How-To

How to Use the Document Outline in Google Docs

Large document featured

The document outline in Google Docs is a great way to navigate a large document. To know how to start using it, follow this guide.

Add too many words, paragraphs, and pages, and you’ve got a document that’s too unwieldy to read.

Thanks to Google Docs, there’s a solution to this problem. You can use the document outline tool to create an easy-to-use navigation system for your document. Like a built-in table of contents, the document outline lets you move around a document, using the headings and sub-headings as a guide.

If you want to know how to use the document outline in Google Docs, follow the steps below.

How to View the Document Outline in Google Docs

When you create a Google Docs document, you can generate and view the document outline at any point. The outline is generated by the headings and sub-headings that you use in your document.

You may find the outline empty if you don’t have any headings in your document. You’ll need to consider formatting your document so that there are obvious points of reference for the outline to work from.

Enabling the Document Outline Panel

  1. If your document has formatted headings or sub-headings, you should be able to view the outline already. This is the panel that appears on the left.
    Google Docs document outline
  2. You might have collapsed it by mistake if you don’t see it. To view the panel, tap the Show document outline icon in the top left, below the upper margin, to view.
    Show the Google Docs outline
  3. If the icon isn’t there, the document outline is disabled, and you’ll need to enable it again. To do this, go to View > Show Outline.
    Enable the Google Docs outlineThe document outline panel will appear on the left. You can then collapse and re-open it at any point to help with your navigation.

How to Navigate Using the Document Outline in Google Docs

Once the panel is active and visible in your Google Docs document, you should be able to use it to navigate around your document.

This is especially handy in a large document with many pages and sections. Each heading and sub-heading provides an easy link. As long as the headings are descriptive enough, you should be able to use the outline to move from one section of your document to the next.

  1. To navigate using the document outline, press on a heading or sub-heading in the outline panel on the left.
    Selecting a header in Google DocsClicking the heading or sub-heading in the panel will move your blinking cursor on the right to that position. You can then read the document from that point. If you prefer, you can also use the document outline to help you make further changes to your document.

You can click through the document outline as often as you like to help you navigate your Google Docs document.

How to Remove Headings from the Document Outline in Google Docs

Google Docs will automatically generate your document outline using the headings and sub-headings you insert. However, the more headings you insert, the larger the outline.

If you want to remove specific headings from the outline, you can do this from the outline panel itself.

  1. If the panel isn’t visible, go to View > Show Outline and make sure the panel is enabled. Next, click the Open document outline icon on the left to open it.
    Show the Google Docs outline
  2. Once the panel is open, hover over a heading or sub-heading you’d like to remove. Click the Remove from outline icon next to the heading (shaped like an X) to remove it.
    Remove a header from a Google Docs outline
  3. The heading will be removed from the document outline immediately. If you want to undo the process, immediately press the Undo button on the menu bar or press Ctrl + Z (Windows) or Command + Z (Mac) on your keyboard.
    Undo button in Google Docs
  4. If you want to restore the heading later, you’ll need to remove it from your document and retype it on a new line. Once you restore the heading formatting to the new text, Google Docs will re-generate it and place it back in the document outline.

Creating Large Documents in Google Docs

If your document is more a novel than a short story, you’ll need to use the document outline in Google Docs to help you navigate. The steps above should help you get started, but if you don’t need it, you can always hide the outline panel.

You might also want to consider other steps to improve your document. For instance, if the document is important, you might want to add a cover page for important information.

Is your document too text-heavy? You could always add a video to your Google Docs document, but only if the video helps your audience. If it isn’t suitable, don’t be afraid to consider creating a website to share your content instead.

Need to head away for a few pages? You can always take work with you by working in Google Docs offline.

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