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At 18:40 27/12/2023 -0500, Charles Meyer wrote:
I want to set tabs so when I press the Tab key the 1st goes over to the right a bit to the right then when I press the Tab key again it moves the cursor incrementally to the right and so on.

At 00:21 28/12/2023 +0000, Prof. W. Robert J. Funnell wrote:
... my LibreOffice says 1.25 cm, meaning that I have tab stops set every 1.25 cm across the page. This was the default setting. It seems to be what you want, ...

At 20:19 27/12/2023 -0500, Charles Meyer wrote:
... 1.25 cm works great.

May I suggest that this is not best practice?

It is completely understandable that default tab stops should be set at regular intervals in the application in this way. But users wishing to align material in columns often then fall into the habit of pressing the Tab key multiple times to move from material in one column to the required next column. The number of tab characters required will depend on the length of material in each row (paragraph) of the earlier column, of course. Everything looks tidy, and will be if you choose to print it.

But what happens if you change the font or font size of the material (specifically the material in the earlier column)? The extent of the earlier material may increase or decrease, taking it beyond a tab stop or before a tab stop. Either way, the number of tab characters now required will be different, and without further corrective editing the later column will no longer be properly aligned. (If you don't believe me, you can easily test this.)

Now you will say that you are unlikely to want to make such changes - and that may well be true. But there is a bigger problem. If you send your text (word processor) document to someone else, the fonts you use are not themselves transmitted - only their names and details of font size and so on. When the document is rendered on the distant system, a different font with the same name may be used, or even a different font, chosen according to font substitution rules. In either case, the earlier text may take up more or less space, and the later column may again not be properly aligned. Your correspondents will think you are a poor editor and cannot lay material out neatly.

The solution, where you need to use tab stops in this way, is to set them specifically where you need them, so that only one tab character is needed between columns, however long or short the text in preceding columns may be. That way, your documents are far more likely to be rendered appropriately.

An alternative is to use tables, which are a flexible and effective formatting tool for columnar material, not restricted to material that you would readily think of as a table.

Brian Barker

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