Displaying the Navigation Pane when Opening a Document

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 14, 2016)


Ihor creates a lot of structured documents using Word styles and finds the Navigation pane a really great tool. He notes, though, that there doesn't seem to be any way to display this pane automatically when a document is first opened. Ihor wonders how he can make sure it is always displayed.

Before getting into the answer, a snapshot of history is in order. In Word 2007 there is no Navigation pane. It has what was referred to as the Document Map. This feature was expanded in Word 2010 to become what is now known as the Navigation pane. In Word 2007 you can display the Document Map by clicking the View tab of the ribbon and putting a checkmark in the Document Map check box, in the Show group. If you look at the Show group in Word 2010 and Word 2013, you won't find the Document Map check box there; instead you find the Navigation Pane check box.

In Word 2010 and Word 2013, pressing Ctrl+F brings up the Navigation pane and "checks" the Navigation Pane check box. In Word 2007 this shortcut key brings up the Find tab of the Find and Replace dialog box. The reason is because Word folded simple searching tasks into the Navigation pane, so that is what is displayed.

When you turn on the Navigation pane (or, in Word 2007, the Document Map) it is "sticky." This means that when you exit Word and come back into the program, the Navigation pane (or Document Map) are displayed by default. Thus, if you want the pane/map to be visible, simply make sure that it is visible when you exit Word.

You can, if you want, use a macro to enforce the display of the Navigation pane (or Document Map). There are actually two ways you can do this, both methods requiring a single VBA statement. The following statement will work in Word 2007 through Word 2013:

ActiveWindow.DocumentMap = True

This statement won't work in Word 2007, but it will work in Word 2010 and Word 2013:

CommandBars("Navigation").Visible = True

Either approach (depending on your version of Word) is fine and results in the Navigation pane (or Document Map) being displayed. You could place the statement within an AutoOpen macro for the Normal template, which would mean that any time you open an existing document, the macro is run and the Navigation pane displayed. For good measure, you could also place your preferred VBA statement inside an AutoNew macro, which would mean it would be executed every time a new document is created.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (3579) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, and 2013.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 1 + 8?

2018-03-07 13:05:53


Hi- I tried the suggestion of making sure the navigation pane is open when I save and close my document but it isn't working. I'm using Word 2016 and that isn't mentioned above. Is there an update for this version?

Macros are over my head (total newbie to them) but this one seems simple. If that's the way I need to go how do I go about making it?


2018-01-26 08:29:13

Julian Ladbury

I have been using CommandBars("Navigation").Visible in a macro for some years. Recently, when I opened Word in Safe Mode, the command failed with "Runtime Error 5 .. invalid procedure call or argument". Further investigation showed that Navigation was not in the CommandBars collection.

More investigation, with different users in different virtual machines, raises the error even when not in Safe Mode.
These errors are occurring in my Office 365 subscription, currently at Word 2016. I can reproduce them in various levels of that, the most recent being 1712 8827.2148.

By the way, thanks for a great newsletter!

2016-04-14 13:37:12

Don Matttocks

Document map and navigation pane sound interesting, but could you please explain what they are and how to find them in Word 2016 for the Mac? Thanks much

2015-07-09 16:52:28


OOOps! Sorry! I see that the first code works with all.

Thanks for this article.

2015-07-09 16:43:40


I need the same thing - for the Navigation Pane to ONLY open for a SPECIFIC document.

However, there are a variety of people who will be opening this document and I am not sure whether they will be using Word 2003 or 2010/2013.

Is there a way for the macro to allow for both versions in the same macro?

Thank you.

2015-05-21 10:59:15


I want the Navigation Pane to automatically open on a single, specific document when anyone opens that document from a sharepoint site. Will the "ActiveWindow.DocumentMap = True" command work for this need? and If so, where do I put the command?

2013-06-08 21:18:00

Peter Atherton

If you use a macro always use the old code so that is available to users with old versions as long as the function is applicable in all versions.

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