Using Google Docs to Create a Document with Navigation

Google Docs provides a great way to create personal and team process documents with links to document sections. If done properly, the document is nearly self-maintainable, allowing you and your team to rapidly add sections and have that reflected in the navigation.

I’ve created the video below and this associated example Google document.

Inage of Matthew Moran - consultant, author, and automation expert

Hi, I'm Matthew Moran.  I am a 25+ year technology consultant, author, and business automation specialist. In my other life, I also write & play music.

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This video (below) shows the process.

How To Create a Self-updating, Linkable Google Document

The key elements to creating this type of document are:

  • Heading Styles
  • Bookmarks
  • Table of Contents


Heading Styles

As with Microsoft Word, Google Docs has a variety of heading styles. By default, Google Documents can create a linkable Table of Contents based on your document’s heading styles.

Key points to using Heading Styles

  • Beware the urge to over-organize a document. We rarely go beyond Heading Styles 1 and 2. And never more than 3. That provides 3 layers or nested organization which is typically plenty.
  • You can apply headings using the formatting toolbar or using the keystroke combination <Ctrl + alt + #> - where number is the desired heading style.
    For instance: <ctrl + alt + 1> = Heading Style 1
  • Make your top-level heading your Table of Contents.


Well, really, we are talking about a single bookmark. We “insert” a bookmark on the top heading, “Table of Contents”. In this way, we can link to that bookmark in the document header. This gives us our “back to top” link and brings us back to the navigatable Table of Contents.

Create your bookmark by placing your cursor (insertion point) at the beginning of your Table of Contents line and selecting “Insert->Bookmark” from the menu.

In the document header, add the text, “back to top”. Highlight that text, select “Insert->Link” and then select “Bookmark” from the associated menu. Select bookmark for your Table of Contents and then Apply. That will create a link to that section of the document.

Because it is in the document header, that link effectively takes anyone using the document to the top of the document and back to the navigation.

Table of Contents

Once your heading styles are in place in the document, place your cursor below the Table of Contents heading and select “Insert->Table of Contents” from the Google Docs menu.

A linkable Table of Contents based on your document heading styles will be created.

Whenever you make changes to your document - adding, removing, or modifying headings - go to your Table of Contents and click on the “Update” (refresh) icon in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents.

The Table of Contents will be re-created/updated to reflect any changes to the document’s heading styles.

Frontload the Work and Stay Organized

Once you are familiar with the process, creating a document with this structure takes less than 2 minutes. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll come back to the document to do this. Learn the process, implement it immediately, and keep it updated. You and your team will thank you later.

If you have questions on how to do this, feel free to ask here on the blog, on YouTube, or send an email to me at info (at) pulseinfomatics  dotcom

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