Making Custom Heading Styles Appear in the Navigation Pane

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 17, 2019)

Gina created three new styles that she uses for headings in her documents. (These are not the built-in heading styles provided by Word.) She wonders how to get Word to recognize these as heading styles and display them in the Navigation pane.

There are two ways you can go about this—the best way and the easy way. Let's look at the latter way (the easy way) first. This involves basing your custom heading styles on the existing heading styles. Here's how you create a new style, emphasizing the setting you need to make:

  1. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Styles group. Word displays the Styles task pane.
  3. At the bottom of the Styles task pane there are three small tool buttons. Click the left-most of these; the New Style tool. Word displays the Create New Style from Formatting dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Create New Style from Formatting dialog box.

  5. Make sure the Style Based On drop-down list is set to whatever heading level you want to base your custom heading upon. For instance, if you are creating a new level-1 heading, then base your new style on Heading 1.
  6. Use the controls in the dialog box to define your desired formatting for the style.
  7. Click on OK.

That's it; the custom style should now appear in the Navigation pane just fine. The drawback to this (of course) is that the new style is based on the built-in heading style, and if Microsoft does anything to change that heading style, or if a user changes the Theme for the document which ends up in changing the built-in heading style, that could have negative consequences for your custom style.

The best approach is to follow these steps when you create the style:

  1. Display the Home tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the small icon at the bottom-right of the Styles group. Word displays the Styles task pane.
  3. At the bottom of the Styles task pane there are three small tool buttons. Click the left-most of these; the New Style tool. Word displays the Create New Style from Formatting dialog box.
  4. Make sure the Style Based On drop-down list is set to (no style).
  5. Use the controls in the dialog box to define your desired formatting for the style.
  6. Click the Format button (bottom-left of the dialog box) and choose Paragraph from the resulting drop-down list. Word displays the Paragraph dialog box. (See Figure 2.)
  7. Figure 2. The Paragraph dialog box.

  8. Use the Outline Level drop-down list to choose the heading level you want this style to represent. (Choose 1 for level 1, 2 for level 2, etc.)
  9. Click OK to close the Paragraph dialog box.
  10. Click OK to close the Create New Style from Formatting dialog box.

In these steps, step 4 is not strictly necessary, but taking that step will ensure that nobody will mess up your custom style by changing any style on which that custom style is based. The key is step 7, where you specify an outline level for the paragraph. The default level (Body Style) is used for regular text. You just need to make sure your headings have an outline level suitable for their position in your outline hierarchy. They will then look as you expect in the Navigation pane.

In addition, you can modify any existing custom styles by adapting these same steps to the Modify Style dialog box instead of the Create New Style from Formatting dialog box.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13662) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

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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