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How to Show and Use the Ruler in Word (Full Guide)

Author: Zhoumandy Last Modified: 2024-05-20

Microsoft Word is a powerful word processing tool that offers a plethora of features to enhance your document formatting. One such feature is the ruler, a handy tool that allows you to adjust margins, create indents, and set tab stops with precision. In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about showing and using the ruler in Word.


Show the ruler in Word

Before we delve into the intricacies of using the ruler, let's first ensure it's visible on your Word interface.

Step 1: Open Microsoft Word

Launch Microsoft Word and open the document where you want to use the ruler.

Step 2: Enable the Ruler

Navigate to the View tab. In the Show group, check the box of Ruler.

Result

Voila! You should immediately see the horizontal ruler above your document and the vertical ruler to its left.

Tip: To turn the ruler off, uncheck the Ruler check box.

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    Display the Vertical Ruler in Word

    The vertical ruler appears on the left side of the Word document. If only the horizontal ruler is displayed and your vertical ruler is missing, you can show vertical ruler by following the steps below.

    Note: Make sure you are in the Print Layout view mode, because the vertical ruler does not display in other viewing modes.

    Step 1: Open Word Options dialog

    Navigate to the File tab. At the bottom of the left-hand menu, click on Options.

    Step 2: Enable the Vertical Ruler

    In the Word Options dialog box, please do as follows:

    1. Go to the Advanced tab.
    2. Scroll down until you find the Display section. Check the box next to Show vertical ruler in Print Layout view.
    3. Click OK to apply the changes.
    Result

    Now you'll have both horizontal and vertical rulers visible, allowing for precise alignment and formatting adjustments.

    Tip: To turn the ruler off, uncheck the Ruler check box.

    Use the ruler to change margins in Word

    The rulers can be used to manually adjust the margins of your document.

    Step 1: Select the ruler

    Hover your cursor over the left or right end of the horizontal ruler (the gray area) until the cursor turns into a double arrow. You might also see a tooltip saying, 'Left margin' or 'Right margin'.

    Note: Alternatively, hover your cursor over the upper or lower end of the vertical ruler (the gray area) until the cursor changes to a double arrow. You may also see a tooltip labeled 'Top margin' or 'Bottom margin'.

    Step 2: Drag to adjust

    Drag the double arrow of the horizontal ruler left or right to the desired position. Release the mouse button to set the new left margin or right margin.

    Note: Alternatively, drag the double arrow of the vertical ruler up or down to change the top margin or bottom margin.

    Tips:
    • As you drag the margin indicators, you will see a dotted line appear, showing you where the new margin will be.
    • You can press and hold the Alt key on your keyboard as you drag the double arrow on the ruler to see precise measurements.

    Use the ruler to create indents in Word

    The ruler can also be used to set various types of indents in Word. Indents help in creating structured and organized documents, especially useful for formatting paragraphs and lists.

    Left Indent: set the position of the left side of a paragraph

    The left indent controls the position of the paragraph's left edge. It appears as a square marker on the lower left side of the horizontal ruler. Moving the left indent will also adjust the first line indent or hanging indent accordingly.

    1. Select the text where you want to set the left indent.

    2. On the horizontal ruler, locate the square marker on the lower left side and drag it to your desired position for the paragraph’s left edge.


    Right Indent: set the position of the right side of a paragraph

    The right indent marker determines the position of the paragraph’s right edge and is represented by a triangular marker on the lower right side of the horizontal ruler.

    1. Select the text where the right indent needs adjustment.

    2. On the horizontal ruler, drag the triangular marker located on the lower right side to set the right edge of the paragraph where desired.


    First Line Indent: indent the first line of a paragraph

    A first line indent causes only the first line of a paragraph to be indented, while subsequent lines align at the left margin. This is controlled by a triangular marker located on the top left side of the horizontal ruler.

    1. Highlight the text where you want to apply a first line indent.

    2. On the horizontal ruler, drag the top left triangular marker to your desired starting point of the indentation.


    Hanging Indent: create a hanging indent of a paragraph

    A hanging indent indents the second and subsequent lines of a paragraph more than the first. This indent is controlled by the triangular marker on the lower left side of the horizontal ruler.

    1. Select the text to which you want to apply a hanging indent.

    2. On the horizontal ruler, drag the triangular marker located on the lower left side to the place you want the indentation to start.

    Tip: You can press and hold the Alt key on your keyboard as you drag the indent marker on the ruler to see precise measurements.

    Use the Ruler to Create a Tab Stop in Word

    In Word, the Tab key on your keyboard moves your cursor to a specific location called a tab stop. Tab stops are used to align text at specific positions within a document. Word offers various types of tab stops, such as left-align, center-align, right-align, and decimal. Here we will introduce the five types of tab stops.

    • Left Tab Stop: The most commonly used, this tab stop sets the starting point for left-aligned text, placing the text to the right of the tab stop.
    • Center Tab Stop: This tab stop centers the text around a specific position on the line, allowing the text to expand equally on both sides as you type.
    • Right Tab Stop:It sets the endpoint for a text line. Text aligned to this tab stop will line up its right edge to the left of the tab stop.
    • Decimal Tab Stop: This aligns numbers by their decimal point, ensuring that the decimal point is consistently positioned, regardless of the number of digits to its left or right.
    • Bar Tab Stop: Unlike other tabs that position text, this tab stop inserts a vertical bar at the tab's location on the ruler. The bar appears in the document immediately upon placement and will be printed unless removed before printing.

    Let's see how to use the ruler to create a tab stop in Word.

    1. Select the text of your document to which you want to apply the tab.

    Note: If you don’t select your document before creating your new tab stop, it will only apply to the paragraph your cursor is currently in or newly created content.

    2. Click the tab selector button until it changes to the tab stop you want. Here I select the Left Tab.

    3. Click the location on the ruler where you want to place the tab stop. The tab symbol will then appear on the ruler. You can place multiple tab stops on the ruler.

    Result

    Each time you press the Tab key, your cursor will move to the next stop.

    Tip: If you would like to delete a tab, drag the tab stop downward and release it. It will be removed from the ruler.

    The ruler in Microsoft Word is a versatile tool that allows for precise formatting and alignment of text. By following this guide, you should now be equipped with the knowledge to effectively show and use the ruler to adjust margins, create indents, and set tab stops in your documents. With practice, you'll become a proficient Word user, capable of producing professional-looking documents with ease. For more Word tips and tricks, please click here to access our extensive collection of hundreds of tutorials.

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