Deep Dive: Learn All About Bullet Points, Margins & Tabs

About this lesson

Take Control of Bullets, Numbers, Margins, and Tabs!

Learn EVERYTHING about PowerPoint tabs, bullets, and margins in this advanced tutorial. This is a deep dive for you to become an expert on PowerPoint bullet points, margins, and tabs.

This includes the mysterious first-line indents. And why your bullet points are missing?

Along the way, we will also cover secrets about the PowerPoint ruler and line spacing between lines and spacing after bullet points. And once you learn how they work, then you can take complete control of these elements.

Plus why applying a design template can mess up all you hard work.

Come and Power UP you PowerPoint skills!


Content with video timestamps:

  • Intro 0:00
  • What you need to know: 1:08
  • Turning on the Ruler: 1:25
  • Explaining What is On the Ruler: 2:01
  • Demo how to changing margins: 3:08
  • Demo different tabs stops: 6:15
  • Demo with bullets: 7:35
  • Demo with numbers: 9:33
  • Problem with numbering: 11:22
  • Tables are better than tabs: 12:08
  • Full control of bullet formatting: 15:06
  • Full control of margins: 16:53
  • Full control of line spacing: 18:30
  • Master Slide Hints: 19:19
  • Wrap Up 21:10


Subject Microsoft PowerPoint

Software Compatibility PowerPoint 2013 and above

Level Advanced

Course Completed Complete

PDF Files There are not any files associated with this lesson.



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Video Training Transcript for “Learn All About Bullet Points, Margins & Tabs”

By default, PowerfPoint handles bullet, margins and tabs in an “okay” fashion.  But there are times it just looks wrong, you have special needs and then PowerPoint can get confusing.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered in this ADVANCED deep dive into all things bullets, numbers, margins and tabs.

Stay tuned and get powered up!


Hi, this is Les McCarter.

If you came to better understand Powerpoint’s bullets, numbers, margins and tabs, you are at the right place.

We are going DEEP into this complex set of topics, but ever so needed if you have to take complete control of how your presentation looks.

So buckle up and Lets Go and Get Powered up by Bullets, Margins and Tabs in PowerPoint


Hands-On Training

In this video, I will go back and forth between using the PowerPoint presentation mode and then dropping into the edit mode to illustrate how things work inside PowerPOint.

I don’t want you to just mimic keystrokes, instead I want you to understand why. SO lets start with the anatomy of margins & tabs and how they interact with bullets.
To get started, we need to turn on the ruler within PowerPoint which is not shown by default.
To do this you go to the View menu and choose ruler. Make sure the check mark is on. We will do this live in a moment.
Once turned on, the Ruler bar shows up at the top of your slides when you’re doing the editing in the standard view.
Before we go too far, let’s take a look at some of the individual elements that control the margins

Let’s focus on three icons: An upside down and right side up triangles and a square.
The UPSIDE DOWN triangle controls the left margin of a paragrpahs’ first line.
The RIGHTSIDE UP triangle controls the left margin of all the remaining lines . . line 2 and beyond.
Drag either one of them on the ruler to change the margins independently.
As we will see in a moment, the SQUARE can be dragged to move both triangles IN UNISON.

There is one more element to point out on the ruler bar. This icon represents one of the four different kinds of tabs that you can insert into your ruler bar depending on what’s being shown.
In this case here we see the LEFT tab marker.
In a moment, we will see how you can toggle through the four different types of tab stops. But hold on, I will get to that soon.

Let’s use this page to demonstrate what we just saw on the Anatomy page.
First off, here is how to toggle the RULER on and off.

Go to the VIEW MENU
And in the middle is the RULER on and off toggle box.
See how it appears above the slide workspace when ON and OFF and ON.
Next observe how we don’t see any of the margin & tab controls I just talked about. The reason is you need to be in the text CONTROL BOX. See how it shows up when in the text box and disappears when I click outside.
The page we are working on is displaying a basic TEXT box with no bullets or numbers. Those additional items will work slightly differently which I will show on the following pages.

Also note that we can’t see where there are TABS in the text, so I used the WORD TAB in yellow highlight to indicate where they are on the page.
I’m clicking on the second paragraph and see the LEFT margins line up.
Let’s change the first line to indent. I’m clicking the top UPSIDE DOWN triangle and moving. See that it impacts only the first line.

