Software

How do I delete all tab stops in a Word document?

There is a quick and easy way to delete all the tab stops in a Word document. Susan Harkins explains.

Tab stops are a paragraph format. That means you can assign different tab stops for individual paragraphs. Fortunately, that doesn't mean you have to delete them all individually—or by the paragraph. There's a quick, easy way to delete all the tab stops in a document.

First, select the entire document. There are a number of ways to do so, but the quickest is to press [Ctrl]+a. With the entire document selected, do the following to delete all tab stops:

  1. Choose Paragraph from the Format menu. Or, right-click the selection and choose Paragraph from the resulting context menu. In Word 2007 and 2010, click the Home tab | Paragraph group Dialog launcher.
  2. Click Tab (at the bottom-left).
  3. In the Tabs dialog box, click the Clear All button at the bottom-right.
  4. Click OK.

The truth is, deleting all the tabs is a simple enough task, but the feature's placement isn't particularly easy to find, in any version.

Of course, you won't always want to delete all of the tab stops. You can clear individual tab stops as follows:

  1. Position the insertion point in the appropriate paragraph.
  2. Choose Paragraph from the Format menu. Or, right-click the selection and choose Paragraph from the resulting context menu. In Word 2007 and 2010, click the Home tab | Paragraph group Dialog launcher.
  3. Click Tabs.
  4. In the Tab Stop Position control, highlight the tab stop you want to delete.
  5. Click Clear.

Some might consider using the ruler a bit easier:

  1. Position the insertion point in the appropriate question.
  2. Find the tab indication on the ruler and drag it off--it couldn't be simpler!

Two quick tips for inserting and formatting tabs

As long as we're talking about the ruler, there are two quick ruler tips that I really like:

  • Double-click an existing tab on the ruler to display the Tab dialog box for quick formatting.
  • Double-click the ruler where you want to insert a tab to both insert a tab and open the Tab dialog box.
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About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

9 comments
bbbtechrep
bbbtechrep

You would want to define the tab stops in a style in the first place - no need to use direct formatting throughout a document as that unnecessarily bloats your document. You can find and replace the offending styles or select all and apply your tab-less style to the paragraphs. If you need to update them, just update the single style.

DuhGreek
DuhGreek

If you are using multiple styles but want to reset only a particular style you can select "Styles and Formatting", select the style to reset and "Select All". Anything you do will affect all of the selected text.

dhays
dhays

The biggest problem I have with the ruler approach (which I use, generally) is that in trying to remove oneb, inadvertantly I set a new one nearby, meaning I now have more than one to remove, in which case, I might give up and go to the tab dialog box.

stapleb
stapleb

Well done again Susan. Being the "keyboard queen" I would use Ctrl + Q. This may cause some problems if you have other paragraph formats you wish to keep, such as line spacing, indenting, etc, as Ctrl + Q clears ALL paragraph formats. But, it has enabled me to help others get out of some extremely mysterious Word quirks.

stapleb
stapleb

I know what you mean. I find that if you leave the mouse pointer on the tab stop, and it finally tells you what you are pointing at, you can then "grab and drag". Then Word will not sneak in another stop you weren't anticipating.

fledis
fledis

Grab your mouse, point to the Tab stop, press the left button, and hold it tight pressed :). Then move down away from the ruler.

mattohare
mattohare

Once we take out the intentional tab stops, the line goes back to the default tabs (either half-inch or in my case 1cm)?

ssharkins
ssharkins

Having a full bag of tricks is what makes us really efficient -- having options and choosing the one that fits the circumstances the best!

fledis
fledis

Yeah, if the text contains Tab characters (and without them tab stops have no visible effect) they reverts to the default size- 1.5'' or whatever else. So I'd rather delete all Tab characters (Edit-Replace...).

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