Tab stop

Updated: 08/02/2020 by Computer Hope

A tab stop is a term used to describe the location the cursor stops after the Tab key is pressed. Tab stops are used in word processors to enable users to align text by pressing Tab. Below is a picture of the ruler in Microsoft Word, with each of the left tab stops marked as a bold "L" symbol. If these were right tab stops, the "L" would be backwards. In Microsoft Word, the tab selector, also called the tab indicator, is a button to the left of the ruler that provides tab marker options.

Tab stop


When aligning or positioning text, never do so using the spacebar as it can cause formatting problems. Text should be positioned with one of the alignment settings, or using tab stops and the Tab key.

Types of tab stops

Below are explanations of each of the five different tab stops.

  • Left - Text is extended to the right of the tab.
  • Center - Text is centered in the middle of the tab.
  • Right - Text is extended to the left of the tab.
  • Decimal - Text before the decimal point extends to the left and text after the decimal point extends to the right.
  • Bar - A vertical bar is shown on the tab.

How to create a tab stop

The easiest method for creating a tab stop is to double-click the ruler in the word processor to display the tabs window. From the tabs window, you can specify the type of tab you want to create, and its position.

Tab window

How to remove a tab stop

If you want to remove a tab stop from the ruler, position the mouse cursor over the tab stop. Press and hold the left mouse button on the tab stop, then drag the mouse down. When the tab stop symbol turns a light grey, release the mouse button, removing the tab stop. If there are multiple tab stops in the ruler, repeat this process to remove each one.

Remove a tab stop in Microsoft Word

Align, Software terms, Tab, Word processor terms