How to Change the Tab Key Order in Microsoft Word

By Darrin Koltow

Knowing how to change the tab order of a form in Microsoft Word lets you create forms in which your program's users can easily enter data. Forms with unconventional tab orders can frustrate users, and take longer to fill out. You can specify the tab order for your Word forms by changing the value of the "TabIndex" property for each control on your form.

Step 1

Click the "Office" button's "New" command, then click "Create" to create a new document.

Step 2

Click the "Office" button's "Options" button, then click the "Show developer" check box to display the controls for working with Visual Basic. You'll use Visual Basic to make a Word form, then change the tab order of the controls on that form.

Step 3

Click the "Developer" tab's "Visual Basic" button to enter the Visual Basic programming environment, which is also known as the Integrated development environment, or IDE.

Step 4

Click the "Insert" menu heading, then click the "Userform" command to insert a new userform into the IDE. Userforms are windows for Word users to enter data into. You can also use them to display information from your Word VBA programs.

Step 5

Click the "View" menu, then click the "Toolbox" item to display the palette for inserting controls onto the userform. Clicks the palette's "Button" control, then drag the control onto the bottom of the userform.

Step 6

Click the palette's "Text box" control, then drag the control to a spot just above the "Button" you just placed. Repeat this instruction to insert another "Text box" control atop the first one you placed.

Step 7

Click the "Run" tab's "Run" command to display the userform in run mode. Press the "Tab" key repeatedly to move from one control to the next. Notice that the tab order is the reverse of what you commonly see in other forms. The cursor moves from the lower to the upper controls instead of upper to lower. You'll change that behavior next.

Step 8

Click the "Run" tab's "Break" command, then click the "Button" control on your userform to select that control. Double-click the value in the right column of the "TabIndex" row in the "Properties" window. Type the value "0" to tell Word that you want the button to be first in the tab order. That means this control will contain the cursor the next time you run the form.

Step 9

Click the "Text box" control just above the button, then use the previous instruction to replace its "Tabindex" value with "1." Change the "TabIndex" value of the top "Text box" to "2."

Step 10

Run the userform as you did in Step 7, then press "Tab" repeatedly. This time, the cursor moves from the top control to the bottom one.