The Interface, Fonts, and Templates


With the ruler on, we can cover how to use tabs and set margins. The ruler is used to show to show the positions of tab stops and margins.

Tabs are used to position text by using the “Tab” key. This works better than spacing everything manually, and with most fonts, tabs are the surest way to make sure everything lines up properly.

Microsoft Word sets tabs by default to ½-inch intervals. When you hit “Tab,” the insertion point will automatically jump right (½-inch per tab).


You set tabs by clicking on the ruler to indicate where you want to place them. You’ll see a vertical dotted line allowing your more precise control over where they go.


You can set tabs in any section of the document, meaning the top of the page can have different tabs than the middle or the bottom. Basically, you can a different tabbing scheme on each and every line of your document if you need or desire.

Types of Tabs

There are several different kinds of tabs you can use. To pick the type, click the tab selector located at the far left-hand side of the screen as shown below.

Here we see a left tab, note all the text is aligned to the left.


And similarly, a right tab:


A center tab:


A decimal tab allow you to create columns of numbers and easily line them up by decimal point:


A vertical bar tab, which doesn’t act like a tab, allows you to demarcate text. It looks the same as if you typed | however the advantage is that you can grab the “bar tab” in the ruler and move them together.


You can exert more control over tabs by double-clicking on any one to bring up the tabs dialog window. Note here you can have more precise control over tab stop positions, alignment, and clearing them.



You can see your margins by making sure Word is viewed in “Print Layout.”

Here in this example, we see our left margin is set at two inches and our left is set at four inches, giving us two inches of horizontal printable area. The margin indicators are the bottom arrows, while top arrow is a hanging indent, which we’ll cover in the very next section.


On a normal document, the left and right margins default to one-inch and 6 ½ inches. This means on a regular 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, you will have one-inch margins where print will not appear, giving you 6.5 inches of horizontal printable area.

To move margins and the hanging indent, hover over each one with the mouse pointer until it changes to arrows and then drag them to the size you desire.


If you simply grab the left margin, it will leave the hanging indent behind.


And on that note, let’s briefly discuss indents in a bit more detail.


Indents are used to position the paragraph with margins or within the columns in a table.

You can tweak your margins further depending on what you’re writing. For example, you can create a “first line indent.” This is more of an old school style wherein the first line of each paragraph will be indented.


This is a more traditional way of formatting paragraphs, allowing you to denote where new paragraphs begin in a single-spaced document. Today, text is usually formatted in a block style with a double space between paragraphs.

A second line, or “hanging indent,” will automatically indent every line after the first one. One confusing part with indents is you can move them outside of the margin, which is counterintuitive unless you consider that a printer can print outside the margins, and is limited only by the width of the paper.


There’s not a whole lot to master when it comes to tabs, margins, and indents. That said, it pays to understand how they work so you can get more precise results in your documents. And it gives you a better understanding of why a documents looks the way it does or more importantly, why it may not look the way you want it to look.

Formatting marks

Before we proceed any further, we should point out that you might be noticing now that in some of our screenshots, there are formatting marks that show paragraphs, spaces, tabs, and others. To see the tabs and other text-formatting marks in the document select the ¶ (paragraph) symbol here on the “Paragraph” section on the “Home” tab.


To choose which formatting marks are seen, you can select them in Word “Options.” To open the options dialog, first click on the “File” tab and then choose “Options.” Finally, under “Display” you will see that you can select formatting options that always appear.

For example, if you want to turn off all the formatting marks except paragraphs and spaces, you would select only those two. Then you can turn off all or individual formatting marks in the “Paragraph” section.


Formatting marks are very important for creating clean, consistently formatted documents and they don’t show up in the final, printed document, plus you can turn them on or off as needed, so learn to use them to your advantage.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.