Now that I’m back to school again, I am back to creating various PowerPoint presentations and writing reports in Word. Word has many features that most people never use unless they are in school.
One such feature is the Table of Contents. Word has a great feature that lets you automatically create a nice table of contents if you know what type of headings to use. The great thing is that even if you already have a Word document with a lot of content, it’s very easy to edit it so you can automatically generate a table of contents.
In this article, I’ll walk you through how to set up a Word document with the correct titles, and then I’ll walk you through how to create a table of contents. I’m also going to talk about how to customize the table of contents to your liking.
Set up and display headers in Word
The first thing you need to do before you can create any kind of table of contents is customize the titles. The default allowed headers that you can use are H1 (heading 1), H2 (heading 2), and H3 (heading 3).
You can find these headings in the Styles box on the main ribbon tab. These are the only three that you can use for the default table of contents. If you add your own table of contents, you can also use H4 (heading 4), H5 (heading 5), H6 (heading 6), subheading, heading, and table of contents title.
As you go through your document to add various headings, feel free to choose from any of the above headings, if only H1, H2, and H3 seem too limited. You just need to insert your own table of contents and change a few settings, which I will also mention.
It is very easy to apply titles to text in Word. Just click the line of text and then click the heading style you want to apply.
Go through the document and add as many headings as you like. Note that when you add headings, they will be difficult to see, even if you have visible paragraph marks. To quickly see all the headings in your Word document, click the View tab and select the check box in the Navigation Pane.
When you have done this, a pane will appear on the left side of the document where you can see various headings, subheadings, etc.
Clicking on any of the items in the list will take you to that heading in your Word document. This is a great way to quickly see the structure of your headings before creating your final TOC.
Add a table of contents in Word
Now that we have all of our headings, let’s insert a table of contents. First, we’ll start by customizing the default table of contents in Word. Before starting, it may be a good idea to add a blank page to the beginning of your document.
To do this, go to the top of the current first page and click Insert and Blank Page. Now click on “Links”, “Table of Contents” and select one of the “Automatic” options at the top.
The manually generated table will be just placeholder text in a table of contents format, but you will have to manually make all the changes. When you insert an automatic table of contents, you should see something like this:
Awesome! You now have a nicely formatted table of contents in your Word document! After you’ve inserted the table of contents, you can still make changes to the headings in the document, but the changes will not be automatically reflected in the table of contents.
To update the table of contents, simply click inside it and then click Update Table at the top.
It will ask if you want to update only the page numbers or the entire table. If you have changed, inserted, or removed headers, you should select the entire table. If you’ve just added additional content to your document, but haven’t added or removed titles, you can only select page numbers.
Customize your table of contents
If you’ve used headings other than H1, H2, and H3, you’ll notice that they won’t appear in the table of contents. To use these additional headings, you must select Custom Table of Contents when inserting a Table of Contents.
This will bring up the options dialog for the table of contents. You can change some basic settings, such as whether to show page numbers and align numbers to the right. In the General section, you can choose from several styles and also choose to display more levels over three, which is the H3 heading.
If you click “Options”, you can select additional elements to build the table of contents. Scrolling down the page, you will be able to select the Subtitle and Table of Contents heading.
To customize the appearance of the table of contents, you must click the “Change” button. If you just right-click the table of contents and select “Font” or “Paragraph”, the table of contents will not be formatted. When you click Edit, you will see another dialog box where you can edit each level of the table of contents. TOC 1 is H1, TOC 2 is H2, etc.
Click on the second Edit button and you will be able to change the formatting for that particular heading. So if you like, you can make all H1 headings bold and a different font size.
If you click the Format button at the bottom, you can tweak even more options such as paragraph, tabs, border, border, numbering, and more. Here’s my table of contents in bold H1 and large font size.
Finally, if you press the CTRL key and then click something in the table of contents, you will be taken to this page. However, if you find it annoying to have to press the CTRL key, you can change this by going to File – Options and then clicking Advanced.
Go ahead and uncheck Use CTRL + click to follow hyperlink. Now you can simply click items in the table of contents as links without holding down the CTRL key. Unfortunately, this only works with your local copy of Word. If you email it to someone and if this setting doesn’t change, they’ll have to press CTRL + click. That’s it for the table of contents in Word. Enjoy!