This tutorial shows how to use the ruler in Microsoft Word for Mac. First, we are going to display the ruler. Then, we are going to use the ruler to indent the first line of each paragraph, create hanging indents, and add tabs.
Plus, the bonus section at the end shows a shortcut to set page margins from the ruler.
Table of Contents:
- How to Display the Ruler
- How to Use the Ruler to Indent the First Line of Each Paragraph
- How to Use the Ruler to Create Hanging Indents
- How to Use the Ruler to Add Tabs
- Bonus Section: Page Margin Shortcuts on the Ruler
Watch all the steps shown here in real time!
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The images below are from Word for Microsoft 365 for Mac. These steps also apply to Word 2021 for Mac, Word 2019 for Mac, and Word 2016 for Mac.
Are you on a PC? Please see “How to Use the Ruler in Microsoft Word.”
How to Display the Ruler
- Select the View tab in the ribbon.
- Ensure that Print Layout view is selected.
- Select the Ruler option.
A horizontal ruler should now appear under the ribbon and a vertical ruler should appear on the left side of your screen.
If you want to hide the ruler, deselect Ruler in the View tab.
Pro Tip: How to Show the Vertical Ruler
If the vertical ruler is missing, you can display it by changing your Word Options settings.
- Select the Word menu.
- Select Preferences from the drop-down menu.
- View in the Word Preferences dialog box.
- Select Vertical ruler in the Show Window Elements section.
- Select the Close button.
How to Use the Ruler to Indent the First Line of Each Paragraph
- Place your cursor in a paragraph.
- Select the Home tab in the ribbon.
- Select the Styles Pane option.
- Select the Select All button in the Styles Pane. This option will select all the paragraphs in the document without items you most likely don’t want to indent, such as headings and figures.
- Select the Close button in the Styles Pane.
- Move the top ruler marker to the right to the desired indent length.
- Important: You may need to click on the top ruler marker again to enact the change.
The first line of each paragraph should be indented.
Pro Tip: Use the Option Key for Precise Measuring
Press and hold the Option key on your keyboard as you move any of the markers on the ruler to see precise measurements.
How to Use the Ruler to Create Hanging Indents
A hanging indent extends the first line of a paragraph farther to the left than the rest of the lines.
- Place your cursor inside the paragraph in which you want to create a hanging indent. Or, select multiple paragraphs if you want to create several hanging indents simultaneously.
Avoid selecting the entire document with methods such as Command + A, which will select headings and other items that don’t normally have hanging indents.
- Slide the bottom triangle marker in the ruler to the right. (The square marker will move with the bottom triangle marker.)
- Important: You may need to click the bottom triangle marker again to enact the change.
Your hanging indent should appear immediately.
How to Use the Ruler to Add Tabs
In Word, the Tab key on your keyboard moves your cursor to a specific location called a tab stop. Tabs can be used to indent paragraphs, but they can also be used for other purposes including creating single- and multi-column lists.
- Press Command + A to select the entire document. Or, select the portion of your document to which you want to apply the tab.
Important Note: If you don’t select all or part of your document before creating your new tab, it will only apply to the paragraph your cursor is currently in or newly created content.
- Click the Tab Selector menu until it changes to the symbol representing the tab you want.
- The left tab places left-aligned text to the right of the tab stop. (This is the most common tab stop.)
- The center tab centers text on the tab stop.
- The right tab places right-aligned text to the left of the tab stop.
- The decimal tab aligns text based on the first decimal placed on the tab stop.
- The bar tab creates a vertical line at the tab stop. (Technically, this is not a tab; it is for formatting multi-column lists.)
- 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. Each time you press the Tab key, your cursor will move to the next stop.
How to Delete Tabs on the Ruler
- Ensure that no text or other content is selected.
- Pull the tab symbol downward and release it. It will be removed from the ruler. (You may hear a whooshing noise as the deletion occurs.)
Bonus Section: Page Margin Shortcuts on the Ruler
- Hover your pointer over the center of the right end of the horizontal ruler until your pointer becomes a double arrow. (You should see a tooltip that says “Right margin.”)
- Slide the double-arrow to the left or right to adjust the margin.
In Word for Mac, adjusting the left margin from the ruler can be problematic. An easier option is to use the ruler to open the Document dialog box.
- Double-click the dark gray area on the ruler.
The Margins tab in the Document dialog box will open.
- Enter measurements into the Top, Bottom, Left, and Right margin text boxes, as necessary.
- Select Whole document or This point forward from the Apply to menu.
- Select the OK button.
Updated September 30, 2023