Marshall Adult Education



Using the Ruler in Microsoft Word


There are 3 tasks you can do by using the menu bar in Microsoft Word

  • You can set the Tabs by clicking on Format Menu and then clicking on Tabs.
  • You can set the Margins by clicking on File and clicking on Page Setup
  • You can set the Indentation of by clicking on Format and clicking on Paragraph.

But did you know that you can also do all of these tasks using the Ruler.  You can Set Tabs, Set Margins, and Indent Paragraphs using the horizontal ruler.


Show the Ruler

First, of course, you must make the ruler visible.  Click on the View Menu.  There should be a checkmark next to the word "Ruler."  If there is, then the ruler will be visible. If there is no checkmark, then the ruler is hidden.  If you want to use the keyboard shortcut to show and hide the ruler, press Alt-V and then press L.


Setting Tabs   (Note:  You can be in Normal View or Print Layout view to do this)

To the very left of the horizontal ruler there is a small box that has the 5 Tabs that you can use.  If you click on the box you will cycle through the Tabs

  1. The Left Tab looks like an L
  2. The Center Tab looks like an upside down T.
  3. The Right Tab looks like a backward L
  4. The Decimal Tab looks like an upside down T with a dot on the right side.
  5. The Bar Tab looks like a capital I.

To set a tab on the ruler, first click on the square box to the left of the Ruler and select the Tab you want to use.  Then place the mouse on the ruler where you want the tab to appear and click the left button.  The tab is inserted onto the ruler.


That’s it, the quick and easy way to set Tabs using the Ruler.  Note that you cannot set Leaders with the tabs.  You must go to the Tabs Dialog Box (Format-> Tabs) to use leaders.


Setting the Margins.  (Note:   You must be in Print Layout View to do this)

Instead of having to go to Page Setup to set your margins, you can set them on the Ruler.  Try setting the right margin first.  Place your cursor on the ruler at the current right margin.  You will see white space to the left of the right margin and blue (or what ever color scheme you may be using) to the right of the right margin.  Move your cursor slightly until you see a double headed arrow.  You will get a screen tip saying “Right Margin” as you move to the location.  When you get it, hold down the left mouse button and drag to the left to increase the margin or drag to the right to make the margin smaller. 


Here’s a neat trick:  Do the same thing but this time hold down the Alt key before you click and drag.  With the Alt key depressed, you will get precise readings of how large or small you are making the margin as you drag.  Very neat!


Set the left margin in the same way, but it may be a little harder to find the double headed arrow because the indent markers are in the way.  Try it – experiment with it – you’ll eventually get it.  With a little practice, it becomes easier to do.


You can also set the top and bottom margin using the vertical ruler in the same way. 


Setting the Indent Markers  Note:  (This can be done in Normal View or Print Layout View).

There are 3 indent markers on the left side on the ruler at the current left margin spot.  They look like square (on the bottom), a triangle (in the middle), and an upside down triangle (on the top).  Did you find them? 


If you place your cursor over each on of these, you will get a screen tip telling you what each one is for.  But, I will tell you anyway. 

  • The top one is for setting the First Line Indent.
  • The middle one is for setting the Hanging Indent.
  • The bottom one is for setting the Left Indent

The best way to learn how these 3 indent markers work is to actually try them out.  You will need a paragraph of text to do your testing.  Here’s a quick way to get a paragraph of text without having to type it.  In a new Word Document, type the following:  =rand (1) and then press Return.


You should have gotten one paragraph of text – not very interesting text, but text never-the-less.  (If you change the number in the parentheses to 5,  you will get 5 paragraphs of text.  Whatever number you use, that's the number of paragraphs your get.)

  • OK -  now click the cursor in the middle of the text.  Click on the top indent marker – the First Line Indent and drag it to the half inch mark.  Did the first line indent one half an inch.
  • Click on the middle indent marker – the Hanging Indent, and drag it to the one inch mark.  The lines under the first line indented one inch.
  • Click on the bottom indent marker – the Left Indent, and drag it back to the half inch mark.  The entire paragraph backs up a half inch.

When you are working with indent markers your cursor has to be in the paragraph you want to indent.  Or, if you want to work with more than one paragraph, you need to select (highlight) the paragraphs you want to indent.


One last thing - there are a few shortcuts that you can use with the ruler that will speed your work along. 

  1. Double click on any Tab Marker to open the Tabs Dialogue Box.
  2. Double click on any Indent Marker to open the Paragraph Dialogue Box.
  3. Double click on the Vertical Ruler to open the Page Setup Dialogue Box.
Practice these skills and you will become an expert in manipulating text using the Horizontal Ruler.



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E-Mail:    Marshall Adult Education