Use headings to navigate large documents

I was inspired to write this post because of my comment to a question posted on R/Writing today in the hope that it will help someone else looking for an answer to the same question in the future.

The user asked how they could create a document on their computer that had a side bar with chapters to quickly navigate a fairly large text document:

I’m actually working on a D&D adventure, and it would REALLY help to be able to jump around quickly. I generated the entire world, history, and NPC’s on my own, so they all exist in one HUGE document in TextEdit. I want to organize it so that I can have access to everything without scrolling for five minutes and making my party wait (Countries, lore, important dates, etc). Anyway, I have OpenOffice, if that helps. I want to be able to see a side bar with chapter titles and such. Any help appreciated! How do you guys organize?

Use headings

My solution was to use headings via the Paragraph Styles feature in OpenOffice and then use The Navigator feature to quickly jump to the desired location in the document.

When writing this post I toyed with the idea of reproducing the content of both links on here for posterity but decided that linking to the official documentation was a better idea.

I’d like to take this one step further and include the way you can do this in Microsoft Word and Libre Office:


Microsoft Word uses Heading Styles to structure a document, and then you can view and navigate that structure using the Document Map.


LibreOffice uses Paragraph Styles to structure a document, and then you can view and navigate that structure using the Navigator.

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Can you improve on any of the tips I’ve discussed here? If you can let me know in the comments.

Jason Edwards