MS Word

Stop Word From Turning Tabs into Indents

The Problem:

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

The Solution:

Did I mention that Word is trying to be helpful? In word processing, you should almost never need to use a tab.

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).
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.