and techniques for efficiently building the documents you need for your professional and your personal life. Check out Word 2013 In Depth today!

More WordTips (menu)

Setting Tab Stops Using the Tabs Dialog Box

Aligning different lines in your document is easy. Using the tab stops feature in Word, you can set four different types ...

Discover More

Aligning Text on a Specific Character

Want to use tab stops to align text according to the position of a certain character? It's easy to do if that character ...

Discover More

Setting Decimal Tabs in a Table Using the Keyboard

Most people use the mouse to set tab stops in the paragraphs in a table. If you prefer to not use the mouse, then you'll ...

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 five less than 7?

2016-04-25 08:08:13

shanaya

i am confused i want to know the different between tab stop position and default tab position help me if u can ??


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.