MacMost Now 642: Word Processor Tab Stops

Tab stops allow you to align text in word processing programs. They have been around for a while, but if you have only started using word processors recently, you may have overlooked them in favor of tables and other layout elements. Tab stops are a quick and easy way to display data neatly inside a document.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 642: Word Processor Tab Stops.

Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. In today's episode, let's talk about tab stops. So I've got a few questions recently about tab stops. If you've been using word processors for a long time, you've been using tab stops. But more recently word processors allow you to add tables to your documents so you don't have as much of a need for them. But they're still there in the ruler and still see them in the documents, thus the questions.
Let me show you how tab stops work. So I'm working in Pages here, but the same basic idea applies to Text Edit and even Microsoft Word. Now, the ruler at the top of the screen is where the tab stops are. If you don't see it, you want to make sure it's visible. So for instance go to View then Show or Hide Rulers, right there. With the ruler visible I can create a tab stop by clicking anywhere in it. And you can see I can drag it left and right. If I want to get rid of it, I can drag it down or up, out. So I'm going to place one right there. So what happens here is you can see my cursor. If I were to type some text and then Tab, you can see it would jump to that position right there. I can do that on the next line too. So it creates nice, even columns of text. I can add another tab stop easily for another column. Now the tricky thing about tab stops is remember that when you set them, you're setting them only for the paragraph that's selected. A paragraph is any line of text ending in a return. So in this case I put a return in this line. If I were to use the arrow key or the cursor to go to the next one, you can see that tab disappears here, cause it's only in this paragraph, not in this paragraph. So you wanna be careful when you're adding a tab to make sure that you select multiple paragraphs if that's what you want, and add it for all of them. So I will add it here, and let's say I wanted to add another one, and put it in right there. Let's make sure first that I select both lines there, add this tab stop here, and I can see it's in my first line and my second line. Now I can adjust tab stops by simply dragging. So I wanna, say select, everything here so it's affecting all four paragraphs, four lines here, and I can drag this tab stop like that, move it, and it affects all the lines at once.
Now the different types of tab stops. So you can see here with this triangle pointing to the right, that's a right tab stop. I can change it. Let me select all the lines again, and if I were to CTRL click on it, see I can select several different types. So a center tab, would align the text that's associated with the tab, centered with that tab stop. Likewise a right tab would align it to the right, which can be very useful. In addition to that we also have another type. Let me go and change this one here to be a decimal type. What happens with that is I can enter numerical amounts, say dollar amounts, and it's going to place the decimal point exactly the same location for each line.
Now we have even more control over tabs with the Inspector. To bring up the Inspector I go to the Text Inspector and I click on Tabs. Now I have a lot of controls you can see here over a particular tab. For instance let me select all the text here, and you can see that it shows me the tab stops at the exact measurements for each one here. And I can set the alignment for each one by selecting it. So for instance, the second tab is aligned to the right, I can change align to the left, or center, I can change that to right. I can also set the decimal tab character to something else other than a period. And also default tabs, this is what happens when you don't put any tab stops at all, you're just using the tab like you would on an old fashioned typewriter. It just moves forward half an inch, as the default.
Another cool thing you can do is you can set leaders. So what a leader does is, you say, select tab like this one here the second tab. Let's set a leader to be a series of dots. And you can see what it does is put that series of dots from the previous tab to the beginning of the word there. So you get this, and no matter how these words are positioned and how much text you add, you can see it put these dots, or you can do an underline, or you can do dashes.
So today we looked at tab stops. You'll find people who have been using computers and word processors for a long time tend to use tab stops whereas people who are new to computers and word processors might use objects like tables and other layout elements instead. Either way it's good to know how to use these valuable tools, so maybe check it out, play around with them. Until next time, this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 9 Responses to “MacMost Now 642: Word Processor Tab Stops”

    7 years ago

    Hi Gary, most informative info on Tab Stops…. and many thanks. I have been using tabs for years but have learned something new today! By the way, Pages with tab stops (and text boxes) is infinitely faster than using tables.
    With greetings from France.

    Nancy Brandauer
    7 years ago

    Just watched 2 tutorials and loved them. Now! How about a tutorial about alphabetizing lists in Snow Leopard? That would be very useful for me.

    7 years ago

    Very helpful video! Thanks so much.

    Justin Lee
    7 years ago

    Hey Gary,

    In pages, I would really like to enable “leaders” in my table of contents (Connecting the section name………… #) Is it possible? If not, is there a manual way of doing it?

    Hakuna Matat

      7 years ago

      I’m not sure. Play around with it. I’ve never done it so I can’t say.

    Gary Stone
    7 years ago

    Very informative video. I learned much from your tab stops tutorial. Once you get the hang of it after practice, your documents will look much more aligned.
    Thank you!

    Ken Elson
    7 years ago

    When typing in pages for ipad, after setting the tabs, how do I use the tabs?

      7 years ago

      Tap on the cursor. You’ll get a menu for Select/Select All/Paste/Insert. Tap Insert. Then tap Tab.

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