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Free tips and tricks for using Microsoft Office and Windows

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Free tips and tricks for using Microsoft Office and Windows

Create a Table of Contents in Word

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In many aspects of our daily life, we encounter and use a table of contents. From opening a magazine, or using a cook book, you see this feature in many types of publications.

Microsoft Word provides a Table of Contents (TOC) feature that allows users to easily create a table of contents. This means that you do not need to create the TOC manually and update the page numbers yourself. This function is easy to use and easy to update or alter to suit the needs of your document.

The Table of Contents feature relies on the use of heading styles. If you are new to using styles then you can take a look at my post titled Introduction to Styles in Microsoft Word.

A TOC can display headings and the page number they are located on within a document. The TOC is usually located within the first few pages of the document.

When working with a Table of Contents, we use the phrase “levels”. If you think of your headings as having a hierarchy, these equate to a “level”. Each TOC level is displayed with a different indentation within the TOC. This makes the levels identifiable whether they are a main heading or subheading. Any style used within Microsoft Word can be used in a table of contents.

Create a Table of Contents

To create a TOC, follow these steps:

  1. Open Microsoft Word.
  2. If you have a document where you would like to include a table of contents, press Ctrl + O and locate/open the document.
  3. If you do not have a document to use for this exercise, feel free to download my sample file as shown below:
Create a table of contents in Word
  1. Apply the following styles to each heading as shown below. Here’s a tip to save you time: highlight the first heading “Basic Operations” and apply Heading 1, now scroll through the document and locate the heading “Printing Functions” which also needs to be formatted as Heading 1, highlight the heading and press F4 on the keyboard, this will “repeat” your last action and apply the heading 1 style again. Repeat this for the rest of the headings to be formatted as Heading 1, then return to the start of the document and repeat the process and format the remaining headings as Heading 2.
Basic OperationsHeading 1
Opening existing documentsHeading 2
Using Save AsHeading 2
Printing FunctionsHeading 1
Using Print PreviewHeading 2
Printing a DocumentHeading 2
Word ToolsHeading 1
Using AutoCorrectHeading 2
Using AutoTextHeading 2
Working with PicturesHeading 1
All remaining headingsHeading 2
  1. Press Ctrl + Home on the keyboard to return to the start of the document.
  2. Press Enter 3 times to insert 3 x blank lines.
  3. Press Ctrl + Enter to insert a Page Break so that the content of the document begins on Page 2, press Ctrl + Home again.
  4. Select the References tab and click the Table of Contents button.
  5. From the options available select Custom Table of Contents.
  6. The Table of Contents dialog box will now appear:
Create a table of contents in Word
  1. Because we have only used Heading 1 and Heading 2 in our styles lets adjust which heading styles will be included in the Table of Contents.
  2. Click the Options button.
  3. In the TOC level field box remove the number 3 from the TOC level for Heading 3.
  4. Click OK twice.
  5. The Table of Contents will now be inserted into the top of the document:
Create a table of contents in Word
  1. You can now include a heading above the table of contents but be sure not to use the Heading 1 or Heading 2 style or this will be included into the table of contents.

Refresh the TOC

If you add more content to your document, such as a new chapter with a heading, or you edit a existing heading, or maybe you want to refresh the TOC to make sure the page numbers are all correct. You can easily refresh the TOC using a keyboard shortcut.

To refresh the Table of Contents:

  1. Place your cursor within the TOC area, the TOC will appear with grey highlights:
Create a table of contents in Word
  1. Press F9 on the keyboard. You will be prompted to either update the entire table OR update the page numbers only.
  2. Select the option you wish to use and click OK.
  3. The TOC will be updated.

I hope this has provided a useful introduction on how to add a table of contents to your document. Comment below with any questions.


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