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Barry MacDonnell's
Toolbox for WordPerfect

Macros, tips, and templates for Corel® WordPerfect® for Windows®
© Copyright 1996-2023 by Barry MacDonnell. All Rights Reserved.

Page updated Jan 8, 2022

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Tab settings
in WordPerfect


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 & tips -

•  Indent paragraphs with dot leaders

•  Tip on creating Flush Right and Centered Text with dot leaders on the same line

•  How to create custom tab settings for number/letter/bullet outlines to restrict the settings to the outlines only

•  TabSet25 - a macro to quickly set tabs every 0.25" from either the top of the document, from the cursor location, or to a selection of text

•  Using "Other Codes" [including hard tabs] in WordPerfect

•  Automatically indent the first line of paragraphs (N.B., this is a paragraph setting, not a tab setting)

•  How to create signature lines and underlines up to the margin with tabs (includes 3 macros to automate these methods)

•  How to change the character used for the "dots" in Dot Leader tabs (and also in Flush Right with Dot Leaders)

Decimal alignment of numbers in a table column 

I. There are several types of tab stops available in WordPerfect.

•  Left
•  Center
•  Right
•  Decimal
•  Dot Left
•  Dot Center
•  Dot Right
•  Dot Decimal
Any of these 8 standard tab types (as well as any of the 8 additional "hard" tab types discussed below) can be set on the horizontal ruler from either the left margin or the left edge of the page.

Here are some examples of standard tab stops based on setting them 4" from the left margin and from the left edge of the page:

Tab type examples

II. There are several ways to set (add) tab stops, clear them, or restore tab setting defaults.

  Use the drop list menu.

•  Right-click on the ruler just under the horizontal ruler line at the desired tab location. [If the ruler is not visible use View, Ruler.] Alternatively, left-click on the small Tab Settings button on the left side of the ruler that has a left tab (triangle) symbol on it.

This opens a drop list where you can choose (click on) the tab type to insert at that ruler location:

Tab set drop list

•  To clear a particular tab stop ust drag it from the ruler. The list also gives the options to clear all tabs in the document, or reset them to the program defaults. (Tip: See the macro linked on the left sidebar which sets tabs to 0.25" and might give a better appearance in some documents.)

•  Note that you can also clear the first tab, clear all tabs (e.g., before setting new tabs to "Repeat every..."), set default tab settings, or set multiple tabs with the Tab Set... choice on that drop list or with Format, Line, Tab Set — either of which displays the Tab Set dialog:

Tab Set dialog

•  The Settings... choice on the drop list brings up a dialog with Ruler options where you can enable (or disable) making tab stops automatically "snap to Ruler grid" (invisible, pre-set ruler gridlines on the ruler) when creating or dragging (i.e., moving) tab stops.

•  You can change the precise position of a tab (to 3 decimals) by double-clicking its tab stop symbol on the ruler to bring up the Tab Set dialog, where you can enter a value in the Tab position field and then click the Set button.

•  Other fields on that Tab Set dialog let you specify the -

- dot leader character to use with Decimal tab settings (including wherever else dot leaders can be used in a document, such as with line justification: for more see the footnote here) and including character symbols (Ctrl+W),
- character spacing between the "dot" characters, and the
- alignment character to use with using Decimal tab settings.

  Alternatives to using the drop list menu.

•  A Left tab stop can also be set by simply left-clicking directly on the ruler, under the horizontal ruler line at the desired tab location.

•  You can clear any tab by click-dragging its triangle symbol from the ruler.

•  Similarly you can move a tab stop by dragging it left or right.

•  You can create custom tab settings with a macro such as TabSet25. (To create custom tab settings for outlines and bullet lists, see here.)

  Notes & tips.

¤  The tab setting methods above will add a new [Tab Set] code at the beginning of that line's location. Like most format codes you can double-click on that code to view or edit its settings.

Related tip:

Use the new [Tab Set] code elsewhere:

Click inside the Reveal Codes pane.

Carefully select and copy <Ctrl+C> just that new [Tab Set] code to the clipboard.

Paste it <Ctrl+V> into another document — or even into your default template's initial style code so that the tabs will automatically appear in new documents (e.g., see How to set default formatting for new documents: A step-by-step guide here under Method 1, Step 3).

