Measure up with the horizontal ruler: Set margins, indents, and tabs

Applies to
Microsoft Office Word 2003
Microsoft Word 2000 and 2002

In Word, you can quickly set up margins, tab stops, and paragraph indents in one convenient place: the horizontal ruler.

The horizontal ruler is the bar across the top of your Word document with measurements marked out on it. Many people ignore it and use the various dialog boxes instead. But after you know how to use the horizontal ruler, you will wonder how you ever coped without it.

To view the horizontal ruler, you must be in print layout view (Print Layout view: A view of a document or other object as it will appear when you print it. For example, items such as headers, footnotes, columns, and text boxes appear in their actual positions.), normal view (normal view: A view that shows text formatting and a simplified page layout. Normal view is convenient for most editing and formatting tasks.), or Web layout view (Web Layout view: A view of a document as it will appear in a Web browser. For example, the document appears as one long page (without page breaks) and text and tables wrap to fit in the window.). If you cannot see the horizontal ruler, do the following:

  1. On the View menu, click Print Layout, Normal, or Web layout.
  2. If the horizontal ruler is not showing across the top of your document, click Ruler on the View menu.

Document margins

Document in Word showing margin positions

The ruler measures the width of the paper starting at the left margin (0"). This means the ruler counts both to the left and the right. In this example, there are 7.25 inches from the left margin to the right edge of the page and 1.25 inches from the left margin to the left edge of the page, making a total page width of 8.5 inches. The width of the text area (inside the margins) is 6 inches.

The ruler marks off the width of a page based on your selected paper size. For example, in a standard letter document, the ruler measures a total of 8.5 inches; in an A4 document, the ruler measures 8.27 inches (21 cm).

Change the document margins when you need to change the position of all paragraphs in the document. If instead you want to change the position of specific paragraphs (for example, to emphasize some quotes), change the paragraph indents (see the section on paragraph indents).

Changing the margins

You can change the margins by using the horizontal ruler in print layout view only.

To change the left or right margins, position the pointer over the center of the left or right margin marker on the horizontal ruler, and then drag the margin marker along the ruler to the position that you want.

Margin marker next to Indent markers on the ruler

Callout 1 The left margin marker is successfully selected when the pointer changes to a two-headed arrow.
Callout 2 The indent markers are shown here to the right of the margin marker but are often at the left margin.

Because the indent markers are usually also at the left margin, it can be difficult to find the left margin marker. The pointer needs to be precisely between the two triangular indent markers. You know you have it when the pointer changes to a two-headed arrow.

Notes about using the horizontal ruler to change the left and right margins

  • If your document has multiple sections, the margin changes that you make by using the horizontal ruler apply to the current section only, not to the entire document.
  • For precise margin adjustments, you can see the exact measurements on the ruler by holding down ALT while you drag the margin markers.
  • To set the top and bottom margins of the page, you can use the margin markers on the vertical ruler.

 Note   To view the vertical ruler on the side of your Word document, you must be in print layout view (Print Layout view: A view of a document or other object as it will appear when you print it. For example, items such as headers, footnotes, columns, and text boxes appear in their actual positions.). If you cannot see the vertical ruler in print layout view, click Options (Tools menu), click the View tab, and then select the Vertical ruler (Print view only) check box under Print and Web Layout options.

  • You can change the measurement units of your ruler from inches to metric on the General tab of the Options dialog box (Tools menu, Options command).

Paragraph indents

The indent markers on the horizontal ruler show how the current paragraph is indented. When more than one paragraph is selected, some of the markers may appear dimmed. This indicates that the indent settings differ among the selected paragraphs. The horizontal ruler shows the indent settings for the first paragraph in the selection.

You can move these indent markers to position paragraphs of text on a page. To set the indent for more than one paragraph, select all the text that you want to adjust before you move the indent markers. You can also set up indents before you type your text.

