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Barry MacDonnell's
Toolbox for WordPerfect

Macros, tips, and templates for Corel® WordPerfect® for Windows®
© Copyright 1996-2021 by Barry MacDonnell. All Rights Reserved.

Page updated Dec 15, 2016

WordPerfect Tips
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How to create
custom tab settings

for outlines and bullet lists


WordPerfect menu choices refer to the <WordPerfect> menu. (Right-click on WordPerfect's top menu bar for a choice of menus.)

If you use a <Microsoft Word> menu, the choices might be absent from your menu (but not from the program), or they might be found under another menu selection.

If the menu choices or toolbars discussed on this site seem to be missing from your program, see here.

Related pages

•  Using, creating, modifying, and saving outlines - Alternatives, tips, and examples

•  TabSet25 - a macro to quickly set tabs every 0.25"


Outlines separate the initial number/letter/bullet from an item's text (and for sub-level items, from the left margin) based on the current tab settings in effect at that location.

Here's an example of the first two levels of the standard Paragraph number outline style (with standard 0.5" tab settings), starting at the left margin.

Outline example with default 0.5" tabs

Some users prefer reducing the horizontal space separating the number/letter/bullet from the left margin and from rest of that item's content.

That is, they want to reduce the 0.5" tabs to (e.g.) 0.25" for just the outline area, like this (note the extra tabs on the ruler compared to the image above and their effects on the outline):

Outline example with custom 0.25" tabs

Several ways to do it

  Use some standard WordPerfect methods.

Method 1. You can manually add more tabs between the standard tabs -- e.g., left-click on the ruler bar just below the horizontal line to insert a Left tab. (To move a tab just click-drag it left or right. To remove a tab just click-drag it from the ruler.)

Method 2. Or use Format, Line, Tab Set to set new tabs every "0.250" inches with the "Repeat every..." field. (Be sure to click on Set before exiting that dialog.)

Method 3. Or you can have the program add the new tabs using a built-in outline feature (at least in recent WordPerfect versions). Use Insert, Outline/Bullets & Numbering on a <WordPerfect> menu and enable (tick) the check box "Set tabs every ... [0.250"]" at the bottom of that dialog.

- - -

The methods are quick and easy.  Also, method #3 is a "sticky" setting between WordPerfect sessions and
for all outline definitions, and remains in effect until the box is cleared or a new dimension is entered.

Downsides: Unfortunately, the new tab settings (0.250" in this example) with these methods will remain in effect following the outline. This is due to the "stream" orientation of WordPerfect's format codes (as described here).

   You can reset them in the document immediately after the outline by dragging unwanted tabs from the ruler (or dragging them to new positions) and/or by adding new tabs with your mouse (i.e., left clicking on the ruler underneath the ruler's horizontal line).

But if you have set some custom tab settings prior to the outline you might need to position the cursor immediately after the outline and use the Tab Set dialog’s Clear button to remove all new tabs that were set in the outline and either [A] restore your prior custom tab settings or else [B] just use the Default button to set them every 0.5" and (optionally) make further tab setting adjustments with your mouse.

With this method it's easy to forget to do these things – not to mention taking some extra time and effort every time you do it.

  Use a macro or a custom style on a selected outline or bullet list.

You can automatically apply new tab spacing to a selected outline or bullet list, or to any other selection of text.

Method 4. Use a macro, such as TabSet25 on this site. (This macro can also set tabs at the top of a document or starting at the cursor location. A third choice lets you apply it to selected text such as an outline or bullet list.)

Method 5. Use a custom character style containing the new tab settings in the form of a [Tab Set] code included in the style's Styles Editor. (See "Tips for the style method" just below. For general information on custom styles see here.)

- - -

Both of these are quick and easy methods and they also turn the new tab settings on at the beginning of the selection and off at the end of the selection. This restricts the new tab settings to the selected material.
Moreover they can be used with any text, not just with numbered/bulleted lists and outlines.

Downside:  You have to remember to play the macro or apply the style to the selected text every time you need to modify the tab settings for the outline or list. A better solution might be found in the next section, "Create a customized outline."

Tips for the style method:  You can create the custom [Tab Set] code with the TabSet25 macro played in a new blank document and then use cut-and-paste to include it in the new style when you create or edit it. Similarly, you can use a different macro to simultaneously create the style with the new tab settings included in it. See Footnote 1 below for details.

