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Tab Key

The Tab key in the upper-left acts like the Tab key on a typewriter (if you’ve ever used a typewriter) in that after you press the Tab key you’ll start typing at the next tab stop that’s set. In most word processing programs, there is a default tab set every one-half inch; to make others, simply click in the ruler you see across the top of the screen to create a tab stop in the selected paragraph (to remove tabs, press-and-drag the tab markers down off the ruler).


You won’t see a symbol for the Tab key in menus, but you might see it on your word processing page; the symbol varies from program to program.

In spreadsheet and database programs, the Tab key will move the selection to the next cell or field to the right, just as it would move your typing to the right (the Return key will move the selection to the next cell or field down). Hold the Shift key down as you press Tab to move the selection backwards to the left (or Shift Return to move up).

When you are in dialog boxes, press the Tab key to select edit boxes (the small spaces where you can type something new, as shown circled to the right). Just try it: Open a dialog box, then press the Tab key to cycle you through the edit boxes. If there is something in an edit box already, the box will highlight; anything you type will replace what is highlighted (which means you don’t have to hit the Delete key first—just type). If the edit box is empty, the insertion point will flash to indicate you can now type in it. Using the Tab key to select the next field also works on most forms on web pages.


Do you see the seven edit boxes in this small dialog window? The first one,“Top,” is highlighted and ready for you to enter a new value. Hit the Tab key to select the next edit box.


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