How to Add Outlines in Google Docs: A Step-by-Step Guide

Adding outlines in Google Docs is a breeze once you get the hang of it. Essentially, you’ll be using the document’s built-in heading styles to create sections that automatically populate an outline panel. This panel can then help you navigate your document with ease. After reading this quick overview, you’ll be able to create a neat and organized outline for any Google Docs project.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Add Outlines in Google Docs

Before diving into the steps, let’s clarify what we’ll achieve. By following the instructions below, you’ll learn how to use headings to create an automatic outline. This outline can assist with navigating longer documents, keeping your content well-structured, and providing a snapshot of your document’s flow.

Step 1: Open your Google Doc

Open the Google Doc you want to add an outline to.

Once your document is open, make sure you’re in editing mode. You can tell you’re in the right mode if you see the blinking cursor when you click on the document.

Step 2: Highlight the text for your first heading

Select the text you want to be your main heading or a section title.

This text will become the first level of your outline, so choose something that represents a significant section of your document.

Step 3: Apply a heading style

Click on the ‘Styles’ dropdown in the toolbar and choose a heading style, like ‘Heading 1’.

Heading styles are pre-set formats for text that help Google Docs organize and recognize different sections of your document. ‘Heading 1’ is typically used for main section titles, with ‘Heading 2’, ‘Heading 3’, etc., used for sub-sections.

Step 4: Add additional headings and subheadings

Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for all sections of your document, using different heading levels for sub-sections.

Remember to use a logical structure; ‘Heading 1’ for main titles, ‘Heading 2’ for sub-titles beneath that, and so on. This hierarchy is essential for a clear outline.

Step 5: View the outline panel

Click ‘View’ in the top menu and select ‘Show document outline’ to see your automatic outline in the left panel.

The outline panel will display all the headings you’ve created, letting you click on any of them to jump to that section in the document.

After completing these steps, you’ll have a fully functional outline in Google Docs. This outline will help you and your readers quickly navigate through the document. As you add or adjust headings, the outline will update automatically. So, if you add a new chapter or a key point, just remember to use the appropriate heading style, and it will pop up in your outline.

Tips for Adding Outlines in Google Docs

  • Use the ‘Normal text’ style for your regular body text to keep it from appearing in the outline.
  • For a cleaner outline, limit the number of main headings (‘Heading 1’) and use subheadings (‘Heading 2’, ‘Heading 3’, etc.) to break down sections further.
  • Remember to update your headings if you rearrange sections of your document to keep the outline accurate.
  • If your document outline isn’t showing, make sure at least one piece of text is formatted as a heading.
  • You can customize the look of each heading style by changing the font, size, color, etc., and Google Docs will remember your preferences for each heading level throughout the document.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I add an outline to a Google Doc on mobile?

Yes, you can add headings in the Google Docs app on your mobile device, which will automatically create an outline.

What if my outline doesn’t show up?

Make sure you’ve used heading styles for your section titles. The outline won’t recognize normal text as an outline item.

Can I edit the appearance of my outline?

While you can’t change the outline’s appearance, you can modify the heading styles, which will reflect in the outline.

Is there a limit to how many levels the outline can have?

Google Docs recognizes up to six levels of headings for outlines, from ‘Heading 1’ to ‘Heading 6’.

Can I print the outline?

The outline is meant for navigation within Google Docs and cannot be directly printed. However, you can manually create an outline in the body of your document to print.


  1. Open your Google Doc
  2. Highlight the text for your first heading
  3. Apply a heading style
  4. Add additional headings and subheadings
  5. View the outline panel


Outlines are a powerful tool in Google Docs, helping you organize your thoughts and guide your readers through your document. They’re especially handy for longer projects where keeping track of content can get overwhelming. Plus, they’re dynamic, updating as your document grows and changes. Whether it’s a report, a thesis, or your next novel, mastering how to add outlines in Google Docs can make the writing process a whole lot smoother.

Remember, the key is in the headings. Use them wisely, and you’ll have a navigational tool that saves time and effort. And don’t forget to personalize your headings! They’re not just for structure; they can also add a splash of style to your document.

Happy outlining! Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started, adding outlines in Google Docs is a skill that will serve you well in all your writing endeavors.

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