An outline is embedded in every document you create, but unless you deliberately look for it, you might never realize it because Word treats an outline as just another way to view a document. This means that you don't have to actively create an outline to get one. It also means that when you do want a polished outline, you can simply refine the one that's already built into your document.
Outlines can be created in two ways. The first is to work from scratch. Open a new blank document and click the Outline View button on the lower-left corner of your screen to display it in Outline view (see Figure 18.1). You can also switch to this view by selecting Outline from Word's View menu.
You can create an outline from scratch if you're starting a major new project, such as a book or manual, and you don't yet have any text. Working from scratch is convenient because you don't have to worry about moving existing blocks of text or reorganizing material that should have been handled differently from the outset. You can organize the document the best way right from the beginning. If you're leading a team of writers, you can divide your outline into sections and delegate each part.
With Word's closely related Master Document feature, you can divide the document into subdocuments, assign each subdocument to a different writer, and then edit and manage all the subdocuments together, as if they were still part of one longer document.
For more information about master documents, see Chapter 19, "Master Documents: Control and Share Even the Largest Documents," p. 635.
Use Outline view in connection with Word's document collaboration and revision tools to streamline the process of getting your outline approved.
For more information about tracking changes, see "Introducing Word's Reviewing Interface," p. 876.
The second way to create an outline is to do nothing at all. Work as you normally do, but be sure to apply heading styles as you format your document. Then, whenever you're ready, switch to Outline view. Word displays your existing document as an outline.
Figure 18.2 shows a typical document displayed as an outline: Each first-level heading appears farthest to the left, with second-level headings and body text subordinate to it. As you can see, this works only if you use heading styles; without them, this document would appear as a one-level outline, with no apparent structure or organization.
The problem many people have with using the heading styles to create an outline is that they don't like the text formatting these styles use. If you want the organizational benefits of outlining but don't like the appearance of Word's heading styles, you can change the formatting associated with the heading styles.
To do so, enter some text with the heading style of your choice; then manually reformat so that it looks as you want. Click in the Style box on the Standard toolbar and press Enter. The Modify Style dialog box appears; specify that you want to Update the Style to Reflect Recent Changes and click OK.
Another alternative is to use the styles you prefer but assign outline levels to those styles, as discussed later in this chapter in the "Applying Outline Levels to Specific Text" section.
Your style changes will be reflected in all views within this document, including Outline view. Repeat the process for each heading you intend to use.
To learn more about formatting text with an existing style, see "Applying an Existing Style from the Styles and Formatting Task Pane," p. 336.
If you want to copy only the headings from one document to another, see "How to Copy Only a Document's Headings Without Copying All the Subordinate Text," in the "Troubleshooting" section of this chapter.