Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Understanding Outlining in Word.

Understanding Outlining in Word

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 14, 2017)

Word provides many tools that you can use to help you develop your writing. One tool which many people find particularly helpful is outlining. The outlining features in Word are basically an implementation of how you learned to create outlines in school. First, you develop your major ideas, which become the headings in your outline. As you add more detail, your outline takes form with different levels of headings.

The headings in an outline are, in reality, the headings you use in your document. Thus, the outline becomes a condensed version of your document, showing only your headings. You can switch between your regular editing views and your outline by simply clicking your mouse on the Outline View icon in the lower-left corner of the screen.

To create an outline from scratch, follow these steps:

  1. Create a new document.
  2. Make sure Outline view has been selected. The Outline toolbar should appear on your screen.
  3. Start typing your document. The paragraphs you enter will be a first-level head (formatted with the Heading 1 style).
  4. Adjust the heading levels of your paragraphs by clicking the left and right arrow keys on the Outline toolbar.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1866) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Understanding Outlining in Word.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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