How to Create an Outline in Google Docs: A Step-by-Step Guide

Creating an outline in Google Docs is a straightforward process that involves using the built-in tools to organize your ideas. After reading this quick overview, you’ll have a basic understanding of how to accomplish this task. With just a few clicks, you can turn your jumbled thoughts into a structured format that will make your document clearer and easier to follow.

Step by Step Tutorial: Creating an Outline in Google Docs

Before diving into the steps, let’s understand what we’re aiming for. An outline is a great way to organize your thoughts and plan your document. It breaks down the main points into smaller sub-points, making it easier to write and navigate your document.

Step 1: Open a Google Doc

Start by opening a new Google Doc or one you’re already working on.

Opening a new Google Doc is as simple as going to and clicking on the blank document option. If you’re working on an existing document, just open it from your Google Drive.

Step 2: Use Headings for Main Points

Type your main points and format them using the heading styles.

Google Docs has built-in heading styles that you can apply to your text. These styles help create a hierarchy in your document, which is essential for an outline. You can find these styles in the toolbar at the top of your document.

Step 3: Add Sub-points Under Each Heading

Under each main point, add your sub-points and format them using the ‘Normal text’ style.

Sub-points are the details that support your main points. You can indent these points to make them subordinate to the main headings. This clear visual distinction makes your outline easier to follow.

Step 4: Use the ‘Document Outline’ Feature

Navigate to ‘View’ in the top menu and click on ‘Show document outline’ to see your outline on the left side of the page.

The ‘Document Outline’ feature in Google Docs automatically creates an outline based on the headings you’ve used in your document. This tool helps you quickly navigate through your document, especially if it’s long.

After completing these steps, you’ll have a well-organized outline that will guide you through the writing process. Your ideas will be clearly laid out, making it easier to expand on each point as you write.

Tips for Creating an Outline in Google Docs

  • Use consistent heading styles to maintain a clear structure.
  • Keep your main points broad and your sub-points specific.
  • Don’t be afraid to rearrange your points as your ideas develop.
  • Use bullet points or numbered lists for additional organization.
  • Utilize the ‘Document Outline’ feature to quickly navigate your document.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my outline doesn’t show up in the ‘Document Outline’?

Make sure you’ve used the heading styles correctly. The ‘Document Outline’ relies on these to create the outline.

If your outline isn’t appearing, double-check that you’ve applied the heading styles to your main points. Sometimes, simply bolding the text won’t register in the ‘Document Outline’.

Can I share my outline with others for collaboration?

Absolutely! Google Docs is built for collaboration.

Just like any other Google Doc, you can share your document with others and work on the outline together in real-time. This is perfect for group projects or when you need feedback on your ideas.

Is there a limit to how many sub-points I can have?

No, there’s no limit, but for clarity, it’s best to keep it simple.

While Google Docs doesn’t restrict how many sub-points you can have, remember that the goal of an outline is to organize your thoughts. Too many sub-points can make your outline overly complicated.

Can I customize the look of my outline?

Yes, Google Docs allows for a lot of customization.

You can change the font, size, color, and more of your headings and sub-points. This can help differentiate sections or simply make your outline more visually appealing.

How do I know if my outline is effective?

An effective outline clearly conveys the structure of your document.

If you can glance at your outline and understand the flow of your document, then it’s doing its job. A good test is to see if someone else can understand your document’s structure just by looking at the outline.


  1. Open a Google Doc.
  2. Use headings for main points.
  3. Add sub-points under each heading.
  4. Use the ‘Document Outline’ feature.


Mastering the art of creating an outline in Google Docs can transform your writing process. An outline is more than just a way to organize your thoughts; it’s the backbone of a well-structured document. It guides you and your readers through the narrative you’re building, ensuring each point is carefully positioned and supported by relevant details.

An outline isn’t set in stone; it’s a dynamic tool that changes as your ideas evolve. The beauty of Google Docs is the flexibility it offers. You can tweak your outline, rearrange points, and add new ideas with ease. Collaborating with others, receiving feedback, and refining your outline becomes a seamless part of the writing journey.

Remember, the clarity of your outline reflects the clarity of your thoughts. A well-crafted outline is the first step towards a compelling and persuasive document. Whether you’re writing an essay, a research paper, or a business proposal, starting with an outline in Google Docs sets you up for success.

So, the next time you’re staring at a blank page, not sure where to begin, start with an outline. It will light the path forward, one point at a time, leading you to a finished piece that’s coherent, impactful, and a pleasure to read.

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