Tab stop

Updated: 10/11/2021 by Computer Hope

A tab stop is the location where the cursor stops after the Tab key is pressed. Tab stops are used in word processors to allow users to align text. Below is a picture of the ruler in Microsoft Word; each left tab stop is denoted by a bold "L" symbol. If these were right tab stops, the "L" would be backward. 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 use the spacebar because 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

In Microsoft Word, there are five different tab stop options. To select one of them, click the button shown in the picture below until you get to the one you require.

Microsoft Word tab options

Below are explanations for each type of tab stop.

  • Left tab stop Left - Text is extended to the right of the tab.
  • Center tab stop Center - Text is centered in the middle of the tab.
  • Right tab stop Right - Text is extended to the left of the tab.
  • Decimal tab stop Decimal - Text before the decimal point extends to the left, and text after the decimal point extends to the right.
  • Bar tab stop Bar - A vertical bar is shown on the tab.
  • First line indent First-line indent - Indents the first line of a paragraph.
  • Hanging indent Hanging indent - Indents all lines of the paragraph, except the first line.

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.

In Microsoft Word, you can also use the Ribbon to create a tab stop.

  1. Click the Home tab, if not already selected.
  2. At the bottom-right of the Paragraph section, click the arrow pointing down and to the right.

Access paragraph settings in Microsoft Word

  1. In the Paragraph window that opens, click the Tabs button in the lower-left corner.
  2. The Tabs settings window opens. The default tab stop is 0.5". If desired, increase or decrease the default tab stop. You can also add or adjust additional tab stops by entering or changing tab stop values in the Tab stop position text field and list.

Tab window

How to remove a tab stop

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 changes to a light grey color, 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