How Many Spaces Is a Tab : Space Insights

Educating ourselves about How many spaces is a tab is important because tab key can be used for the purpose of adding space between words. Data aligned with Tab key can be easily realigned by pressing tab key required times. Whenever every tab key is pressed it moves a specific number of spaces to the next tab stop (L shaped thing on the ruler) by creating the spaces between words.

Have you ever  wondered how many spaces it adds when a tab key is pressed? Is that pre configurable? If yes, how to configure the spaces for each tab key press. We learn everything in this article.

How Many Spaces Is A Tab?

Before learning how many spaces a is a tab, we should know the basic purpose and use of the both tab and spaces in text editors for example like Microsoft Word. Because most of the users are unaware of the proper usage of space and using them for space creation may result in formatting issues in text editors.

The space key or space bar, which is located in the bottom most row and wider than other keys on the keyboard. It is used to add an empty space referred to as space character to whitespace. When typing a word or sentence in word documents, a space bar is used that creates an empty space to separate characters or words.

However, using spacebar to align text in word document to create empty spaces is not a good idea because different characters may consume different numbers of spaces and alignment does not look proper.

So space key is not the right way to create a space between text to format the alignment. So what’s the alternate key that is best fit for adding space to words or sentences. Move on reading.

Generally each Tap occupies a different space in different text editors. However it is significant to note that a single tab space is equal to 4 to 5 spaces in word software. This can be modified or configured according to personal requirements.

When you press the tab key on the keyboard in Microsoft Word, it inserts a tab character which is then displayed as 5 spaces.

Factors Influence The Spacing Of A Tab In MS Word

In Microsoft Word, tab spaces depend on the predefined settings or default settings configured in the application. There are few important factors which decide the spacing of tab keys.

Default Settings Comes with Installation of Software:

By default Microsoft Word inserts five spaces at a time that represents the tab key. This means that when a tab key is pressed, a tab character is inserted and this tab character’s default behavior displayed as five spaces.

Individual Preferences According to Their Need:

Users have the option to adjust the spacing of the tab according to their preferences. This customization can be done through the word options menu, where individuals can specify the width of tab characters in terms of spaces.

Individual Document Formatting Settings:

The spacing of a tab also depends on the formatting settings of individual documents. Users can adjust the tab settings including the tab stops and alignments within individual documents to get desired layout and formatting.

Custom Tab Stop Settings:

Microsoft allows users to set custom tab stops at specific intervals as per their desired length along the ruler. When tabs are used in a document, these tab stops control the text’s alignment and spacing. To regulate text layout, users can configure tab stops to be left-aligned, center-aligned, right-aligned, or decimal-aligned.

Various Paragraph Indentation:

Microsoft Word has options for paragraph indentation, such as first line indentation and hanging indentation, in addition to the tabs for indentation. These formatting choices have an impact on how text is aligned and spaced inside paragraphs as well as how tabs are used in document layout.

Font Type Used :

Although the font type alone has no direct effect on tab spacing, in some circumstances it can have an indirect effect on how tab characters appear. In contrast to other fonts, the alignment of tab characters and text may appear different if a font has irregular spacing or exceptionally broad or narrow letters. But this has less to do with the actual tab character spacing and more to do with the document’s visual arrangement.

Tab Stop and Categories Of Tab Stops In Microsoft Word:

Tab stop refers to the number of spaces a cursor is moved from one place to another place in the word document when tab key is pressed. Tab key can be used to create single column and multi column list along with paragraph indentation.

In a word document, tab stops are used to align the text at a certain place.
An indent used at the start of a line or paragraph is defined by the length of a tab stop.
By pressing the Tab key it moves the cursor one location to the next tab stop in the word document.
The tab stop is displayed on the horizontal ruler located at the top of the Word window.

In Microsoft Word, there are five different kinds of tab stops. Read below to understand the usage of them.

The Left Tab stop:

This tab stop is most commonly used in Microsoft word. The left tab stop’s function is to position the text that is left aligned to the right of the tab stop.

The Right Tab Stop:

The right tab stop is another tab stop used in Microsoft word. It guarantees that content aligned to the right will appear to the left of the tab stop.

The Center Tab Stop:

In addition to the left tab and right tab, there is a center tab that can be used to center align the text in the middle of tab stop.

The Decimal Tab Stop:

Decimal tab stops are the other sort of tab stop. Aligning text according to the first decimal placed on the tab stop is the function of the decimal tab stop.

The Bar Tab Stop:

The Bar tab stop is a final type of tab stop. This can be used to create a vertical line at the tab stop. It is not actually a tab stop but can be used to decorate text and insert a vertical line at the line of text. It can be used to create a vertical line in a multi-column list also.

How To Change Microsoft Word’s Default Tab

If you press the tab key on the keyboard, the cursor will move 1.27 cm or half inch right in the Microsoft word document. Default left tab stop length can be changed by adjusting the settings in Microsoft Word document to take effect immediately when you write and align the text to format the document as per your need.

You have to follow the below steps in order to change the default left tab stop length in Microsoft Word. The changes you do this way is to change the default left tab stop length is only applicable for current documents and it is not permanent change.

Steps to Change the Default Tab Stop Length Permanently:

  • The first step is to open Microsoft Word document.
  • Go to Menu bar and Select Home button
  • Click on Paragraph settings option given right side corner from the Paragraph section located beside Font Section.
  • In the Paragraph sub window, click on the Tabs button from the bottom of the window.
  • Tab dialogue box will open. This window contains Tab stop position, Alignment, Leader, Default tab stops options.
  • Tab stop position text box is used to change the default tab stop length. You can enter the desired value in this box.
  • You can even use the Default tab stop arrow marks to change the length.
  • Click on the Set button to save it.
  • Alignment of the Default tab stop can be changed using the Alignment option to Left, Center, Right, Decimal, Bar.