If any other codes "travel" along with the pasted code (e.g., a [Font] code), you can simply delete them in the target's Reveal Codes window.

¤  You can specify a dot leader character other than a "dot" — including using a symbol character — and the dot spacing in the Tab Set dialog. [For more on this method, which also works with Flush Right with Dot Leaders, see the page here.] You can also specify the decimal alignment.

¤  To display symbols — e.g., a right arrow at the tab location in the body text area, a dot for spaces, etc. — use <Ctrl+Shift+F3> to show or hide them. (Menu equivalent: View, Show ¶)

¤  Inserting a specific tab stop on the ruler requires a minimum distance between the inserted tab stop and an existing adjacent tab stop of 0.07". If you try to set it (or drag it) closer than that, the new tab stop will simply replace the existing one. [Thanks to Chuck Crawford for pointing out the 0.07" limit.]


This is not the same thing as using the Tab Set dialog to specify equidistant repeating tabs (with the "Repeat every" checkbox); such a setting requires a minimum distance of 0.1" between all the repeated tabs.

¤  Use the Clear All button to remove existing tab stops before using the "Repeat every:" checkbox option. Otherwise your equidistant repeating tab settings might not be Set to the distance you specified in the adjacent drop box.

III. Using tabs and indents.

  The <Tab> key typically moves the cursor — and any following text on that line — to the next tab stop.

On the other hand:

In tables the <Tab> key moves to the next cell.

In outlines <Tab> demotes the level (moves it to a lower level) when the cursor precedes any text in that level. (Tip: For more on WordPerfect's outline feature see here.)

▸ In many dialogs you can use the <Tab> key to move between dialog controls.

You can use the <Tab> key to automatically switch to inserting an indent inside a paragraph instead of a tab. If you enable Tools, QuickCorrect, Format-As-You-Go, QuickIndent the <Tab> key works in two ways:

#1 - If the cursor is at the beginning of the first line in a paragraph (before any text) it works as a normal tab to move the cursor and following text to the next tab stop (a [Left Tab] code is visible in Reveal Codes).

#2 - If the cursor is elsewhere in the line it will act as an indent (the same as using Format, Paragraph, Indent) and wrap the remainder of the paragraph at the cursor location (a [Hd Left Ind] code is visible in Reveal Codes). (For more on Indents see below.)


- This might be handy if (e.g.) your task is to type a word or phrase followed on the same line by an indented paragraph of related material — then repeat this format many times in sequence, such as when creating directories, product lists, etc. (See also line breaks, which allow continuation of the indented material at the same tab stop.)

- The QuickIndent option is one of several choices on the Format-As-You-Go tab. (You can see the purpose of these options by selecting (clicking on) the option.) It is also one of the options you can enable/disable with the QC macro in the Library.

Microsoft Word compatibility: There's an option in Tools, Settings, Convert to "Treat tabs like MS Word". This "advances text to the next tab stop, even if the cursor is less than one character away from the next tab stop".

  You can use <Shift+Tab> for a Hard Back Tab (a.k.a. "back tab," "margin release").

How to use it:

Most users will use <Shift+Tab> but you can also use Format, Paragraph, Back Tab.

Or you can add a button to a toolbar or property bar for a hard back tab. [It's under the Format drop list in the Toolbar Editor (named "Back Tab"; its icon is an arrow pointing leftward toward a vertical bar or margin).]

To add it to a toolbar or property bar see here.

The format code that you will see in Reveal Codes when you use any of these methods is a [Hd Back Tab].

When and where to use it:

When entering text in the document a Hard Back Tab is useful to "outdent" the first line of text a tab stop from (i.e., beyond) the left margin. This is done with the cursor against the left margin. Remaining lines in the paragraph will wrap at the left margin.

[See also the similar feature Hanging Indent below, which adds a hard left indent to the hard back tab so that the first line is not outdented from the left margin but subsequent lines in the paragraph will be indented inward one tab stop.]

If there is room outside (to the left of) the left margin you can use more than one Hard Back Tab to extend the first line a greater extent (but not into the document's non-printable area, which depends on your selected printer).

