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Using a Document Map

Last updated Mar 26, 2004.

A couple of weeks ago, we went over the concept of Bookmarks in Word and showed how to use the bookmark destination as a navigation point either within a Word document, or when it has been saved as a Web page (in HTML or MHT format).

But there are good reasons not to convert documents to HTM or Web format, and to keep them in Word. One of these is the ability to use a Document Map: an instant navigation tool within documents that have properly formatted styles and bookmarks.

If we return to the document we created in the previous update, we can see that it has a table of contents that provides instant navigation or hyperlinks to upcoming sections via bookmarks.

To open the Document Map right away simply click View > Document Map on the Main Menu.

Figure 373Figure 373

The obvious advantage of the Document Map is that it enables navigation through your document instantly, and gives you a quick view of the major topics of a longer document. As opposed to a generated Table of Contents based on style headings, this does not have to be generated at all. Plus, it can be opened and closed simply by opening and closing the Document Map View.

Besides using Bookmarks, you can use the Word Heading styles to create entries for the Document Map which are similar to main headings and subheadings in the Outline View.

If we make one such section Heading 1, and another Heading 2, we can see that the new sections are reflected in the Document Map panel on the left.

Figure 374Figure 374

The neat thing about this is that headings with subheadings in the Document Map can be expanded or collapsed. This gives the user instant access to a detailed overview of the document. Or as Sgt. Friday used to say, "just the facts, ma'am."

The user has even more options with respect to jumping around or zeroing in. She right-clicks on a heading in the Document Map, and selects the level of heading to display.

Figure 375Figure 375 g

To change the appearance of text within the Document Map, use the Custom selection in the Styles and Formatting Task Pane; select the Document Map to which to apply a changed style. I would be careful with this, however; until you're comfortable with the feature, you can make headings disappear from the Document Map without quite knowing how or why.

Figure 376Figure 376

You can also tuse the Document Map in conjunction with the Reading Layout. Here I am showing this very document which has not been specifically formatted for the Document Map, but which can be easily navigated (and highlighted) within the Reading Layout.

Figure 377Figure 377

The Reading Layout shows you the page numbers at the top of the panel and can also be set up with two pages to the screen (without the Document Map).

The Document Map has certain rules and limitations. For example, headings in a table or in a textbox do not show up. I recommend using a heading style to identify tables to which you want users to navigate in the Document Map.

If a picture is applied to a heading, the picture bullet does not display in the Document Map. Instead, you'll see a minus sign (-) next to the heading in the Document Map. To show bullets in the Document Map, you must use text bullets.

The Document Map keeps a custom width setting until you close the document. When you reopen the document, Microsoft Word automatically sets the Document Map to one-fourth the width of the window.

In addition, when you display the Document Map, it shows headings that are formatted with the built in Heading Styles.

Word has nine built-in heading styles, as well as the hierarchical levels of Outlines (which enable you to also use the Outline View). If Word can't find any headings formatted with the heading styles or outline levels, it automatically searches the document for paragraphs that look like headings (for example, short lines with a larger font size). Then Word applies an outline level to these headings and displays them in the Document Map. If Word can't find any such headings, the Document Map is blank.

Generally, the Document Map is helpful even if you haven't manually created the sorts of headings and sections that will work later on. When you invoke the Document Map, Word goes the document and puts the items it deems relevant into the Document Map panel. This allows the user to get a quick overview of the main topics, and jump to them.

Obviously it's better if you understand the value of bookmarks, section headings, and outline hierarchies. Then, as you create your Word document, you can consider how your user could use a Document Map to navigate through the final version.

This is particularly helpful in longer documents like user manuals, employee handbooks, or leases. Keeping these documents in Word format lets the reader use a Document Map instead of needing to use a separate frame for a Web document.

Obviously, there are other solutions for this, such as the very popular PDF document format. But if all of your users are Microsoft Office users with MS Word, then they can take full advantage of all of the Document Map navigation features.