When I wanted to create an easy way for students to navigate a long document, I would insert a Table of Contents at the top of the page. This component would look through my Doc for any text that was formatted as a heading and then index that text as a link at the top of the document. I discovered two detractors to using this tool:
- In order to jump to a point in the Doc, students would have to click the linked text twice: once to reveal the link, then a second time to jump to that location in the Doc.
- If I inserted additional headings into the document, the Table of Contents wouldn’t update automatically but rather required that I manually refresh the component.
But all of that is now moot, thanks to Google and their Document Outline tool for Google Docs.
From the Tools menu in Docs, the Document Outline tool appears as a sidebar down the left side of your documents. The tool automatically scans your Doc and displays any text that has been formatted as a heading. Even better, if you haven’t formatted any text yet the tool will “intelligently detect the logical divisions within your work” and display them accordingly. You can then edit or remove these items as you see fit. Additionally, each heading is linked to that location within your Doc and takes only a single click to jump to that location. This makes the Document Outline tool a powerful organization tool and time saver for users to navigate documents, so much so that once I turned the tool on I’ve never turned it off.
For more information, check out the Google Apps Update Blog.