Use paragraph indents when you need to change the position of some paragraphs in your document — for example, to emphasize some quotes. If instead you need to change the position of all your paragraphs, adjust the document margins (see the section on document margins).

First Line Indent marker The First Line Indent marker (the top triangle) controls the starting position of the first line of a paragraph.
Hanging Indent marker The Hanging Indent marker (bottom triangle) positions the start of the second and all following lines of text in a paragraph.
Left Indent marker The Left Indent marker is the square underneath the Hanging Indent marker. You can use it to move the hanging indent and first line indent together, keeping any space between them constant.
Right Indent marker The Right Indent marker positions the right indent of a paragraph.

Notes about using the horizontal ruler to indent a paragraph

  • By default, all the indent markers are at the margins.
  • You can also move indents into the margins of a document. You can move the Left Indent marker into the left margin or move the Right Indent marker into the right margin.
  • For precise indent adjustments, you can see the exact measurements on the ruler by holding down ALT while you drag the indent markers.
  • If you accidentally click the ruler while you are indenting a paragraph, a tab stop appears. To get rid of the tab stop, just drag it (up or down) off the ruler.
  • To be sure that you are about to move the correct indent marker on the horizontal ruler, position the pointer over the indent marker and wait for a ScreenTip to appear.
  • The Left Indent marker is stuck together with the Hanging Indent marker; you can't move them separately. Whether you move the Left Indent marker or the Hanging Indent marker depends on which part you are dragging, the triangle or the square, so be sure that you click the right one.

Tab stops

Use a tab stop when you want to line up text to the left, right, or center; line up numbers around a decimal point; or insert a bar character.

Document with text lined up by tab stops

Callout 1 The tab selector button. Click to cycle through all the types of tab stops.
Callout 2 Tab stops positioned along the horizontal ruler.

You can quickly set tabs by clicking the tab selector at the left end of the ruler until it displays the type of tab you want and then clicking the ruler at the location you want. But which type of tab stop should you use?

Button image A Left Tab stop sets the start position of text that will then run to the right as you type.
Button image A Center Tab stop sets the position of the middle of the text. Text centers on this position as you type.
Button image A Right Tab stop sets the right end of the text. As you type, the text moves to the left.
Button image A Decimal Tab stop aligns numbers around a decimal point. Independent of the number of digits, the decimal point will be in the same position. (You can align numbers around a decimal character only; you cannot use the decimal tab to align numbers around a different character, such as a hyphen or an ampersand symbol.)
Button image A Bar Tab stop is the odd one out because it doesn't position text. It inserts a vertical bar at the tab position.

If you want your tab stops at precise positions that you can't get by clicking the ruler, or if you want to insert a specific character (leader) before the tab, you can use the Tabs dialog box (Format menu, Tabs command). You can also display this dialog box by double-clicking any tab stop on the ruler.

Notes about using the horizontal ruler to set tab stops

  • By default, there are no tab stops on the ruler when you open a new blank document.
  • The final two options on the tab selector are actually for indents. You can click these and then click the ruler to position the indents, rather than sliding the indent markers along the ruler. Click First Line Indent Button image, and then click the upper half of the horizontal ruler where you want the first line of a paragraph to begin. Click Hanging Indent Button image, and then click the lower half of the horizontal ruler where you want the second and all following lines of a paragraph to begin.
  • When you set a bar tab stop, a vertical bar line appears where you set the tab stop (you don't need to press the TAB key). A bar tab is similar to strikethrough formatting, but it runs vertically through your paragraph at the location of the bar tab stop. Like other types of tabs, you can set a bar tab stop before or after you type the text of your paragraph.
  • You can remove a tab stop by dragging it (up or down) off of the ruler. When you release the mouse button, the tab stop disappears.
  • You can also drag existing tab stops left or right along the ruler to a different position.
  • When multiple paragraphs are selected, only the tabs from the first paragraph show on the ruler.

Portions of this article were excerpted from Training on Microsoft Office Online.

 
 
Applies to:
Word 2003