Steps to Change the Default Tab Stop Length Temporarily:

To change the default tab stop length permanently, you have to open the template in edit mode and do the following changes there.

Normal is the default template, if you have not already chosen some other template explicitly.

  • Open Microsoft Word document
  • Press Alt+Fn+F11 or Alt + F11 to open a A Visual Basic Editor
  • Press Ctrl + G to open Immediate Window
  • Type NormalTemplate.OpenAsDocument in Immediate Window and press enter
  • A Normal window will be opened in a separate window
  • Then close the Visual Basic Editor
  • Click on Paragraph Settings
  • Press Tabs button to open a Tabs window
  • You can enter the desired length in Tab stop position.
  • Press on the Set button to save it.
  • Click on OK in the tabs window.
  • Save and Close the Normal Template.

Creating and Removing A Tab On Word’s Ruler

There are two important settings which we need to enable before creating a tab on the Ruler. First thing is we should enable the paragraph marks which are useful to display paragraph marks, spaces, tab marks and any other hidden formatting symbols. And second thing is to enable the Ruler which is useful for adding, removing and modifying the tab stops.

Enabling Ruler:

If the ruler is already visible in word document then nothing to do that is sufficient to display the ruler. Otherwise go to the View tab from the Menu options and move to the show section. Click the Ruler option. That will display the ruler on the word document.

Enabling Paragraph Marks:

Select Home tab from the Top ribbon in a word document, click the show hide button from the Paragraph section to display or hide paragraph marks.

In the word document once the Ruler is visible, then select the desired tab stop by clicking the tab selector button at a time until it shows your desired tab. Left end of the horizontal ruler and top of the vertical ruler are where you’ll find the tab selectors.

The final step is to place the tap stop by clicking on the ruler at your desired place. This will show the tab stop on the ruler.

Remove Tab Stop:

Select the paragraph you want to remove the tab stop. Then remove the tab stop marker from the ruler. Click Home, pick the Paragraph dialog box launcher, select Tabs, and finally click Clear All to eliminate all tab stops from the selected paragraphs.

How to use Tab Key Indenting Text:

As we discussed earlier, few people use space keys and others use tab keys for text indentation. It depends on the various factors. But using a space bar to create a space to align the text may not be uniform and disturb the alignment of the text in the word editor.

By using the tab key, you align the text neatly and uniformity is maintained across all paras in word documents. Tap space length will be the same irrespective of all font types and indentation of text can be done easily throughout the word document.

Generally people indent the first line of the paragraph so that it is easy to identify the individual paragraphs visually and visual appeal looks decent.

Indent The First Line Of A Paragraph :

To indent the first line of the paragraph, follow the below actions points

  • Put the cursor at the very beginning of the paragraph.
  • Once the cursor is in place , Tap on the Tab key.
  • First line indent marker moves half inch right.
  • When you’re done, the opening line of your paragraph will be indented.

Understanding Indent Markers and Its role in Indenting

Indent markers in the word allows you to provide indentation of the paragraphs to the location you want. In such cases you may need more control over indents.

The indent markers offer multiple possibilities for indenting and are situated to the left of the horizontal ruler.

First-line indent marker: This indent adjusts the first-line indent
Hanging indent marker: It adjusts the hanging indent
Left indent marker: It moves both the first-line indent & hanging indent markers at the same time ( all lines in a paragraph are intended)

Indentation Without a Tab Key: How to Do It?

There is a way to indent the paragraph without using Tab key. Access the paragraph section from the Home tab. Click the paragraph settings option to open a paragraph popup. By default Indent and Spacing tab will be displayed. Choose the First line from the special dropdown option. You can choose indentation size from the By drop down list. Click ok. 

There is an alternate way to indent the first line of the paragraph.

  • Place the cursor anywhere in the paragraph.
  • On the Home tab, right click on Normal tab and select Modify
  • Select Format option and choose Paragraph.
  • Choose the First line option in the Special dropdown under Indentation section  on the Indents and Spacing menu.
  • Select Ok
  • Tap on Ok again.


Q: How many spaces is an indent?
A:  The standard indent is equal to Five spaces but it depends on the font style also.

Q: How many spaces is a tab times new roman 12?
A: Tab width is 5 spaces in the Times new roman font.

Q: How many spaces is a tab on a phone?
A: Generally it is 4 or 5 spaces. But on the phone it may vary as it depends on the default settings of application software or customization settings.

Q: How many spaces is a tab mac?
A: For most Macs, the tab width by default is equal to eight spaces.

Q: How many spaces is a tab in word?
A: In Microsoft Word, a tab is configured to be equal to four spaces by default.

Q: How many spaces is a tab in google docs?
A: The number of spaces that a tab character in Google Docs represents is constant and is roughly equal to five spaces.

Q: How many spaces is a tab in C++ ?
A: By default it is 4 spaces. But a tab character (\t) in C++ does not indicate a particular quantity of spaces. Rather, it moves the pointer to the next tab stop, which is usually predetermined at certain intervals.

Q: How many spaces is a tab in Python?
A: Many Python editors and IDEs are set up so that a tab character is the same as four spaces by default.

Q: Is a tab 4 or 8 spaces?
A: Traditionally, a tab character has been assigned to denote either four or eight spaces; however, there is no standard value for this.

Conclusion : 

Tabs and spaces both are important features while writing in word or other text editors. Spaces allow inconsistent and easily readable format while tabs allow more consistent and neat indentation. If you want to use them, you should understand when to use them, how to use them and the spaces they create for each tab key or spacebar press, so the text looks clean and provides more readability.

Read Also: How does a microblog differ from a personal blog

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