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


Matthew Burleigh

Creating an outline in Google Docs is a breeze once you get the hang of it. It’s a tool that’ll help you organize your thoughts, structure your content, and make your document look clean and professional. And the best part? You don’t need to be a tech wizard to do it. Just follow a few simple steps, and you’ll be outlining like a pro in no time!

Step by Step Tutorial: Creating an Outline in Google Docs

Before we dive into the steps, let’s talk about what we’re aiming to achieve here. An outline in Google Docs is essentially a structured list of the main points and subpoints in your document. It helps you and your readers navigate through the content easily. So, let’s get outlining!

Step 1: Open a Google Docs document

Open Google Docs and start a new document or choose one you’re already working on.

When you open a Google Docs document, you’re met with a blank canvas, ready for your ideas. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ve got free rein to let your creativity flow. If you’re adding to an existing document, the outline will help you see the bigger picture and fill in any blanks.

Step 2: Use headings and subheadings

Use the ‘Styles’ menu to format text as headings and subheadings.

Google Docs uses headings to build your outline automatically. The ‘Styles’ menu is where the magic happens – it’s like the control center for your document’s appearance. Choose different levels of headings to create a hierarchy of information, making your document easier to navigate and understand.

Step 3: Access the outline tool

Click on ‘View’ in the top menu, then select ‘Show document outline.’

Once you’ve structured your document with headings, the outline tool becomes your roadmap. It pops up on the left side of your document, showing all your headings and subheadings in a neat list. This allows you to quickly jump to different sections – it’s like having a personal navigator for your document!

Step 4: Edit the outline

Add, remove, or edit points in your outline as needed.

The outline is not set in stone. As your document evolves, so should your outline. Feel free to tweak it – add new points, remove irrelevant ones, or rearrange sections. Think of it as pruning a tree; you’re shaping your document to present the most vital information in the clearest way possible.

Step 5: Utilize the outline for navigation

Click on any point in the outline to jump to that section in the document.

One of the coolest features of the outline tool is its ability to teleport you through your document. Need to revise a specific section? Just one click on the outline, and voila, you’re there! It saves you from endless scrolling, especially in longer documents.

After completing these steps, you’ll have a fully functional outline that makes both writing and reading your document a much smoother process.

Tips for Creating an Outline in Google Docs

  • Consistency is key: Stick to the same style for similar headings to maintain a clear structure.
  • Keep it simple: Don’t overcomplicate your outline with too many sub-levels; it can get confusing.
  • Update regularly: As your document grows, so should your outline. Keep it current.
  • Use keyboard shortcuts: Learn the shortcuts for adding headings (Ctrl+Alt+1/2/3) to speed up the process.
  • Collaborate with ease: Share your outlined document with others for collaborative editing and feedback.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I print my outline?

Yes, you can print your outline along with your document by ensuring the outline pane is open before you print.

Is there a limit to how many levels I can have in my outline?

Google Docs supports up to six levels of headings, which should be more than enough for most documents.

Can I use the outline tool on mobile?

Yes, the outline tool is available in the Google Docs app on both Android and iOS devices.

What happens if I don’t use headings?

Without headings, Google Docs won’t be able to generate an outline. Headings are essential for structuring your document.

Can I customize the appearance of my outline?

The outline’s appearance is linked to your heading styles, so any changes you make to those will reflect in the outline.


  1. Open a Google Docs document.
  2. Use headings and subheadings.
  3. Access the outline tool.
  4. Edit the outline.
  5. Utilize the outline for navigation.


Mastering how to create an outline in Google Docs can transform your document from a jumble of ideas into a well-structured masterpiece. It’s not just a tool for writers; it’s a gift for anyone who wants to present their thoughts clearly and professionally. By following the steps and tips outlined (pun intended!) above, you’re well on your way to becoming a Google Docs outlining champion.

Remember, the key to a great outline is understanding the structure of your document and using headings effectively. And don’t forget – the outline is there to serve you. Adjust it as you go, and use it to navigate your document with ease. Need further guidance? There are plenty of resources online to help you hone your Google Docs skills, so don’t be afraid to seek them out. Happy outlining!

Matthew Burleigh

Matthew Burleigh has been writing tech content online for more than ten years. He enjoys writing about Google Docs in addition to many other applications and devices and has cumulatively covered Google’s word-processing application in hundreds of different articles.

He has been published on dozens of popular websites, and his works have accumulated millions of pageviews.
While focused primarily on tutorials and guides for popular electronics like the iPhone and iPad, as well as common applications like Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and Excel, he covers topics across the entire technology spectrum.

You can read his bio here.

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