How to Use the Google Docs Outline Tool

Create an outline in Google Docs for the web, Android, and iOS devices

Long documents can be difficult to navigate in Google Docs. It’s fine to scroll through two or three pages, but if your work is dozens or even hundreds of pages long, you could spend far too much time getting from one section to another.

Google Docs has a feature called the Outline Tool, and it helps you quickly jump around your document and find sections that you need.

How to Open the Google Docs Outline Tool

To open the Outline Tool, follow these steps:

  1. Open the item you're working on in Google Docs.

  2. Click the View menu.

  3. Select Show document outline.

    Alternatively, use the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+Alt+A or Ctrl+Alt+H.

    The "Show Document Outline" command
  4. Once you’ve enabled the Outline Tool, the outline for your document will appear in the left-hand document pane.

  5. To enable the document outline on an Android or iOS device, tap More (the three-dot menu in the upper right corner), and choose Document Outline. The outline will appear at the bottom of the screen.

    How to enable the document outline on an iOS device

To disable the document outline on the web, click the X in the top right corner of the Outline Tool. On Android or iOS, tap anywhere outside of the outline to hide it.

How to Make a Google Docs Outline

Once the Outline Tool is enabled, creating or adding to the outline for the document is simple.

On the Web:

Google Docs pulls items for the Outline View based on headings you've created. Here's how to mark text to navigate on the web version:

  1. For new documents, create a single line of bold or underlined text to automatically add a heading to the outline.

  2. For existing documents, format a single line of text using bold or underline formatting, or use the format menu to choose a heading option.

    To create levels in your outline, format the headings using the Format menu to designate headings as Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, or Heading 4. While the title will appear in an outline, the subtitle will not.

    Google Docs illustrating how to add headings to a document outline
    Screenshot 
  3. Your outline will begin to take form in the Outline pane to the left of the document.

In Android or iOS:

The Google Sheets app for Android and iOS uses the same criteria as the web version to create an outline.

  1. For new documents, create a single line of bold or underlined text to automatically add a heading to the outline.

  2. For existing documents, format a single line of text using bold or underline formatting, or use the format menu to choose a heading option.

    To format headings so they are assigned to designated levels in your outline, tap Format > Text > Style, and then choose the desired heading level. Also, while the title will appear in an outline, the subtitle will not.

  3. Your outline will display at the bottom of your screen.

How to Navigate a Google Docs Outline

Once you’ve created an outline in your Google Docs document, navigating through the document using the outline is easy. On the web, click the section of the outline you want to access, and your cursor will move to the beginning of that section.

On Android and iOS devices, open the outline and tap the place in the outline where you want to go. Alternatively, if the outline is enabled, you’ll see a double-arrow slider appear on the right side of the document. Tap it to open the outline, and then select a location to jump your cursor there.