Increase or decrease text indent (outdent) in Word 2010 documents

Paragraphs, bulleted and numbered lists, tables, and other block of texts have default margins, spacing, line height, and other attribute that position them in a certain way with respect to the margin of your documents in Word 2010 (horizontal space), and with respect to preceding elements and those following them; these are the inherited margins of these elements, and built-in indent settings. In this tutorial, we will show you how to manually indent paragraphs and other forms of text, as well as unindent them (also known as "outdent"). A later tutorial will cover the margins ruler, and how it differs from the indent/outdent commands; this tutorial also explains how to change or set the default indent settings.


Customize left and right indent settings

As you'll learn in the Microsoft Word ruler tutorial, the indent on the left and on the right can be fully customized to the pixel (or inch), as can the margins of your document. But the easiest way to add space on the left or right of a paragraph, table, or other element is to use the default buttons. Place your cursor inside the paragraph you want to indent or unindent, or select all the elements in question (if more than one). Then, make sure that the "Home" tab is selected in the Word 2010 ribbon (toolbar at the top), and click on the "Increase Indent" or "Decrease Indent" buttons:
Decrease or increase indent in Word 2010 documents As soon as you click on either button, Word will apply the change right away; to undo, either press Ctrl+Z or click on the opposite button in the ribbon. This approach applies the default indent or outdent distance, but as you'll see below, you can get more control than that.

Tip: notice that decreasing or increasing indent only affects the left margin of the paragraph / text block. Changing document margins and using the ruler, discussed in later tutorials, gives you much more control, including vertical spacing!

Increase or decrease indent by a single inch (or fractions of an inch)

If you want more granular control over the amount of indent or outdent you apply to text elements in your document, click on the "Page Layout" tab in the Word 2010 ribbon. Note that you can now manually enter an amount of inches (including fractional quantities) by which to change the current indent:
Configure custom indent levels in Word 2010 Just use the up or down arrow buttons to adjust the indent of the current paragraph (or text elements currently selected) - the Left indent amount applies to the left margin of the page; unlike the Increase / decrease indent buttons under the Home tab, the Right indent text counter field allows you to change the indent from the right side of your document! The default right indent setting of "0" (zero) means that the text will stop from the right side of the page at a distance determined by the document margins.

Special case: increase or decrease indent of lists (bulleted or numbered)

When you press the Tab key on your keyboard, the default action Microsoft Word will take is inserting a tab character at the insertion point (blinking cursor). Here's a handy trick when you are editing a list of items (either bulleted lists or numbered lists). When the cursor blinks at the beginning of an item in the list, pressing Tab will indent by creating a sub-list; likewise, pressing Shift+Tab will unindent, which for a sub-list means bringing its items level back to the main list (more on nested / multilevel lists in Word 2010).

Change default indent settings in Word 2010

If you look again at the last screenshot, you'll notice a tiny arrow button in the bottom right corner of the "Paragraph" tab grouping - this is true in both the "Home" tab and the "Page Layout" tab. This innocuous button allows you to configure your default paragraph settings, including indent levels. Click on that button under either ribbon tab, and the "Paragraph" dialog will open:
Change default indent settings for all Microsoft Word documents Customizing the various settings displayed in the dialog will affect the current paragraph, text element, or the group of text elements currently selected. But, once you have configured your custom indent level, click on the "Set As Default" button, and Word 2010 will retain these settings as the default for your documents! (Then, click on "OK" to return to Microsoft Word and the current document.)

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