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Creating and Managing Large Documents in Word – Tips for the Layman

By Alison Reeves, Plain Words' Senior Consultant

Most businesses use Microsoft Word for everything

Whether you love or loathe Microsoft Word, the fact is that most businesses use it for everything from creating letters to managing and organising long reports and user manuals.

It's easy to convert Word documents to PDF files

Because so many people use Microsoft Word, you can feel confident that the people you send your documents to will have the software to read them. If they haven't, it's easy to convert Word documents to PDF files (which, so long as your recipient has the free Acrobat Reader installed, can be read by any operating system).

Features of Word for compiling and publishing long documents

Let's look at some of the features Word has to help you compile and publish long documents. As Office 2007 introduced a complete new menu system, I've shown how to set/select options in versions of Word that are XP or earlier as Word XP and for versions 2007 onwards as Word 2007.

Footnotes and Endnotes

Footnotes appear at the bottom of a page. A reference mark (usually a number or letter) placed next to a word or a sentence in the body text directs you to the footnote.

Endnotes are basically the same, but appear at the end of a document. Footnotes and endnotes are a way of clarifying or expanding on themes that are only touched upon in the main text of your document.

They can also be used to cite reference works you have used in compiling your document.

Word does an excellent job of handling footnotes and endnotes. Amongst other things it…

Once you have inserted footnotes or endnotes, you can view them quickly by hovering the mouse pointer over the reference mark in the text. A ScreenTip with the footnote or endnote text appears.

This is a very useful feature for onscreen readers too; it allows them to see footnotes or endnotes immediately, without having to scroll to them.

To insert a footnote or endnote, place the cursor next to the word or sentence you want to reference mark.

Word XP:

  1. Select ‘Insert’ from the main menu bar.
  2. Click ‘Footnote’ to bring up the ‘Footnote and Endnote’ dialogue box.
  3. In the ‘Footnote and Endnote’ dialogue, select whether you want to insert a footnote or endnote – and select any other options you want.
  4. Click ‘OK’ and insert your footnote and endnote text.

Word 2007:

  1. Select ‘References’ from the main menu bar.
  2. Click ‘Insert Footnote’ or ‘Insert Endnote’.
  3. To change the options, click the Dialog Box Launcher (small box at the bottom right of the Footnotes section)

Document Map

Fast navigation through large documents is essential. To help with this, Word has a feature called Document Map.

Document Map gives you an outline of your document while you work and let's you quickly navigate between headings.

Document Map looks a bit like Windows Explorer. A windowpane opens to the left of the editing area. This maps your document hierarchically by headings and subheadings.

Clicking on the small ‘plus’ sign next to the main headings displays subheadings (and turns the ‘plus’ sign into a ‘minus’ sign). To collapse headings (and hide subheadings), click the ‘minus’ sign.

Apply outline levels to your heading styles

Document Map only works properly, however, if you have applied outline levels to your heading styles. To do this, first of all display the Style dialogue box:

Word XP:Select ‘Format’ from the main menu bar and click ‘Style’. This will bring up the ‘Style’ dialogue box.

Word 2007:Select the ‘Home’ ribbon, then select the ‘Style’ dialogue box (small box at the bottom right of the Styles section).

Now update the settings:

  1. Choose the style you want to alter – it might be ‘heading1’, ‘head1’ (or whatever you have named your styles).
  2. Now click ‘Modify’ and then ‘Format’.
  3. From the resulting drop down menu, select ‘Paragraph’.
  4. Locate ‘Outline Level’ in the Paragraph dialogue box, and select the setting you want – Level 1, Level 2, etc. Your main headings would be Level 1, subheadings Level 2, minor subheadings Level 3, and so on.
  5. Click ‘OK’ in all the dialogue boxes to get back to your document.

Document Map will now be working to its full potential.

To switch on the Document Map view:

Word XP:Select ‘View’ from the main menu bar then click ‘Document Map’.

Word 2007:Select the ‘View’ ribbon, then tick the ‘Document Map’ option box.

Outline View

If you've applied heading styles (along with outline levels) to the headings in your document, you can use Outline view to examine and modify the heading structure of your document – click ‘View’ from the main menu bar or ribbon and select ‘Outline’.

This feature is invaluable for keeping track of large documents, as it is easy to get caught up with minor details and lose sense of the overall structure of documents.

In Outline view major headings are marked with a ‘plus’ sign

In Outline view, each major heading is marked with a ‘plus’ sign: double clicking on it will reveal either subheadings or body text.

To collapse a heading, so that the headings are not displayed, double click again on the ‘plus’ sign.

The structure of a document can be rearranged in Outline view by dragging the ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ signs to another part of the document. This makes for fast restructuring.

Table of Contents

Rather than painstakingly typing a table of contents yourself, and then retyping it whenever you change the page numbers or headings, you can let Word do the work and update everything for you.

All you do is first of all, select the location where you want your Table of Contents to appear. Then:

Word XP:Choose ‘Insert’ from the main menu bar and click ‘Index and Tables’. From the ‘Index and Tables’ dialogue, click ‘Table of Contents’ and choose the settings you require.

Word 2007:Select the ‘References’ ribbon, the click the ‘Table of Contents’ box. From the dialogue, select the style of table you want, then click ‘Insert Table of Contents’.

Apply heading styles before creating a Table of Contents

As with Document Map and Outline view, you have to apply heading styles before creating a Table of Contents. Word identifies headings from your heading styles. It then decides how to format them in the Table of Contents it generates.


If you're working on a long document, Word's ‘Bookmark’ feature is very handy. It allows you to place bookmarks anywhere in your document, so you can return to those locations quickly and easily.

For example, you could bookmark a section that still needs work or one that's missing information.

To insert a bookmark, bring up the ‘Boomark’ dialogue box:

Word XP: Choose ‘Insert’ from the main menu bar, then click ‘Bookmark’.

Word 2007: Choose the ‘Insert’ ribbon, then click ‘Bookmark’ in the ‘Links’ section.

  1. In the ‘Bookmark’ dialogue, type a name for the bookmark (bearing in mind, ‘Bookmark’ names can't include spaces).
  2. Click ‘Add’ to add the bookmark and close the dialogue box.

To navigate to an existing bookmark, open the Bookmark dialogue and double click the bookmark in the list in the middle of the dialogue box. To delete a bookmark, select it from the list and click ‘delete’.


Word is a very powerful tool for creating electronic documentation. So long as your document will only be viewed onscreen, you can include hyperlinks.

With Word's hyperlink feature, you can create links to other documents on your computer or network, to specific locations within a document, or to Web pages. Keep in mind, that if you link to documents on the Internet, your readers must have a connection to the Internet.

If you hyperlink to documents, you can direct your readers to related information without cluttering your own document. If you want people to review several documents stored in different locations on your network.

You can make it easy for them by giving them a short Word document that contains hyperlinks to these documents, along with a brief description of what they contain. In this case, the Word document would function as a type of table of contents.

Here's how you insert hyperlinks into Word documents…

  1. Select the word or phrase in your document that you want to become the hyperlink text.
  2. Word XP: Click the ‘Insert Hyperlink’ button on the standard toolbar (a globe with chain links). Or click ‘Insert’ on the main menu bar, then select ‘Hyperlink…’
  3. Word 2007: Choose the ‘Insert’ ribbon, then click ‘Hyperlink’ in the ‘Links’ section
  4. Select the settings you require in the ‘Insert Hyperlink’ dialogue box. Then click ‘OK’.

If you've got any comments you'd like to share about creating large documents in Word, please email me at:

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