Format, Paragraph, Back Tab can also be useful (e.g.) to create indented paragraphs with dot leaders as described here.

Other uses:

▸ In tables <Shift+Tab> moves to the cell on the left.

[However, note that <Ctrl+Shift+Tab> inserts a Back Tab in a table cell — but this seems of little practical use because it can extend the cell's text into the cell on the left. It is mentioned here in case both the Ctrl and the Shift keys were accidentally held down at the same time the Tab key was pressed.]

In outlines <Shift+Tab> promotes the level (moves it to a higher level) when the cursor is before any text.

Many dialogs let you use the <Shift+Tab> key to move backward between dialog controls.

Side note:

The term "margin release" comes from the typewriter era when a lever or key on a typewriter temporarily released the current margin stop to allow typing in the margin area.

  To indent the entire current paragraph to the next tab stop — everything from the cursor location up to a hard return [HRt] code or up to the end of a paragraph style — use Format, Paragraph, Indent or <F7> [<F4> on the DOS keyboard].

This inserts a hard left indent ([Hd Left Ind]) code in Reveal Codes. It is most often useful when the cursor is at the beginning of the paragraph. The effect is to indent and wrap all the paragraph's text at the next tab stop, not at the left margin. Multiple uses on this feature on a paragraph or several selected paragraphs increases the indentation for the pragraph(s) a tab stop for each use.

Tip: When you use a simple hard left indent you can remove the indentation with <Shift+Tab> by first selecting the affected paragraph(s).

Note: This trick does not apply to the Double or Hanging Indents below.

You can also use Format, Paragraph Double Indent or <Ctrl+Shift+F7> [<Shift+F4> on the DOS keyboard] to simultaneously indent the paragraph (or several selected paragraphs) from both the left and right.

Also see Format, Paragraph, Hanging Indent or <Ctrl+F7>, which is similar to the Hard Back Tab above (it inserts a [Hd Back Tab] code) — but it also inserts a hard left indent code ([Hd Left Ind]) at that location. The effect is to create a paragraph with the first line "hanging" (outdented) a tab stop from the rest of the paragraph, which is indented a tab stop from the margin. In other words, the first line starts at the left margin, not from a point to the left of it as is the case with a simple back tab (above).

If you select multiple paragraphs first, all of them will be outdented/indented the same way. If you use the feature multiple times on a paragraph or several selected paragraphs, the indents become additive, increasing the indentation.

  To automatically indent the first line of paragraphs you can use a paragraph setting (not a tab setting): Format, Paragraph, Format.

This inserts a code ([First Ln Ind]) that automatically sets the first line indent for a new paragraph — and all subsequent paragraphs — when you press <Enter> to end the paragraph.

Note that this code is subordinate to other paragraph indents at that location, but it is useful for ordinary (non-indented) paragraphs. [For more on this feature — and a way to deal with possible unwanted first line indents for Heading styles when this setting is active — see here.]

  You can use "hard" tabs to override standard tab stops.

In addition to the 16 standard tabs settings above you can set 4 types of hard tabs and 4 types of hard tabs with dot leaders using special format codes available in Format, Line, Other Codes:

Other Codes dialog with Hard Tabs options

Use a hard tab (rather than a press of the Tab key) when you need to insert a different type of tab at the tab stop location on that line without changing or affecting the tabs for the rest of the document.

For example, you could change the next tab type on the current line from a Left tab ([Left Tab]) to a Hard Right tab with dot leaders ([...Hd Right Tab]).

Further, hard tabs do not change if you change regular tab settings.

Essentially, a hard tab overrules the existing tab stop's type at that location on the line. It forces your choice of a new tab type by inserting one of the 8 format codes shown in the image above (and visible in Reveal Codes). (Note that it does not change the tab stop's horizontal location.) Your next press of the Tab key then takes you to the next tab stop, where the program will use that stop's existing tab type (e.g., a [Left tab]).

Tip: For a real-world example see Footnote 1, which includes a method of assigning a hard tab to a shortcut key.

With these additional 8 tab types you have a total of 32 settings available in any document (16 types, starting from the left page margin or from the left edge of the page).


You can assign any of these hard tabs to keyboard shortcuts for quick access. See Assigning a macro, feature, program, or string of keystrokes to a key or key combination (i.e., a "shortcut" or "hot key").

