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Outline View

Outline view is one of Word's four defined views (the others are Normal view, Web Layout view, and Print Layout view). You turn on Outline view by clicking the Outline View button at the lower left of the screen, right above the page number in the status bar. Outline view has several unique visual features, which are described here and shown in Figure 1:

  • Each heading level (except for Heading 1) is indented with respect to higher levels.
  • Body text—that is, anything that is not a heading—is indented with respect to its containing heading.
  • Each paragraph of body text is marked with a small box in the margin.
  • A heading that contains material—lower headings and/or body text—is displayed with a plus (+) sign in the left margin. An empty heading displays a minus (–) sign.
Figure 1

Figure 1 Outline view uses indentation to structure the document.

You have several ways to control the display in Outline view. They are accessed on the Outlining toolbar, which is automatically displayed when you use Outline view. If it is not showing, right-click any toolbar and click Outlining on the pop-up menu.

One option controls whether text formatting (fonts, boldface, and so on) are displayed. You toggle it with the Show Formatting button on the toolbar. When formatting is hidden, all text—including headings—is displayed in the same plain font.

Another option controls how body text is displayed. You can display full paragraphs or the first line only (useful to get an idea of what each paragraph is about without having it take up too much screen real estate). The Show First Line Only button on the toolbar controls it.

The final option determines how many outline levels are displayed. By default, all levels, including body text, are displayed. You can select a level by pulling down the Show Level list from the Outlining toolbar. For example, if you select Show Level 4, Headings 1 through 4 are displayed and lower headings, 5 through 9, as well as body text are hidden. Select Show All Levels to return to displaying all elements. Restricting the levels that are shown can help when you are working on the overall structure of the document. For example, Figure 2 shows the document from Figure 1 with Level 3 selected in the Show list.

Figure 2

Figure 2 Displaying only certain levels in the document.

You can add and edit text in Outline view. Most people avoid doing formatting in Outline view because Word does not let you change paragraph formatting in Outline view. You can apply text formatting, but it might not display, depending on the Show Formatting setting.

I mentioned earlier that a heading that contains material displays with a + sign next to it. Double-click this symbol to collapse the heading, hiding all its content and leaving only the heading displayed. Double-click again to expand back to full display.

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