Now let’s move the following lines (as in NOT the first line) by clicking the lower RIGHT SIDE UP triangle. And moving it around
Now if I want to move the paragraph in unison, I click and drag the bottom square.

Quickly again: FIRST LINE . . . REST OF THE PARAGRAPH . . . and the GROUP.

Look at paragraph #3. The first line is indented not because the margins are changed (see they are both flush left) but because I added a “TAB” key. Let me take it out with the backspace and put it back in.

Now that you can see what is there, lets add in a tab stop to set where the word should begin. By default, PowerPoint has an automatic indent every 1 inch, but as soon as I add a defined tab stop, all the automatic tabs go away in front of the define tab stop.

The current TAB format is LEFT aligned (see the L icon?) and I just click INSIDE the ruler to define the location.
And then once added, we can drag it around.
And to DELETE, you can just click and DRAG OFF

Do note that the assigned TAB STOP is for that paragraph the cursor is on. It is not LINE by LINE, but paragraph by paragraph.

Let’s try out the four different tab choices: LEFT ALIGNED (standard), RIGHT ALIGNED, CENTERED and DECIMAL.
Remember the steps:
1) Go to the line you want it applied to (in this case, we will highlight the collection of lines)
2) Choose the TAB choice (see them as I cycle through LEFT, RIGHT (the L flipped around), CENTERED and DECIMAL.
3) Lets apply a LEFT at the 1.5 inch mark . . boom . . see how the default tab disappeared before it, but the others are still there
4) Now lets do CENTER at the five.five inch mark . . change the ICON to upside down T . . . boom centered and removal the preceeding defautls
5) Finally let’s put in a fancy DECIMAL at 9.25 mark . . . select and then click
The decmical aligns numbers at the PERIOD mark.

Lets add a new line to see this in action with TAB, TAB and Tab and type in $1,234.50 and again at $1,234,567.89
See the decimal points line up?


Now lets try this out with BULLETS.
First off, the TAB and SHIFT TAB are special keyboard keys in PowerPoint with Bullets.

With bullets turned on, the tab key AT THE BEGINNING OF THE LINE will change the bullet level (and shift tab brings it back). There are formatting implications at each level.

In my special design template, I have the bullet levels change colors. (Wait. I will show you in a few moments in the SLIDE MASTER section).


To see this TAB and SHIFT TAB, we can see it more visibly in in the OUTLINE VIEW.
VIEW . . . OUTLINE VIEW and see the intents here and the actions reflected in the slide. . . .(DO IT). Now back to the NORMAL view

HOWEVER, once you are inside the paragraph, the tabs will work as before moving a designated amount on the line, but that is very, very uncommon that you would add a tab INSIDE a bullet line.

So now that we see how BULLET outline levels operate, lets look at the MARGINS
(vamp on the indent and outdent)

• Change BULLET 3 . . it is now independent of the other level 3 outlines, but we can move the first line indent in and out
• And the second and beyond lines any way
• Or the two controls in unison with the SQUARE BOX

WHY DO THIS? It may be that you want to tighten or loosen the spacing from your bullet point. See how that works?
And yes it is only on the line I have highlighted. Stay tune for the MASTER SLIDE trick at the end to control the whole presentation.

Numbers have a role in PowerPoint presenation (see our PowerPoint Master Class Lesson 2 Editing PowerPoint for Content for direction of when to use bullets and when to use numbered lists . . . there are real rules!)
But I am disappointed in how PowerPoint handles complicated numbered lists. This is NOT as robust as Microsoft Word’s awesome powers, but we can work with Numbers in PowerPoint.

The concept is exactly same as BULLETs, it is just that PowerPOint readjusts the number with each COLLECTION of indents.


Watch as we make the changes.
But in this particular DESIGN TEMPLATE the numbering spacing looks bad. (To learn more about design see our PowerPoint Masterclass Lesson 3: Formatting PowerPoint for Effective Design).
So let’s fix the spacing with what we have learned. The issue is the first line margin does not line up with the previous section. And the second indent is too far away from the numbers.
So let’s fix it.
First fix spacing for item 1
Do items 2 and 3 together
And then repeat for item 4

Before we go on, I have one more gripe. The numbering is not clear. If I said pay attention to “item #1” which one would it be???? Here or here or here?
Let’s do a quick fix to change the number for the secondary levels. (VAMP)

Lastly, I don’t like the “small” numbers, but we will save this fix until the of this video.

