AH 2015 Google Docs LOGO-202

Google Makes Navigating Docs Easier With “Outline Tool”

March 10, 2016 - Written By Curtis Bond

Google has continued to improve their online-based office suite (namely Docs, Sheets, and Slides) with a series of key updates. Earlier this year, the company brought enhanced commenting capabilities to all of its office apps, allowing users to easily comment on shared work by highlighting specific text within a document, slide, or spreadsheet. Last month, the Google Docs team brought voice editing and formatting to the Docs platform, making it easier to manipulate words and phrases without ever touching the keyboard. Recently, the Docs team unveiled a new feature that offers a simple way for users to outline and navigate the various sections of their document, removing some of the tedious hassles of traditional word processing.

Officially, Google calls the new feature an “outline tool”, which can be accessed from both the web application and the Android app. Users can access the feature by clicking on the “Tools” tab and selecting “Document Outline” on the web interface. For the Android app, users will find the option in the app’s overflow menu. Once a user selects the option on the computer-based version, an “outline” window appears on the left side of the screen. The window lists the names of each section header included in the document, providing users with a compact view of all the document’s major divisions. The function works similarly for the Android app. When mobile users select the option, they’re presented with a semi-transparent overflow view of all of the document headings. The mobile outline view is very reminiscent of navigation side-drawers found in other Android apps, and it even contains a scroll handle that allows users to quickly navigate the various sections of their document with relative ease. For both the web and mobile interfaces, clicking on a section head will take the user directly to the portion of the document they’ve selected, eliminating the need to scroll through several pages of a long document just to reach a single section.

While the outline navigation features are powerful in and of themselves, Google added another nifty wrinkle to make the process even more convenient. Even if a user doesn’t manually include section headers within a document, the Docs software will intelligently include outline headers based on the document’s content and structure. This, combined with the tool’s enhanced navigation capabilities, make for an extremely useful feature-set when trying to find your way through a long series of pages. For those curious about Google’s release plans for the new tools, you should expect a full rollout for both mobile and desktop platforms within the coming days and weeks.