  Create a customized outline.

Method 6. If you frequently use certain number/letter outlines or to set up bullet items and you want to automatically add custom tab settings to them, it might be worth your while to set up a few customized outlines with the necessary "on/off" tab set codes embedded inside these items.

The "how to" instructions in the next section below show you how to create a new (custom) outline that -

    •  automatically reduces such spacing to 0.25" within the outline, and then
    •  automatically restores previous tab settings (e.g., 0.5") following the outline.

The method is the same for both bullet outlines as it is for outlines that use numbers and/or letters.

- - -

All you need to do is choose the custom number/letter/bullet outline for the current section of your document (with Insert, Outline/Bullets & Numbering). The custom codes embedded in it will take care of setting/resetting custom tab stops when you use the outline or bullets. This way, there's no need to select the outline first -- unless, of course, you use a different outline or bullet style, in which case the TabSet25 macro or a custom character style mentioned above can do the job on the selection quickly and easily.

Note:  It's important to remember that we are talking about customizing outlines and NOT about customizing similar items created with the automatic Format-As-You-Go paragraph numbering feature (see here) or by using bullet symbols (Insert, Symbol) rather than a bullet outline. The automatic paragraph numbering and symbol insertion methods produce items that can be selected and treated with the TabSet25 macro or with custom character styles, as described above.

Tip:  Automatic paragraph numbering, since it uses the default standard Paragraph outline when you use its shortcut key (see here), can use custom tab settings, too -- if you start the customized numeric outline anywhere above the auto-numbered section. All you need is the [Outline] code for the custom outline present in the document before you use the auto-number feature: Just use Insert, Outline... at the current location or at the top of the document and choose the custom outline containing the new tab settings. If the outline isn't needed at that point you can delete the number and adjacent codes except for the [Outline] code. "Downstream" auto-numbered paragraph items will "inherit" the tab settings in the custom [Outline] code.

How to create custom tab settings inside an outline definition (from Method 6 above)

Here, we'll create an example of a custom outline by modifying a copy of an existing outline's definition rather than modifying a standard outline or creating a new one from scratch. (For more on this topic see "Using, creating, modifying, and saving outlines" here.)

This should take less time to do than it might appear from these instructions.

Assuming you save it later to your default template, this should also be a one-time operation for each custom outline. If you don't save it to the template it will be saved in the current document only. (See Footnote 2 at the bottom of these instructions for how to save these custom outlines.)

Step 1.   

Create a copy of a standard outline. Use Insert, Outline/Bullets & Numbering to open the "Bullets & Numbering" dialog. (See next image.)


You do not strictly need to create a copy. You could choose a standard (factory-shipped) outline and click Edit to modify it. You can then reset it any time to its default definition using the Bullets & Numbering dialog's Options (button), Reset feature.

However, creating a copy might be better since it lets you use both the standard version and the custom version. As always, it's your choice.

Step 2.   

Choose a number (or bullet) outline you wish to copy (e.g., the Paragraph outline) by clicking on its graphical representation ("thumbnail"), then click the Options button, then Copy.

Bullets & Numbering dialog - Create a copy

Step 3.   

This opens a small dialog, "Outline Definitions Copy?". Set the radio button to "Current Document" (you can save it to the default template later; see footnote below) and click OK.

Outline Definition Copy dialog

Step 4.   

Name the copy. In the next dialog ("Outline Definition Duplicate?") give the new outline a name (e.g., TabsSet25) and click OK.

Outline Definition Duplicate dialog

This takes you back to the "Bullets & Numbering dialog" where the new outline definition appears at the bottom of the list of outlines as a new thumbnail.

Bullets & Numbering dialog - New custom outline

Step 5.   

Edit the new outline definition. With the new outline selected (a blue border appears on the thumbnail when it is selected) click the Edit button. This opens the "Create Format" dialog shown below.

In the large pane in the left side of that dialog you will see the outline Levels (individual outline styles) listed, showing their Number/Bullet and Level style. The pane on the right gives a rough preview of the format.

Create Format dialog

•  Click on the first (i.e., top) item to select that outline level style (it will be highlighted in reversed colors). Then -

•  Click on the Create Style button. This opens a Styles Editor.

