Google Docs: Using Indents and Tabs

Lesson 10: Using Indents and Tabs



A great way to draw attention to important areas within your document is to add an indent or tab. There are several ways you can indent text in Google Docs; however, it's important to use these tools appropriately and indent correctly each time. This can save time and make the editing process go smoothly.

In this lesson, you'll learn how to create tabs and indents using tab stops and the Ruler. You'll also learn how to adjust indents using the Increase indent and Decrease indent buttons.

Watch the video to learn how to add indents and tab stops in Google Docs.

Indenting text

In many types of documents, you may want to indent only the first line of each paragraph. This helps to visually separate paragraphs from one another.

Showing first line indent

To indent using the Tab key:

A quick and common way to indent is to use the Tab key. This will create a first-line indent of a half-inch.

  1. Place the insertion point at the very beginning of the paragraph you want to indent.
    Placing the insertion point
  2. Press the Tab key on the keyboard. The text in the first line will move to the right by a half-inch.
    Pressing the tab key

To indent using the Indent shortcut buttons:

If you want to indent all lines in a paragraph, you can use the Increase indent and Decrease indent shortcut buttons.

  1. Select the text you want to indent.
    Selecting text to indent
  2. Click the Increase indent shortcut button to increase the indent by increments of a half-inch.
    Increasing the indent
  3. All lines of the paragraph will indent.
    Showing multiple indented lines
  4. Click the Decrease indent shortcut button to decrease the indent by increments of a half-inch.
    Decreasing the indent

You can also click Format from the toolbar. Then, hover over Align & indent to locate the Increase indent and Decrease indent commands.

Using the format menu

Customizing indents

You can use the three indent markers and the Ruler to create custom indents that are larger or smaller than the Tab key's default half-inch indent. When you move the indent markers, the Ruler provides a blue guide line to help you see where the indent will appear.

The three indent markers
  • First Line Indent marker: Adjusts the first-line indent of a paragraph
    Showing First Line indent marker
  • Left Indent marker: Moves in unison with the First Line Indent marker to indent all lines in the paragraph
    Showing Left indent marker
  • Right Indent marker: Increases or decreases the right indent by moving all lines of the paragraph from the right margin
    Showing Right indent marker

To customize indents with the Ruler:

  1. Place the insertion point anywhere in the text or paragraph you want to indent (you can select one or more paragraphs).Selecting text to indent
  2. Click and drag the desired indent marker. As the marker moves, the blue guide line extends from the Ruler.
    Holding and dragging the Left Indent marker
  3. Release the mouse at the desired location. The text will indent.
    The customized indent

To indent the paragraph on the right side, click and drag the Right Indent marker.

Customizing with the Right Indent marker

Using tab stops

Using tab stops gives you more control over the placement of text. By default, each time you press the Tab key on the keyboard the insertion point will move a half-inch to the right. By adding tab stops to the Ruler, you can change the size of the tabs, and you can apply more than one tab stop to a single line. For example, on a resume you can left-align important dates by adding a left tab stop.

Using two types of alignment on the same line

There are three types of tab stops in Google Docs.

  • Left tab stop: Left aligns text at the tab stop
  • Center tab stop: Centers text around the tab stop
  • Right tab stop: Right aligns text at the tab stop

Pressing the Tab key can either add a tab or create a first-line indent, depending on the location of the insertion point. Generally, if the insertion point is at the beginning of an existing paragraph it will create a first-line indent; otherwise, it will create a tab.

To add tab stops:

  1. Select the paragraph or paragraphs where you want to add tab stops. If you don't select any paragraphs, the tab stops will apply to the current paragraph and any new paragraphs you type below it.
    Selecting text to add a tab-stop
  2. Click the location on the Ruler where you want your text to appear. A drop-down menu of tab stop selections will appear.
    Clicking the ruler
  3. Select the desired tab stop. You can add as many tab stops as you want.
    Selecting a tab-stop
  4. Place the insertion point at the location where you want to add the tab.
    Placing the insertion point
  5. Press the Tab key on the keyboard. The text will jump to the location of the next tab stop.
    Applying the tab stop

To remove the tab stop, click and drag it off of the Ruler.


  1. Open our example file. Make sure you're signed in to Google, then click File > Make a copy.
  2. Scroll to page 2, then select the paragraph underneath the word Summary.
  3. Press the Tab key to indent the entire paragraph.
  4. When you're finished, the paragraph should look something like this:
    Summary Paragraph Example
  5. Scroll to page 3 and select the text in the Education section.
  6. Drag the left indent marker somewhere past the 0.5" (1.25 cm) mark.
  7. Select the text in the Skills section and format it as a bulleted list.
  8. With the list still selected, drag the left indent marker to the 1" (2.5 cm) mark.
  9. When you're finished, page 3 should look something like this:
    Indent Challenge Page 3