Create a collapsible list in Microsoft Word

Use the program's Outline view to show and hide hierarchical lists of information, such as the names on a family tree entered as levels of headings.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
2 min read

Years ago, I promised my cousin Bill (who doesn't have a TV show, by the way) that I would convert the family tree he had created into a Web page. It was pretty easy to find various JavaScripts that let you open menus and submenus, either by clicking or simply by hovering over them.

The only problem was the unwieldy HTML coding required to ensure that the lists opened and closed, as expected. What ended up working better for me was Microsoft Word's Outline view, which lets you use headings to show and hide information in a tree structure.

The O'Reilly family tree my cousin created has about 500 names and covers seven generations, which convert to Word's headings 1 through 7. To view the entries as collapsible and expandable lists in Word 2003 and 2007, click View > Outline. Any entry with a plus sign on the left has subentries; double-click the plus sign to view or hide the entries.

Microsoft Word 2007's Outline view
Use Word's headings and Outline view to place hierarchical information in a collapsible tree structure. Microsoft

Then I took the list one step further by linking the names on the family tree to a mini "Web site" with basic biographies of family members. (For obvious privacy reasons, I'm keeping this entire family database off the public Web. The individual files reside in a single folder stored on local media, not a Web server.)

I used an HTML editor to create a page that duplicates the entries and links on the family tree in the Word file. Unfortunately, HTML supports only six levels of headings, so I manually italicized the seventh-level entries to distinguish them from the tiny sixth-generation names.

Microsoft Word's headings converted to HTML equivalents
Convert Microsoft Word's headings to their HTML equivalent--to an extent. Dennis O'Reilly

You can Ctrl-click to follow the links in Microsoft Word and link back from the HTML file to the Word document. Still, I prefer to link from the HTML pages to the HTML version of the family tree, even though that version isn't formatted in collapsible lists. I guess I'm back to looking for the JavaScript or DHTML that will preserve the headings hierarchy while adding the show-hide capability of collapsible lists.