In plain text boxes. Tabs are in my opinion, just okay, but there is a better way.
Lets do some fancy formatting. But before we get started, note the strangeness of the last line. The code doesn’t line up.
Why? When pressing the tab key it takes you to the next “default” 1 inch separator and since Joe’s name is shorter than MANAGER or AMANDA, the next default tab stop is the “5 inch” as opposed to the other’s “6 inch”
That will all be solved, once we put in our specific tab stops.

We are going to highlight all three lines and then
LEFT aligned (select) click at the 1.5 inch ruler mark
CENTER aligned (select) click at the 4.5 inch mark
And then RIGHT aligned (select) and click at the 9 inch mark.
See how everything now lines up and all the default 1 inch prior tab stops disappeared.

This works, but there are issues, what if the branch location name is longer, such as in adding in the county of United States of America. YUK! We can do better

The solution should not come as a surprise . . . cause look at the title TABS vs TABLES. Yes TABLES are better!
To save time, I have already dropped in the table, but look how easy it is.

<<DO IT> <vamp>
And you see the matching formatting just happens, including more choices to match our design theme.

Now in the TABLE, instead of tabs, I use paragraph alignment tools within each box or cell. And I can DRAG the whole table around as an object, which I can’t easily do with tabs.
Finally, lets do the COUNTY name and see how it wraps inside the box and the line stays as a unified unit.


<switch to presentation mode> <SLIDE>
Here are some hard-learned tips on BULLET and NUMBER management
While you can do some changes to the bullet lists by selecting new icons from the drop down box, there are times you need more control.


You have the list to choose from and you could CUSTOMIZE with “wingding” icons or even bring in a “picture” as your bullets. Be careful, as it might look cheesy.
But I want to focus on color.
<click> This is where you can change the bullet color and it solves two potential problems:
1) The bullet may not match the color of the rest of the line. Which we saw on slide #5. So this is where you fix that problem to set the bullet color.
2) The second issue is “missing bullets.” I get this question all the time. Why don’t my bullets show up? The answer is that they are showing but the bullets just happen to have the same color as the background and are not “visible.” Come here and change the color for them to reappear.
The other item to look at on this control is SIZE
<CLICK> We saw on slide #6, the small numbers, and here we can fix that to make the numbers stand out.


Great. But what about the margin?
This is a touch more complex than the margins of a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet. The reason is that there multiple “content boxes” that have unique margins that fit within the canvas size of our presentation.

Lookl Here is our canvas size (and yes there is a Masterclass for that, the same Lesson 3 I referenced earlier Formatting PowerPoint for Effective Design).
<CLICk> See the edge of the slide and it canvas width on the right.
The canvas is for the full page. But within each slide there are typically content boxes. And they have their own left and right margins, ONCE you click inside to see them displayed.

And see (click again) how the edit lines up ruler margins.

<ESCAPE out and show>

<<Go back into SHOW>>
And one more WHAT ABOUT?
We have learned about spacing WITHIN a paragraph with margin controls, but what about BETWEEN like bullet points.
This is controlled via the PARAGRAPH dialog box.
Highlight the paragraph or multiple paragraphs. Then locate under the HOME menu PARAGAPH and click the expand arrow icon (or right click and select paragraph).


Here you can control the spacing before and or after each line.
Simple enough . . .once you know the controls exist and where to find them!


This last TIP is a doozy: MASTER SLIDES
Here is the issue
Almost all the items we discuss are “paragraph” specific. Meaning the changes are only on what is highlighted. And while you can highlight items on a single slide, you can’t go across slides.
Making these adjustments can be a big pain for a large slide deck.
The solution? <click> MASTER SLIDES
In this hidden view, you can make a single change, say to BULLET list level 2 and it flows through the WHOLE presentation.
It is awesome, but it does require a whole separate training session, which Power Up training can provide. But as a teaser, lets change the SECOND bullet point to a new color for the presentation. We will start on slide #5 and go for something radical.
<escape out and then go to slide master and change color and bullet icon and exit to show>