Use Word 2010's Navigation pane to increase productivity

Finding specific strings and items in Word can be difficult and the larger the document the harder that task becomes. Use 2010's new Navigation pane to find things quicker and easier.

Looking for something specific in a large Word document doesn’t have to be a challenge, if you use the built-in tools:

  • Go To ([F5]) finds a specific page, section, comment, graphic, reference, and so on.
  • Word's Find feature ([Ctrl]+F) lets you enter a specific text, format, and more, and then searches the entire document for your search entry.
  • Select Browse Object (at the bottom of the vertical scroll bar) is similar to Go To. Click the circle icon to specify your search item first. Then click the arrows to search up or down from your current position. Be careful with this feature. A Find task will update its setting.

Word 2010's new Navigation pane offers the best of all these features in one spot. (Word 2007's Document Map seems similar, but it isn't a comparable feature, although, it does offer page thumbnails.) To view this pane, click the View tab and then check Navigation Pane in the Show group. This pane has three tabs: you can browse by headings, pages, and by searching for specific elements.

The first tab to the left displays your document's structure using the built-in heading styles. You can collapse and expand these nodes. To access a section, just click a node. It's that easy.

The second tab displays thumbnails of each page in the document. Click a thumbnail to go to that page.

The third tab gives quick access to Word's Find & Replace feature. Enter a search string and Excel takes you to the first occurrence of the string in your document and highlights all other occurrences. In the pane itself, you'll find a list of each occurrence with the surrounding text. You can use the triangle arrows to move through this list. Or, click a list item to select it in the document. Doing so appears to clear the list, but everything is still there. Just click one of the arrows to access the list and the feature even remembers where you are - the selection in the pane always matches the selection in your document.

To search for other elements, click the search string dropdown and choose one of the many available options: graphics, tables, and more. The Options item will let you specify case, whole words, wildcards, and so on. Click the X to the right of the search string (and to the left of the dropdown) to clear the search string.

Many users aren't using the Navigation pane. They either don't know it exists or they're just not fully acclimated to the new interface. It's one of the features I recommend to increase productivity. Show your users this pane and encourage them to be patient - with a little time, they'll wonder how they got along without it!