Outline Levels and the Document Map

Article contributed by Daiya Mitchell

The Document Map (View>Document Map) is a great feature that can make navigating a long document much easier. However, in earlier versions of Word, it can create some glitches.

The Document Map requires outline levels to function. When you switch into the Document Map, it applies outline levels to things it thinks are headings—usually short, one line paragraphs—regardless of whether you already have headings in the document. It's a bug, or a badly designed feature if you are in a charitable mood. The Document Map cannot operate without these outline levels, but ideally it would have checked to see if any already existed before applying its own. It doesn't. Then random text shows up in the Document Map, and sometimes, in your Table of Contents.


  • This problem has been reported in all Mac versions of Word, and in Win versions from 97 to 2002. It appears to have been fixed in WinWord 2003.
  • For MVP Shauna Kelly’s excellent page on using the Document Map in WinWord 2002 and 2003, see here. Her page also mentions a couple of other minor bugs related to the Document Map.
  • In MacWord 2004, View>Document Map has been replaced with View>Navigation Pane, and the Navigation Pane offers the choice of a Thumbnail view or the Document Map. It’s still the same Document Map.

Preventing Problems

Don't use the Document Map—use Outline View instead. That's a bit drastic, but Outline View lets you do a lot more than simply navigate, if you read the article.

On switching into the Document Map, look to see if a new AutoFormat has been added to the Undo list (the dropdown list from the Undo icon on the toolbar). That's the application of outline levels. Undo it. Remember to check for this every time, though it may not happen every time.

Fixing Problems

If the main problem is that your Table of Contents has entries you don’t want, you can prevent the Table of Contents from picking up paragraphs that have been assigned outline levels as direct formatting. Simply press Alt-F9 (Mac: Opt-F9) to display field codes. For the TOC field, delete the \u switch and then press F9 to update the TOC. [Thanks to MVP Stefan Blom for this fix.]

If only a few paragraphs are affected, you can use the ResetPara command on the affected paragraphs. This will remove all direct paragraph formatting and reset the paragraph to only style-based formatting (the Document Map adds outline levels as direct formatting). ResetPara will not affect direct character formatting (bold, italic, etc) and the usual keyboard shortcut is Control-Q (Command-Option-Q on a Mac).

If changing each paragraph individually is not feasible, you can run this handy macro by MVP Klaus Linke. It will reset the outline level of every paragraph to the outline level that is set in the style. It does not affect any other formatting.

Sub ReSetOutline()

Dim myPara As Paragraph
For Each myPara In ActiveDocument.Paragraphs
        myPara.OutlineLevel = myPara.style.ParagraphFormat.OutlineLevel
Next myPara

End Sub

If you don’t know what to do with this macro, see this article: "What do I do with macros sent to me by other users to help me out?"

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