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TABS

Stop Word From Turning Tabs into Indents

The Annoyance:

Sometimes a tab gives me an indent instead of the tab I want. Arrgh!

The Fix:

Did I mention that Word is trying to be helpful? In word processing, you should almost never need to use a tab. See the sidebar "Stubbing Out Tabs" for details on this way of thinking.

If you insist on using tabs, though, you can. If you're using Word 2003 or Word XP, choose Tools → AutoCorrect Options, click the AutoFormat As You Type tab, and uncheck the "Set left- and first-indent with tabs and backspaces" box. That will stop Word from creating a first-line indent when you press Tab. It'll also prevent you from using Backspace to reduce the left indent or move the left margin further to the left, but that's the price you pay for progress.

If you're using Word 2000, choose Tools → Options, click the Edit tab, and uncheck the "Tabs and backspace set left indent" box. Same feature, different name and location.

STUBBING OUT TABS

Tabs are vital in documents typed on typewriters, but in word-processed documents, they tend to be a menace. For most typical uses of tabs, there's a better option:


First-line indent

Choose Format → Paragraph, choose "First line" in the Special drop-down list, and enter the measurement in the By box. Ideally, you should do this for each style that requires a first-line indent, rather than setting different indents for individual paragraphs.


Columns of text

Instead of using multiple lines separated with soft returns (Shift+Enter) or hard returns (Enter) and indented with tabs, use tables with no borders to create the effect of tabbed paragraphs. For newspaper-style columns (such as in a newsletter), use Word's Columns feature (choose Format → Columns). See "Columns" in Chapter 7 for details.


Headers and footers, or other text with different alignments

Use tabs for these-but never use more than a single tab at once. Instead, place tab stops in the appropriate places.


Use Tabs Effectively

The Annoyance:

I've used tabs to lay out columns of data. But when my husband opens the document on his PC, the tabs have all shifted to different positions. My first guess was that his computer was from Mars, but it's actually a Dell. How can I make the tabs display consistently?

The Fix:

If you're using tabs to align columns of text, consider using a table instead (see Chapter 7). But if you're convinced that tabs are the way to go, here's what you must know to use them effectively.

To work easily with tabs, you need to be able to see where you've put them—or (worse) where someone else has put them in the document you're trying to fix. You can toggle the display of all formatting marks by clicking the Show/Hide button on the Standard toolbar or pressing Ctrl+Shift+8 (or Ctrl+*, if you prefer to think of it that way). To see just tabs, choose Tools → Options, click the View tab, check the "Tab characters" box, and click the OK button. Each tab then appears as a small arrow pointing to the right.

Word starts you off with built-in tabs at half-inch intervals. These are fine for occasional use, but if you want to align columns of text precisely, you should set the tabs manually instead. If you use the built-in tabs to align text, the positioning will change if you change the margins or the font, or if you paste the aligned text into another document that has different settings. Your husband's computer may have substituted a font for one you used, or it may have applied his version of a template that has different tab settings from your version.


Tip:

You can change the default tab interval by choosing Format → Tabs and setting the interval you want in the "Default tab stops" text box.


You can set tabs manually by using either the horizontal ruler or the Tabs dialog box (Format → Tabs). On the ruler, drag an existing tab mark to move it (hold down Alt as you drag to see exact measurements in the ruler), or drag it downward off the ruler to delete it. To set a new tab, click the Tab button at the left end of the ruler so that it shows the type of tab you want (hover the mouse pointer to display the ScreenTip for the tab type if you're not sure which type it's indicating, as shown in Figure 4-16), and click at the appropriate point in the ruler to place the tab there.

Figure 4-16. Click the Tab button at the left end of the horizontal ruler to change the type of tab. Hover the mouse pointer to identify the current type of tab.



Tip:

All of Word's tabs are largely self-explanatory, except for the bar tab, which creates a thin vertical line at the specified position. It's not really a tab, because you don't have to press Tab to set it: the line simply appears in the paragraphs for which you've set the bar tab. Depending on what type of documents you create, you may find bar tabs occasionally useful or simply a puzzling waste of time.


If you want to see exactly where you're putting your tabs, select the paragraphs you want to affect, and then choose Format → Tabs. The Tabs dialog box appears (see Figure 4-17). Type the position for the tab in the "Tab stop position" text box, select the appropriate option button in the Alignment area, choose the appropriate option button in the Leader area (the default is None), and click the Set button. You can also clear a tab you've selected in the "Tab stop position" listbox, or clear all tabs set so far.


Tip:

To type a tab in a table, press Ctrl+Tab rather than plain Tab (which moves the selection to the next cell in the table).


Figure 4-17. The Tabs dialog box enables you to position tabs precisely as needed.


Align Numbers with Decimal Tabs

The Annoyance:

I need to get columns of numbers aligned on a decimal point. Tabs aren't much use, because I have to put just the right amount of spaces after them to get the alignment right.

The Fix:

Use a decimal tab—a tab that aligns figures on a decimal point. You can set a decimal tab by using either the Tabs button on the ruler or the Tabs dialog box (Format → Tabs).


Tip:

To lay out extra-wide tabular data, you can set tabs beyond the left and right margins of a page.


Convert Tabs and Spaces to Just Tabs

The Annoyance:

My boss creates complex tables that look beautiful but turn out to be painstakingly aligned with a mixture of tabs and spaces. I've tried showing her how to change the default tab stops, but she's got better things to worry about. So I need to remove the spaces, leaving the tabs; reduce each set of multiple tabs to a single tab; and then fix the tab stops. Madness beckons.

The Fix:

Find and Replace can knock out the spaces and extra tabs for you. Choose Edit → Replace, enter ^w (whitespace) in the "Find what" box and ^t in the "Replace with" box, and then click the Replace All button.

You'll then need to fix the tab stops manually, but that shouldn't take you long.

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