Using Word's Rulers

Using Word's Rulers

If you're visually oriented, you may prefer the ruler for futzing with tab stops, page margins, and indents. Two rulers are availablehorizontal and vertical. The horizontal ruler appears at the top of the page, giving you quick access to your tab, indent, and margin settings. To make the rulers visible, press Alt+W, R, or click the View Ruler button at the top of the right-hand scroll bar (Figure).

Figure. Word's ruler provides lots of information about the formatting of the current paragraph, that is, the paragraph that contains the insertion point. Use the button just above the scroll bar for a quick way to show and hide your ruler.

Tip: The ruler marks off your page in the measuring units of your choice. The factory setting uses inches, but if you want to make changes, you can do that in Word Options. Go to Office button Word Options Advanced. Scroll down to the group under Display, and then change the drop-down menu labeled "Show measurements in units of" to your preferred units of measurement.

Managing Tab Settings with the Ruler

In Figure, the ruler measures the page in inches. The grayed areas at both ends of the ruler indicate the page margins. The numbers on the ruler mark the distance from the left margin in both directions, left and right. Note the number 1, at the left edge of the page in Figure.

Setting tab stops

Word's every-half-inch tab stops can work for many of your documents, but sooner or later, you may need to put a tab stop in a different place or change its style. No problemit's easy enough to do with the ruler.

Setting a new tab stop is a two-step process:

  1. Using the selection box to the left of the ruler, choose the type of tab you want.

    The icon in this box shows what kind of tab you're about to applyLeft, Center, Right, Decimal, or Bar. When you hold your cursor over the box for a second or two, a little screen tip appears describing the formatting option. Click the box to cycle through the tab stop and indent options.

  2. Once you've selected the tab type you want, click the ruler to position the tab.

    Click the point on the ruler where you want to place the tab stop. An icon appears on the ruler showing the position and the type of tab stop.

Tip: If you find the tab icons a little confusing, here's some help: Think of the vertical line as the tab stop and the horizontal line at the bottom as the direction your text flows. For example, the Left tab icon is L shaped, indicating that text flows to the right, away from the tab stop. The Center tab icon has the vertical line in the middle.

You can add an almost limitless number of tab stopsone for every tick mark on the ruler. If you need greater precision, use the Tab dialog box described on Section 3.5. Setting a tab stop removes all the built-in tab stops to its left, but the ones to the right remain.

Adjusting and removing tab stops with the ruler

If a tab stop isn't exactly where you want it, you don't have to delete itjust drag it to a new position on the ruler. If you wish to remove a tab stop, drag it up or down off the ruler, and it disappears. When you make these changes, your document shows the consequences. Any tabs in your text shift over to the next readily available tab stop, which can be a built-in tab stop or one that you've set.

Setting Margins with the Ruler

You can always use the Page Layout tools (Page Layout Page Setup Margins or Alt+P, M) to set your margins with a click of the mouse, but for visual control, nothing beats the ruler (Figure). The lighter part of the ruler shows the text area, and the darker part shows your margins. Making adjustments is simply a matter of clicking and dragging the margin to a new location. Keep in mind that changing your margin affects the entire document section; more often than not, that means it affects the entire document because many documents are a single section. (For more details on working with sections, see Section 4.7.)

Figure. Hold your cursor over the margin boundary on the ruler, and it changes to a double arrow, as shown here. The screen tip shows what you're pointing tothe right margin, in this case. Drag the boundary to a new location to change your document margins.

Tip: To avoid confusion, remember that indents are used to change the width of a single paragraph, while margins are used to change the paragraph width for an entire section or document.

Adjusting Paragraph Indents with the Ruler

Using the ruler to adjust indentation is similar to changing margins. It's just a matter of clicking and dragging. Indents are bit more complicated because you have a few more options, and that means more tools and widgets (Figure).

Figure. To adjust paragraph indents, slide the little triangles along the ruler. The changes you make affect the paragraph with the insertion point. If you want to make changes to more than one paragraph, make a multiple selection before you start.

It can take awhile to get used to adjusting paragraph indents with the ruler. For one thing, you need a steady hand and accurate clicking to zero in on those little triangle buttons. The top triangle sets the first line indent and moves independently. The bottom triangle creates a hanging indent, and you can move it independently too, as long as you grab only that triangle. That little box below the triangle is your left indent, and if you drag it, both it and the top (first line) indent marker move together.

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