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Many people underestimate the importance of tab stops. Setting up your tab stops in Google Docs first allows you to focus on your document’s content rather than how it’s going to be formatted.

A tab stop is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the spot where your cursor stops when you press the Tab key on your keyboard. Most applications like Google Docs and Microsoft Word have default tab stops set and ready for you to use. While these are convenient for indenting paragraphs and such, they may not always fit the type of document you’re creating.

Let’s take a look at how to add your own tab stops in Google Docs as well as edit and remove them.

RELATED: How to Indent Paragraphs in Google Docs

Display the Ruler in Google Docs

To work with tab stops in Google Docs, you’ll need to display the Ruler. If you already see and use the Ruler for things like controlling margins, you can move onto the next section for adding a tab stop.

If you don’t see the Ruler, go to View in the menu and select “Show Ruler.”

Select Show Ruler to display the ruler

This places a checkmark next to it and displays the Ruler around your document.

Ruler displayed in Google Docs

After you add tab stops as explained below, you can return to the View menu and deselect “Show Ruler” to hide it again if you like. Although you won’t see the tab stop locations on the Ruler, they still work whether you display the Ruler or not.

RELATED: How to Show and Hide the Rulers in Microsoft Word

Add a Tab Stop

With a document open in Google Docs, you can press your Tab key to see the default tab stops. You’ll notice that your cursor moves 0.5 inches to the right. If you continue to press Tab, your cursor will move another 0.5 inches with each press.

To add your own tab stop, go to the spot on the Ruler where you want it and click. You’ll see a small pop-up window with options to Add Left, Center, or Right Tab-Stop.

Available tab stops to add in Google Docs

After selecting one of these tab stop options, you’ll then see a tiny blue indicator display on the ruler. For a left stop, you have a triangle pointing right, for a center stop, you have a diamond, and for a right stop, you have a triangle pointing left.

Tab stop indicators in Google Docs

When you press the Tab key after adding a tab stop, the default stops no longer apply on the left side of yours. However, they do apply to the right of any tab stops you add.

RELATED: How to Add a Tab Leader to a Tab Stop in Microsoft Word

Edit a Tab Stop

You might set up your tab stops and decide you want to change their locations. Simply select the indicator for the stop you want to move, drag it to its new location on the Ruler, and release.

You’ll see a vertical line along with the exact measurement on the Ruler as you drag. This allows you to place the stop in a precise spot if needed.

Drag to move a tab stop

Remove a Tab Stop

Maybe you added a tab stop that you decide you no longer want. Or perhaps you want to replace a left tab stop with a center tab stop, for example.

To remove a tab stop, select the indicator on the Ruler and drag it downward out of (away from) the Ruler.

Drag away from the ruler to remove a tab stop

If you remove all of the tab stops that you added, Google Docs returns you to the default 0.5-inch cursor move when you press the Tab key.

For additional help laying out your document, take a look at how to change the default format settings or how to copy formatting in Google Docs.

Profile Photo for Sandy Writtenhouse Sandy Writtenhouse
With her B.S. in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She learned how technology can enrich both professional and personal lives by using the right tools. And, she has shared those suggestions and how-tos on many websites over time. With thousands of articles under her belt, Sandy strives to help others use technology to their advantage.
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