Tab key

Updated: 10/01/2023 by Computer Hope
Tab key with left and right arrows.

The Tab key is a key (shown right) on the far left side of nearly all computer keyboards with many uses. For example, in a word processor, the Tab key may insert a tab character or advance the typing cursor to the right. This key can also move between selectable items in a dialog box or switch between tabs in an Internet browser.

Where is the Tab key on the keyboard?

On a U.S. QWERTY keyboard, the Tab key is located to the left of the "Q" key and above the Caps Lock key on keyboards. In the image below the Tab key is highlighted in blue.

Tab key

Why is there a right and left arrow on Tab?

The Tab key can move to the right or left, although most people only use it to go to the right. The left arrow is sometimes on the key because if you press Shift+Tab, the tab moves backward.

For example, press Alt+Tab to move forward between open windows in Microsoft Windows and other operating systems, whereas pressing Ctrl+Shift+Tab moves backward. The same is true with open tabs, as mentioned earlier on this page. For word processors and other programs dealing with text, pressing Shift+Tab or Ctrl+Shift+M decreases the indent.

How is the Tab key used, and what is its function?

The Tab key is used to indent text on a computer. Below are all the different ways the Tab key can be used on your computer.

  • Indent a line or paragraph of text.
  • Pressing Alt+Tab switches between open program windows on a Microsoft Windows computer.
  • Pressing the Ctrl+Tab switches between open documents or tabs in the open program.
  • Pressing Windows key+Tab shows available open programs in Microsoft Windows.
  • In most programs and computers, pressing Tab moves between selectable elements. For example, you press Tab in your Internet browser now to switch between all selectable elements on this web page.

When filling out an online form, press Tab to move to the next field in the form without using the mouse.

Should I capitalize "Tab" in my writing?

When writing about the Tab key on a computer keyboard, Tab should always be capitalized. Other tab versions mentioned on this page should be lowercased unless used at the beginning of a sentence.

What keyboard shortcuts use the Tab key?

Below are links to keyboard shortcuts that use the Tab key.

Where is the Tab key on smartphones and tablets?

All Android devices, Apple smartphones (iPhone), tablets (iPads), and other mobile devices with touch screens don't have a Tab key. Instead, tap the spacebar on the on-screen keyboard several times to create the desired indent for text.

What is tabbing?

Tabbing describes the position of a text cursor predefined by the tab positions.

Keyboard terms, Tab