Easily Create a Table of Contents in Word
By on December 7th, 2011

One of the most frustrating things that I have seen people deal with in Word documents is when they try to work with a Table of Contents. Word has a really nice way to take a document that you have created and automatically generate a Table of Contents. A little planning ahead will make this process a lot simpler. In this tutorial, I will show you how to generate a Table of Contents automatically.

The first thing that you need to know about creating an easy Table of Contents in Word is the use of Style. Word has a Style Gallery on the ribbon where you can apply styles to your text. Take a look at the picture below to see an example of the Style Gallery.

Style Gallery

To make the Table of Contents easy to automate, we need to use Heading styles. You’ll notice in the picture above that I have my chapter Title and I am picking Heading 1 from the Style Gallery. This will guarantee its inclusion in the automatic Table of Contents that I will create later. If I wanted to add a subheading, I would pick Heading 2, instead. Now if you’re following along with this tutorial, you may have noticed that Word 2010 can hide the other heading styles. Here is how you can get them into your Style Gallery. In the bottom right corner of the Styles group on the ribbon, there is a tiny arrow. Click that arrow and you will see the menu pictured below.

Manage Styles

To add the other heading style we need to click the Manage Styles button at the bottom of this menu. You will see the menu pictured below.

Add Headings

Click the heading styles you wish to add. By default they will have “hide until used” selected. To eliminate this, click the “Show” button at the bottom of the window and click OK. You will now have the additional heading options in your Style Gallery. Now you can add the Heading 2 style to your subheadings if you have them.

Once you have all of your headings typed, it is time to insert the Table of Contents. To do this, we have to click the References tab on the ribbon. I recommend making sure that you are in the exact spot where you want this added your document when you start this. Pictured below, you will see that you click the Table of Contents button and then choose from the available Table of Contents options. I chose Automatic Table 2.

Insert Table

You will now see the Table of Contents at the cursor in your document with the fields automatically populated, as pictured below.

Table of ContentsNotice that the words labeled with Heading 1 are aligned left and the Heading 2 words are indented. Word automatically picks up on these headings based on those styles that we picked earlier. One big mistake that I have seen people make when making a Table of Contents is thinking that merely making a word bold will make it show up. This simply isn’t the case. Use the heading styles. It will make life much easier.

There are other ways that you can insert a Table of Contents. One reason you might want to do it differently is if you don’t want the subheadings to show up. This is pretty easy to do. First, let’s remove the Table of Contents. If you click in the table, you will get a little menu at the top of the table. On the left side of the menu, there is a white sheet of paper with an arrow beside it. Click the arrow and then click Remove Table of Contents to remove it. Now, let’s click the Table of Contents button on the ribbon and look way down at the bottom. Pictured below, click the option that says Insert Table of Contents.

Insert Table

You will get the dialog box pictured below.

Options

One thing I would like to point out to you is at the bottom of the dialog box. The “show levels” setting is currently set to 3. If you only want to see the top-level headings in your Table of Contents then set this option to 1. Pictured below, you can see that my table now only shows the Heading 1 text.

TOC

So what if you add more headings later? It is very simple to add those pages to the table. Simply right-click inside the table and choose the “Update Field” option from the menu. A dialog box will ask you whether you want to update the page numbers or the entire table. Choose the option to “Update entire table”, as pictured below.

Update Table

I hope this tutorial will save you some pain down the road. There are other ways to get a Table of Contents into your document, but I have found that this is the simplest way by far. Now you can go write that great novel you’ve been putting off and put your new skills to work. Good luck and thank you for reading Techie Buzz!

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Author: Darrin Jenkins Google Profile for Darrin Jenkins
Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!

Darrin Jenkins has written and can be contacted at darrin@techie-buzz.com.
 
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