Workaround for "turning off" the TAB key creating a table instead of a regular TAB in OneNote

As you may know, pressing TAB in the middle of a line in OneNote 2007 creates a table. There is no way to turn off this behavior, but if you want to create a regular TAB instead, you can use this workaround:

Create an Auto-correct rule that turns your chosen character sequence (e.g. "\t") into a regular TAB:

  1. Open Notepad and type one TAB. Select it and copy it.

  2. Go to OneNote and click Tools > Auto-correct Options...

  3. In the dialog, put your desired sequence of characters (e.g. \t, or \tab, or TAB, or <t>, or whatever you like) into the "Replace:" field.

  4. Paste the TAB that you copied from Notepad into the "With:" filed. Click Add.

Now, any \t followed by a SPACE will be replaced by a regular TAB.


Comments (29)

  1. One of my favourite features in OneNote 2007 is that when you hit tab it auto inserts a table for you,

  2. HappytoContribute says:

    Actually if you don't want to create a rule and have to remember the short cut you can simply highlight what you want to tab then press the tab key.  It is a little backwards to what we are used to but works pretty well in a pinch.

  3. Hermann Klinke says:

    The problem with the highlight-than-tab solution is that it tabs the entire paragraph while you might want to create a tab after you have already typed something. Still a very good hint, I use it often.

  4. Perilous says:

    You can insert a normal TAB by usint ALT+9 (you must use 9 on the numeric keypad and Num Lock must be on).

  5. Richard Noel says:

    Thanks for this workaround.  Oddly enough I've never missed the Tab key.  I love that Tab creates a table.  I've always used the Increase Indent Position button.

    Alt+9 is great to know TY Perilous.

  6. FixTheTabKey says:

    It is unreasonable to change the behavior of a standard keyboard feature such as the tab key without the ability to turn the functionality off and on.  I like OneNote and use it daily, but this change is very frustrating and needs to be fixed.  This workaround requires multiple clicks for what should only take one; once again this is unreasonable.  Please fix the tab key in OneNote

  7. Annoying fix says:

    Seriously for the life of me i could not even use a normal tab.  My laptop does not have a standalone numpad so using alt+9 is annoying.

    Thanks for the workaround tho. MS should let us turn off the functionality

  8. I would be careful using OneNote. I'm loosing notes in this folder system

  9. Chuck says:

    I agree with the statements above that TAB should be a tab and not insert table.  I use OneNote daily as well and not being able to use standard keyboard tab feature without inserting a table is absolutely frustrating!  Either allow users to enable/disable this feature or go back to Tab being tab with a different way to insert a table quickly.  Sorry to those who like that TAB = insert table group but the changing of a standard keyboard function should not have been done.  Find another solution!

  10. Mike says:

    Thank you Perilous!!

    I know this is a year later but I only just ran into this problem…

  11. Frustrated says:

    I too find this non-standard use of the Tab key to extremely irritating.  Why can it not be turned off, for cryin' out loud?!  If I want to insert a table, I know how to do that through menu.  What's next….  the Enter key can only insert pictures?  The space bar enters smiley emoticons flipping me off and laughing?

  12. Ray says:

    Even better:  Autohotkey macro:


    ; Puts a real tab into OneNote



    if WinActive("OneNote")


       send {Alt down}{Numpad9}{Alt up}



  13. forkself says:

    just copy tab & paste using (Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V). This is Best!!

  14. JesusKingofUS says:

    Just use copy & paste for real TAB using Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V.

    1. put real tab

    2. copy it (it is invisible)

    3. paste (that's it)

  15. VanguardLH says:

    Alas, inserting tab characters looks good in OneNote (the application) but are ignored when looking at the notebook using the web UI.  That is, if you log into your Hotmail/Live/ account, go to SkyDrive, and open the online copy of the notebook, the web app for OneNote will ignore tab characters (showing them as just a space character).  If you're creating local notebooks on your host then this workaround is doable.  If you are saving your notebooks at SkyDrive, the tabs you spent the time to insert are ignored when opening them using the OneNote web app (i.e., via your web browser).

  16. Microsloth says:

    Do you know if anyone has created a clone of "MS Notepad" where you can copy and paste "tab" characters into text? Microsoft could get rid of Notepad at any time.

  17. EH says:

    Press [Alt] + [Shift] + [Right Arroew], or  [Alt] + [Shift] + [Left Arroew].

    That is the tab.

    Copy entire page and paste into notepad. You can see it is actually a tab.

  18. MikeH says:

    I am in total agreement that changing the default action for TAB, without a means to turn that off, is unacceptable.  How this got through the focus group user testing is just bizzaro!!  

  19. Jake says:

    Thanks, Ray. I had to use the IfWinActive ahk_class Framework::CFrame feature instead of if WinActive("OneNote"), but otherwise, perfect. Exactly what I was looking for! Here's mine:

    ; Puts a real tab into OneNote



    IfWinActive ahk_class Framework::CFrame


      send {Alt down}{Numpad9}{Alt up}


  20. Tim says:

    I have tried everything so far, including AHK scripts and nothing works to stop MS OneNote 2013 inserting a table when you hit  the TAB key.

    WHO the hell at Microsoft thought this was a good idea?

  21. Nick says:


    I noticed that I have to hold down Alt, press 9 on numeric keypad (with NumLock on) and then release Alt before the tab is inserted. I found this when I tried to enter multiple tabs by pressing 9 repeatedly with the Alt key held down, it produces some unusual characters.

    I fully agree with the comments about reassigning the use of such a basic key, it is the create table option that should have been a key combination instead.

    I have also noticed that OneNote does not keep the same tab positions depending on the level of indentation of the paragraph: when I was entering two columns of information with tabs separating them, I found that the tabs on the second-level indent went to different positions compared to the first-level and non-indented text.

    To clarify, I was originally using the Alt-H -> AI menu option to indent paragraphs, later I used the Alt-Shift-Right and Alt-Shift-Left to indent and un-indent, after seeing it mentioned above.

    As today's young people would say … Sad Face.


  22. Ian says:

    thanks for the workaround (as lame as it is).  I'll pass it around the office and be a hero.  🙂

  23. Cedric says:

    Breaking such a basic convention and making it so hard to get it back is beyond broken design.

    Please complain here:…/6561921-don-t-override-tab-key-behavior

  24. OMG says:

    this is the most ridiculous feature ever on anything

  25. Head shakes says:

    8 YEARS later, still no option tho turn it off…

  26. hate auto tab says:

    Onenote is awesome, except the stupid tab hotkey. Even god cannot turn it off.

  27. Mr I. Concur says:

    Now in the onenote app from windows store there is no option for auto-correct, it being a slimmed down version, so now I can't get a normal tab at all! Highlight-then-tab, or tab at the start of a line, just indents the line, my laptop hasn't a numeric keypad, and pasting in from another program does not do anything. So, I am screwed. Not happy. Why is a simple toggle option too much to ask.

  28. Jose says:

    Insert > Page Templates > Blank

    Then set that as default for the Section.

    TAB Works 🙂

    Tested in OneNote 2013

  29. Jose says:

    Or After the table is 1st created, click on Layout and click "Hide Borders"

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