How to Make Collapsible Sections in Word: A Step-by-Step Guide

Making collapsible sections in Word might sound tricky, but it’s quite simple once you get the hang of it. All you need to do is use the built-in headings feature and the navigation pane to organize your document into expandable sections. This is super useful when you’re working with long documents and want to quickly hide or show different parts of your text.

Step by Step Tutorial: Making Collapsible Sections in Word

Before diving into the steps, let’s understand what we’re about to do. We’re going to create a structured document where sections can be collapsed and expanded with a simple click. This makes navigating through the document a breeze.

Step 1: Apply Heading Styles

Apply heading styles to the sections you want to collapse.

When you apply a heading style, you’re essentially marking a section of your text as important. This not only helps with the formatting, but it’s also the first step in creating collapsible sections. Just highlight the section title, go to the ‘Home’ tab, and choose a heading style from the ‘Styles’ group.

Step 2: Show the Navigation Pane

Check the box to show the Navigation Pane under the ‘View’ tab.

The Navigation Pane is like a roadmap to your document. It appears on the left side of your Word window and shows all the headings you’ve created. To see it, just go to the ‘View’ tab on the ribbon and tick the ‘Navigation Pane’ box.

Step 3: Collapse and Expand Sections

Use the arrows in the Navigation Pane to collapse or expand sections.

Every heading in the Navigation Pane has a little arrow next to it. Clicking this arrow will either hide (collapse) or show (expand) the content under that heading. It’s that easy!

After completing these steps, you’ll have a document with neatly organized sections that you can hide or show as needed. This is particularly helpful if you want to focus on one section without getting distracted by the rest of your content.

Tips for Making Collapsible Sections in Word

  • Make sure to use the built-in heading styles for this feature to work. Custom styles won’t show up in the Navigation Pane.
  • You can collapse or expand all sections at once by right-clicking a heading in the Navigation Pane and selecting ‘Collapse All’ or ‘Expand All’.
  • Keep your headings concise and descriptive. This will make it easier to navigate through your document.
  • Remember that only headings with content underneath them can be collapsed. So, if you collapse a heading and nothing happens, it’s probably because there’s no content there.
  • If you’re sharing the document with others, let them know about the collapsible sections. Not everyone may be familiar with this feature.

Frequently Asked Questions

What versions of Word support collapsible sections?

Collapsible sections are available in Word 2013 and later versions.

Can I print a document with collapsed sections?

Yes, you can, but the printout will show all the content, regardless of whether sections are collapsed or expanded on the screen.

Will collapsible sections work in Word Online?

No, currently, Word Online does not support collapsible sections as the desktop versions do.

Can I make sections collapse by default?

Yes, right-click a heading in the Navigation Pane and choose ‘Collapse by Default’.

Is there a keyboard shortcut to collapse or expand all sections?

Yes, you can press Alt+Shift+1 to expand all or Alt+Shift+- (minus key) to collapse all.


  1. Apply heading styles to the sections you want to collapse.
  2. Show the Navigation Pane under the ‘View’ tab.
  3. Use the arrows in the Navigation Pane to collapse or expand sections.


In conclusion, making collapsible sections in Word is a nifty trick that can drastically improve your experience when working with extensive documents. Instead of endlessly scrolling through pages, you can swiftly navigate to different sections and focus only on the content that matters at any given moment. Plus, it gives your document a neat, professional look, which can be particularly beneficial in academic or work settings.

While this feature may not be groundbreaking, it’s often the little things like these that enhance productivity and make our digital lives a bit easier. So, the next time you’re working on a lengthy report, a thesis, or any extensive write-up, remember to use collapsible sections to your advantage. Happy writing, and may your Word documents be forever organized and clutter-free!

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