Word Processing

This article describes a simple method to obtain an outline without sub-text from an MS-Word document which is formatted using Word's built-in heading styles.

Extracting an Outline in MS-Word

Good organization is crucial to communicating ideas. The supreme organizational tool is the outline. An outline summarizes and organizes ideas so well because it simultaneously represents progression (major headings) and hierarchy (sub-headings).

Word's built-in heading styles are the key to outlining in MS-Word. Heading styles are far more than formatting. Working together as an outline, headings help structure a document and make the structure easy to re-organize and refine.

A great majority of the documents I produce are organized using Word's built-in heading styles. Often I wish to summarize those documents by presenting just the headings without any sub-text. The simplest way I could imagine doing this would be switching to Outline view, selecting the headings, copying them to the clipboard, and pasting them into a blank document. Unfortunately this doesn't work: when pasting, sub-text gets included, even though it didn't show in Outline view.

The Microsoft method to extract outline headings from a Word document is to generate a table of contents (TOC), copy it to the clipboard, and then delete the TOC.

After using that cumbersome method for many years, I discovered a much better method which is quicker and easier.

  1. Open the MS-Word document
  2. Click on Send To Powerpoint (1)
  3. (MS-Powerpoint opens)
  4. Select Outline View in MS-Powerpoint
  5. Press Ctrl-A (Select all)
  6. Press Ctrl-C (Copy to clipboard)
  7. Open a blank document in MS-Word
  8. Press Ctrl-V (Paste)

You now have a new Word document with just the built-in headings of your outline - no sub-text.

(1) Send to Powerpoint is one of the many commands in Word that doesn't appear on the Ribbon. A shame, because in addition to the technique above, Send to Powerpoint is absolutely the best and easiest way to create a base Powerpoint slideshow. To see how you can easily add this valuable tool to the Quick Access Toolbar, see "Add Send to Powerpoint to MS-Word's QAT".


Bruce Miller, 2006, 2014

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