These items are found on the Keyboard Shortcuts dialog, under
the "Feature categories" drop list's Format category. Then scroll down in the "Assign a feature..." list to the "Tab Hard..." choices.

▸ Access to hard tabs on the Other Codes dialog above is also available inside the Styles Editor (with Format, Line, Other Codes on the dialog's menu or the main WordPerfect menu), which you see when creating/modifying/customizing a style code in the document. (See this page for more on creating custom styles.)

For more information about adding, aligning, copying, moving tabs (etc.), or using indents, see your WordPerfect's Help (<F1>) Index under "tab stops" and "indenting text".

  To set up custom tab settings for new documents see here. (Hint: The settings are easily made in your default template or custom template.)

See also the related pages in the left sidebar.

Footnote 1
[Continued from above...]

There are many practical uses for hard tabs, but here's a common one.

Suppose you want to type a tabbed right-aligned column of whole numbers
(i.e., integers) where any negative numbers are enclosed in parentheses like this: (456).  You want all numbers aligned on the last number, not on the last character (i.e., not on the terminal parenthesis mark).

In other words you want this -


- not this -


[Note that aligning decimal numbers (e.g., currency or technical readings) on decimal points by tabbing to a normal Decimal tab setting on the ruler works properly to align both positive numbers and parenthetical negative numbers on the decimal point when each item is individually tabbed to the next Decimal tab setting with the Tab key — or even on the last number when the decimal point is absent in some or all entries. This gives the same result as the first entries just above (all numbers aligned on the last number). On the other hand, the issue here can arise when using a standard Right tab setting on the ruler somewhere above the beginning of the entries. See the WordPerfect Universe post here for more on this topic.]

From my post on WordPerfect Universe here:

"This can be done using a Hard Decimal Tab.

"Hard" tabs override (overrule) the tab type at the next tab setting (on the ruler), and might be useful to force a correction or preferred format on a particular line's entry.

From WP X9's Help (F1: Search for "Inserting hard tabs"):

You can use codes to insert hard tabs and to insert hard tabs with dot leaders. Use a hard tab when you need to insert a tab without changing the tab type. For example, you can add a hard tab to one line in a paragraph and not change the tabs set for the other lines. You can also insert a hard tab with a dot leader. Hard tabs are not affected when you change regular tab settings. [Emphasis added.]

Here are two ways to use it:

From the WordPerfect menu:

• Click on Format> Line> Other Codes.

• Under "Hard tabs:" choose Decimal.

• Then click Insert.

The cursor should move one tab stop to the right. Type the number in parentheses — such as (123) — and the last number should line up under the current tab stop regardless of the current tab stop's type.

From the keyboard:

[I don't' know if it's already assigned to a shortcut key [on your system], but here's how to do it.]

• First, see https://wptoolbox.com/tips/Assign.html for general instructions on assigning a feature/macro/etc. to a shortcut key.

• Choose an available shortcut key for your keyboard definition.

• The Hard Decimal Tab is located under the Feature Category "Format".

• Scroll down in the alphabetical list to "Tab Hard Decimal" and select it.

Assign it to the chosen shortcut key.

In my tests, using the (default) Windows keyboard, I see that "T+Alt" is available. So when I assigned the Hard Decimal Tab to that shortcut, all I have to do is -

[1] press Alt+T (the cursor should move one tab stop to the right) and then
[2] type the parenthetical entry for a negative number.

I tested using [several] examples in a document where the first tab stop was set above the test numbers section to a Right tab and then tested again with that first tab stop set to a Decimal tab.


The Hard Decimal Tab worked as expected to right-align the parenthetical number entry on the last number (regardless of the current tab stop's type on the ruler) — not on the ending parenthesis.

Caveat: Pressing the Tab key again on the same line might convert the numbering to an automatic numbering Outline style (visible in Reveal Codes). This can happen if QuickBullets are enabled (Tools> QuickCorrect> Format-as-You-Go> QuickBullets). Just turn this option off (it's a "sticky" setting, so it remains off until you turn it on again, but you can always toggle automatic numbering on/off whenever needed regardless of the state of the QuickBullets option).