Step 6.   

Create a new style for that outline level.

Outline Styles Editor

Settings for the Styles Editor:

Step 6[a].  Name the new Level style. In the Styles Editor (shown above) you must give the new level's style a name in the "Style name" field. (Before you can exit from the Styles Editor after making changes you must name the style.)

I suggest using a unique style name that is similar to the main outline name. In fact it must be unique: If it's not, a message appears to alert you.

For example, since this is the first outline level in your custom outline (e.g., TabsSet25) you might use "TabSet25-1". For subsequent levels you could use the same pattern: "TabSet25-2", "TabSet25-3", etc.

Note that style names are limited to 12 characters.

The "Description" field is optional but adding a description might help you later if you need to remember what the style is for.

The "Enter key inserts style" should be best to "<Same Style>" since you want the next item at that level (i.e., following the Enter key) to use the same style, and the "Type" should be set to "Paragraph" (outlines are special types of paragraph format). These are the program defaults.

Step 6[b].  Enable both checkboxes at the bottom of the Styles Editor, the "Reveal Codes" box and the "Show 'off codes'" box. (See image in step 6 above.)

In the Contents pane you should see some format codes, as shown above.

The "Show 'off codes'" checkbox inserts a rather long "Codes to the left..." placeholder code following the outline level's format codes:

Styles Editor placeholder code

This long code tells the program where to stop applying the style's formatting -- i.e., after you press Enter to end the current outline item.

Don't delete it -- but if you do you can restore it by disabling (clearing) the "Show 'off codes'" checkbox and enabling it again.

Step 6[c].  In the Contents pane click on the top left side of all codes so that the red Editor's block-shaped insertion cursor is positioned before (to the left of) all other codes, as shown in the image above.

Why do this?

The next step ("Insert the new tab settings...") will insert a new custom [Tab Set] code. Hence placing the cursor before all other codes in the Contents pane in preparation for that step – even though not strictly needed here with tab settings but still a good practice to put a style's format codes in the proper sequence – will cause lower level outline items (Levels 2-9) to be indented from the left margin using the same tab stop dimension as the space between the number/letter/bullet and the level's text.

In this instructional example the dimension will be 0.25" for all tab stops in the outline, starting at the left margin.

Step 6[d].  Insert the new tab settings in the Contents pane.

On the Styles Editor's menu, click Format, Line, Tab Set. The "Tab Set" dialog appears. In the Tab Set dialog -

•  set the tab position to 0.25"
•  set the radio button to "from left margin (relative)"
•  enable the checkbox "Repeat every" and set the adjacent field to 0.25"
•  click on the Set button, then Close.

A new [Tab Set] code should appear in the Contents pane at the top left side of other codes.

[Tab Set][Para Num: 1][Hd Left Ind]

If you move your cursor to the left of the code you should see the new tab settings appear on it – two regular settings before the zero position and several others every 0.25" after the zero position.


However, if you want just the tab space between the number/letter/bullet and the level's text to be reduced (as well as any indents or tabs following it on that level), then after completing step #9 you can select just the [Tab Set] code, cut it to the clipboard with Ctrl+x, then paste it just after the [Para Numb] code with Ctrl+v.

It should then look something like this:

...[Para Num: 1][Tab Set][Hd Left Ind]...
In this case the indented space dimension before each number/letter/bullet will then be set by whatever tab settings were in effect before the outline was started (typically, 0.5" per tab stop). The indented or tabbed space dimensions after the number/letter/bullet will be (in our example) 0.25".

Step 6[e].  Click in the Contents pane after (below) all other codesincluding after the long placeholder code (inserted in step 6[b] above). For example:

[Tab Set][Para Num: 1][Hd Left Ind]
[Codes to the left are ON - Codes to the right are OFF]

Step 6[f].  On the Editor's menu, click once more on Format, Line, Tab Set. 

Here, you just need to click the Default button, and then Close.

Another new [Tab Set] code should appear in the Contents pane at the bottom of all contents, something like this:

[Tab Set][Para Num: 1][Hd Left Ind]
[Codes to the left are ON - Codes to the right are OFF]
[Tab Set]

What does it do?

In the main document this second [Tab Set] code functions to reset all tab stops following that outline level (whether it's is another outline level or it's regular document text) to the default (e.g., 0.5"). Since an outline level is a paragraph style, ending the paragraph (i.e., the Level) with the Enter key will reset the style's formatting -- including the style's tab settings.

