Working with Long documents effectively using Outline View

Sep 30, 2021 | Microsoft Office Hints and Tips, Word Hints and Tips

If you are working with long documents in Microsoft Word it can be time consuming and fiddly producing a consistent structure and moving large chunks of text and other information around.  Outline view can be a huge help with this. 

Accessing Outline View 

  • Click on the View tab 
  • Select Outline 
Outline icon

Using the Outline View 

Once Outline View is selected a new tab called Outlining appears on the ribbon.  This is where many of the options are accessed from. 

The view looks very different to the Normal view that is most commonly used.  Much of the view is based around heading styles.  Each heading level is progressively indented further making it easier to see the structure of the document.  Also there is a ‘+’ next to each heading.  Clicking on this selects the whole of that section (up to the next heading at that level or above).  Double clicking on the ‘+’ collapses the section.  Double clicking again expands it back out. 

Outline Tools

Outline Tools

The outline tools section of the outlining tab is divided into 2 parts. 

The first part is used to apply a level of heading style to the selected part of the document by either choosing the level from the drop down box or using the green arrows to demote or promote by a single level or to Level 1 or Body text respectively. 

The blue arrows move the section you are in up or down and the blue ‘+’ and ‘-‘  are another way to collapse and expand the section.  Alternatively the selected section can be dragged to its new position (it could be collapsed when this is done to make it easier to see where the information is being moved to). 

The second part of the outline tools section is more self explanatory.  It allows all the information to be expanded or collapsed to a certain level.  It also allows formatting to be switched off which may enable more information to be seen on the screen or only the first line of each paragraph to be viewed. 

Master Document 

Master Document

To use the options in the master document section Show Document needs to be clicked on first.  This part of outlining allows a document to be subdivided into separate subdocuments or subdocuments to be inserted into a master document.  The master can be locked so any changes are made in the sub documents and when all changes are made the individual files can be  merged back together producing a consolidated finalised file. 

Returning to Print Layout View 

There are 2 ways to do this: 

  • On the Outlining tab click on Close Outline View 
  • On the View tab select Print Layout View 

Although a lot of the things that can be done in the Outline View can also be done in the Print Layout View the ability to collapse sections and view information to a specific level makes allocating consistent structure and moving of data so much easier.  

Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading about how to compare information in Microsoft Word, there’s some other blogs below that you might find useful:

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