Using Tab stops in Word vs. Word Online

Steel Contributor

Has anyone come accros the issue using tab stopss in a document (Word) and when opening in Word Online the Tab stops are gone? I noticed that I can't create them in Word Online, and the ones created in Word are not being displayed. Is this a known issue? This will be a major problem in using Word/Word Online in Education.

9 Replies

Hi Mike,

I have had a similar problem. When you edit a word document ( stored in Office 365) and add some tab stops then save the document. Reopen the document then you tab stops are gone. So I'm not sure that this is an issue with Word Online at all.

Hi Pieter, did you create the Word doc initially in Word or in Word Online? The scenario that I worked on was:
create a new doc in OfB,
added some text (Word Online),
opened it in Word,
added tab stops,
reopened it in Word Online (refresh),
no tab stops there,
added some spaces in Word Online,
refresh in Word,
spaces and tab stops are there.

So it seems that Word Online is not capable of adding and showing tab stops (which is related to HTML I think). But in the physical document (where tab stops were added with Word) they were still there.

I created a document in Word (not Word online)

Then saved it in SharePoint Online

Opened the document in Word again from SharePoint Online

Set some tab stops

Saved the documents and closed Word

Opened the document in word again and my tab stops are gone


Then I repeated the same test but storing my document locally on my PC instead of SharePoint online and the tab stops are kept.


It looks like storing the documents online breaks the tab stops.




After some digging I have come up with the following on this issue: Word Online is not able to display Tab stops. They will not disappear in Word Online but simply cannot be displayed. They are so to speak 'hidden'. Microsoft already stated that Word Online is intended for quick text edits, and not for advanced layout changes.

Come on Microsoft - a tab is hardly an advanced layout change! I believe that most text editors since the dawn of time have used them. Needless to say, Google docs doesn't seem to struggle with tabs...

Word must allow page background colors to be available in Draft and Outline views.

@Helios Comms 


It is not Microsoft.  Tab Stops do not exist in HTML.  When viewing your document in a Browser HTML is being used to render the page.  Therefore you cannot see any Tab Stops.  Your issue is with W3C not Microsoft.

best response confirmed by Alan Umanos (Microsoft)
Err, I think not - HTML CSS and esp. HTML 5 is perfectly able to lay out text on pixel boundaries. Like Google docs has always been able to do as shown here: - and that's in Edge, not some magic in Chrome.

It's a limitation in the rendering engine used by Microsoft's online Office products - full stop.

I know this is an old thread now, but I'm adding this post for anyone else who comes here looking for more information on why Tab stops aren't working in Word for the Web.

Helios Comms is correct, this is a product limitation that has existed since SharePoint 2010 and Office Web Apps 2010. This same behavior for Tab stops will exist in Office Web Apps Server, Office Online Server, and Office for the Web (in the cloud with SharePoint Online).


It is possible to use the Tab key at the start of a line to indent a new paragraph, but otherwise Tab stops will not render in Word Online's Edit mode.

That said, the Tab stops do still exist in the word file, even if they aren't visible when editing in the browser. Word Online's view mode vs edit mode render differently because their purposes are different. If you take the word file and open it in "View" mode in the browser, or open the file in the locally installed Word Client app, the Tab stops will be visible.