Note that if more outline levels (same level or different levels) follow that level in the document, and which contain different custom tab settings (or even no custom settings), the settings in them will take effect immediately. However, in the method described here, all other levels – i.e., Level 1 up to (possibly) Level 9 – in our custom outline example will be using the 0.25" settings individually, so nothing changes in the document in terms of tab settings when using new levels (same level or different level) in this particular custom outline.

If no more outline levels follow (e.g., you've ended the outline with Enter, Backspace) this last [Tab Set] code simply restores tabs to the document's current tab settings  – e.g., every 0.5" or whatever dimensions they were set at prior to using the new outline – as soon as you finish the outline at that point.

When you are done with editing the level's new style, the Editor's dialog should look something like this (assuming you did not use the Option in step 6[d] to relocate the first [Tab Set] code):

Outline Styles Editor when finished modifying it

Step 6[g].  Close the Styles Editor with OK.

Step 7.   

Repeat the process with other levels.

Back in the Create Format dialog (step 5) select the next outline level (e.g., Level 2) and repeat the above steps to create a new style for that level.
Continue for as many levels as you require to have new tab settings when using that outline.

Step 8.   

When you are finished adding new tabs stops to each level click OK in the Create Format dialog to return to "Bullets & Numbering".  Click OK again to return to the main document.

Step 9.   

Test it.

The new outline should appear in the document with level 1 ready for input. (If it does not appear use Insert, Outline/Bullets & Numbering and select it.)  Add some text, hit Enter, demote to the next level with the Tab key, add some text, hit Enter, etc.

Note that while you are in the outline the tabs on the ruler should appear every 0.25".

When finished testing: Press Enter to start another item and then either [A] press the right arrow key or [B] press the backspace key. Either method will stop the outline. (A right arrow simply skips over the last [Para Style] outline code. The backspace simply removes the last outline level's codes. Either method returns the cursor to the normal document text.)

Note also that the tabs following the outline should now be set every 0.5" (or whatever they were before you started the new outline).

If you restart the same outline later in the document it should again use your new tab settings in each of the levels.

Footnote 1

[continued from the tip above...] [Page top]

Using a Character style

Here's how to [1] set up a character style and [2] include a tab setting code to set tabs every 0.25" (up to 9.75") in the text to which the style is applied.

Note: If you prefer to use a macro to simultaneously create a new character style and include the custom tab settings inside that style, see the "Alternative" below in this footnote. However the step-by-step manual method described next might help you create other styles in the future. (See also Custom styles.)

Step 1. Play the TabSet25 macro in a new blank document using the "Start at Top" option on the macro's menu. This will insert the new custom [Tab Set] code in that document. (Open Reveal Codes to see it.)

Step 2. Select (Shift+ArrowKey) just that code in the document's Reveal Codes window and cut it (Ctrl+x) to the clipboard.

Step 3. Click Format, Styles to open the Styles dialog.

Step 4.  In that Styles dialog click on Create to open a Styles Editor (see image below), then paste the code (Ctrl+v) into the Contents pane. Set the other fields in the Editor as shown in this image:

Style with tab set every 0.25 inches

[Note especially the "Enter key...<None>" and "Type: Character" field values. You will want to restrict the style to the current selection when you press Enter (hence, <None>), and use a Character style to enclose the selection of material even if it spans several paragraphs.

Also, unlike the method to create custom tab settings inside an outline (above), which are paragraph styles, this character style method does not require a second [Tab Set] code to turn off the new tab setting (as in step 6[f] above). Tab settings will automatically return to what they were prior to using the character style.]

Step5. Click OK to close the Editor, then click Close to return to the document.

Step6. Test it: Enter some text or an outline, then select that material, then apply the new style either from the Select Style list on the text property bar or from the Format, Styles menu.

Step 7. Save it (optional). Since (by default) the style will be saved only in the current document, you can save it to your default template with Format, Styles, (choose the style in "Available styles"), Options button, Copy, Default template, OK. [To remove this new, saved-to-template style from the default template in the future: Simply edit your default template (as explained on the Templates page) and delete the style from the default template's Styles dialog.]


