Order text elements with tabs

Tabulators are actually a relic from a bygone era: the typewriter. They moved the mechanics to pre-set areas when writing in order to always create the same spacing and thus a visual tidiness.

When working with a screen, words and sentences can also be edited afterwards, fortunately, but what has not changed is the requirement for visual order. That means a document with equal spacing. That’s why we still use virtual tabs today. To make a long story short: Tabs are markers in the document that work like a stop sign and dictate whether words should line up to the left, centre or right of you. This tutorial shows you step by step how.

Insert tabs

First, on the View tab in the Display group, we click on the Ruler option to show a ruler. This is very important for working with tabs, as they are displayed in the linear.

After the click, we see a ruler with different areas on the left and above our document. We are interested in the ruler at the top.

There are several ways to insert a tab. The easiest is probably to simply click once with the mouse in the ruler with the left mouse button. For this tutorial, however, we want to use more settings, which is why we click on the small button in the Start tab in the Paragraph folder (see red arrow).

The paragraph dialogue box opens. Further down is the button for tab stops, which we now click on.

The tab stop dialogue box reveals new options. In the Tab Stop Position field we enter a decimal number. For example, 2.5 – which stands for two and a half centimetres. In addition, we can specify the alignment and any fill characters. We confirm with OK.

And this is what the first tab stop looks like:

We can click on the tab stop with the left mouse button and keep the mouse button pressed while moving the mouse sideways. In this way, a tab stop can be moved in seconds. Word shows us the effects directly in the document.

With a single click next to our tab stop, we create another tab stop, as in the screen shot.

As explained in step 3, we open the tab stop dialogue box by clicking on the black arrow in the Paragraphs group in the Home tab and then selecting Tab stops at the bottom. Alternatively, we can simply double-click on a tab – this is much quicker.

In the tab stops dialogue box we see our two tab stops with 2.75 cm and 3.25 cm. We want to align the first tab stop (2.75 cm) to the right, so we mark the tab stop once with a click and then also click on the Right option. As always, we confirm with OK.

This is how the result looks: the first tab stop is right-aligned and the second tab stop is left-aligned. And this is how the tab stops work: we first press the Tab key at the top left of the keyboard (to the left of the Q key). Then we write “Name:” and press the Tab key again to jump to the next tab. Now we write Hanna as an example, press the Enter key and add more dots using a similar method … until our input looks like the picture here:

This is what it looks like without the characters: The first words are right-justified, while the right row has a left-justified orientation. The advantage is that even words and lists of different lengths can be displayed clearly.

Tabs are suitable for quick and smaller enumerations, as in a CV. If the structure becomes more complex, it is advisable to work with tables.