But remember the practical difference between using a style or macro applied to a selection of text: You have to remember to carefully select the material first, then apply the style or play the macro. But this can be useful with ordinary text -- hence the reason for this method as well as the TabSet25 macro.

On the other hand the custom method above sets up a custom outline which, when used, automatically takes care of starting and stopping the tab settings inside that outline (or bullet list, if you create a custom version).

It's just a matter which methods you prefer.

- - -


Here's a macro to simultaneously create a new character style and include the custom tab settings in that style. In other words, it does steps 1-5 above when you play the macro.

Tip: To copy this code into your WordPerfect program to create a compiled, working macro see here (all commands should be on their own line).

Just play the compiled macro (Tools, Macro, Play) in a document to create the style with custom tabs. The style is named TabSet25 and should appear in Format, Styles. As note below, there is no harm in playing it multiple times in the same document or in an open-for-editing template; it will only store the style once in the Styles list.

To use the new style in a document, select the desired outline or other text and apply the style (either from Format, Styles or from the Styles list on the text property bar). In Reveal Codes the selection will be bracketed by a pair of On/Off style codes. (If you delete either one the style's tab formatting will be deleted at that location.)

// Macro begins:
// PURPOSE: Creates a new Character style with tabs set every 0.25 inches.
// There is no harm in playing it multiple times in the same document or
// in an open-for-editing template; it will only store the style once in the Styles list.

// If the named style already exists, OnError skips this segment:

// Open the Styles Editor and create the basic style.
// (Style commands are each on a separate line):
StyleCreate (Name:"TabSet25"; Type:AutoCharacterStyle!; Library:CurrentDoc!)
StyleEditBegin (Style: "TabSet25"; Library: CurrentDoc!)
StyleDescription (Description: "Tabs set every 0.25 inches")
StyleEnterKeySetting (Action: StyleOff!)
StyleCodes (State: WithOffCodes!; Library: CurrentDoc!)

// Insert custom tab settings RELATIVE to the left margin:
// Set tabs stops for the selection every 0.25 inch from left margin -
TabSet (Origin: Relative!;
{0.0"; TabLeft!; 0.25"; TabLeft!; 0.5"; TabLeft!; 0.75"; TabLeft!;
1.0"; TabLeft!; 1.25"; TabLeft!; 1.5"; TabLeft!; 1.75"; TabLeft!;
2.0"; TabLeft!; 2.25"; TabLeft!; 2.5"; TabLeft!; 2.75"; TabLeft!;
3.0"; TabLeft!; 3.25"; TabLeft!; 3.5"; TabLeft!; 3.75";    TabLeft!;
4.0"; TabLeft!;  4.25"; TabLeft!;  4.5"; TabLeft!;  4.75"; TabLeft!;
5.0"; TabLeft!;  5.25"; TabLeft!;  5.5"; TabLeft!;  5.75"; TabLeft!;
6.0"; TabLeft!;  6.25"; TabLeft!;  6.5"; TabLeft!;  6.75"; TabLeft!; 
7.0"; TabLeft!;  7.25"; TabLeft!;  7.5"; TabLeft!;  7.75"; TabLeft!; 
8.0"; TabLeft!;  8.25"; TabLeft!;  8.5"; TabLeft!;  8.75"; TabLeft!;
9.0"; TabLeft!;  9.25"; TabLeft!;  9.5"; TabLeft!;  9.75"; TabLeft!})  
// (max limit seems to be 9.75")

// Exit from the Styles Editor:
SubstructureExit ()
StyleEditEnd (State: Save!)
// Exit from the macro:
// Macro ends

To save this custom style for the future once you have created it, see step 6 above in this footnote.

[Page top]

Footnote 2

[continued from above...]

Saving your new outline for future use

Once you have tested it you can save this new outline in your default template to make it available in all future documents by simply choosing (clicking) the newly modified outline's thumbnail in the Insert, Outline/Bullets & Numbering dialog. Then click Options, Copy, Default template (answer Yes to "Overwrite...?"), OK.

Remember: If you do not do this the modified outline will be available (saved) in the current document only.

To remove or edit this new outline in the future

Simply edit your default template (as explained on the Templates page here) and delete it from the default template's Bullets & Numbering dialog.

For more on outlines

See "Using, creating, modifying, and saving outlines" here.

[Page top]