The Table of Contents in Word

How to set up an automatic table of contents

Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word has an automated Table of Contents (TOC) feature that comes in handy when you want to organize a long document. 

Setting Up an Automatic Table of Contents

The automatic table of contents is generated by the use of stylized headers. When you create a table of contents, Word takes the entries from the document headings. The entries and page numbers are inserted automatically as fields. Here's how you do it:

  1. Select any heading or text you want to include in the table of contents.
  2. Go to the Home tab and click a heading style such as Heading 1.
  3. Do this for all the entries you want to include in the TOC.
  4. If your document has chapters and sections, you can apply Heading 1, for example, to the chapters and Heading 2 style to the section titles.
  5. Position the cursor where you want the table of contents to appear in the document.
  6. Go to the References tab and click Table of Contents.
  7.  Choose one of the Automatic Table of Contents styles.

You can customize the table of contents by changing the font used and the number of levels and by indicating whether to use dotted lines. As you modify your document, the table of contents updates automatically.

Adding Content to the Table of Contents

  • When you need to add something to the TOC manually, you can do so by going to the References tab and clicking on the Update Table in the Table of Contents group.
  • Another option for adding content to the TOC is to go to Outline view and click Update Table of Contents on the Outlining toolbar. In the dialog box that appears, select whether you want to update page numbers only or the entire table. In most cases, you will want to update the entire table. Click OK.

About Manual Table of Contents

You can opt to use a manual table of contents in your document, but Word doesn't pull the headings for the TOC and it won't update automatically. Instead, Word provides a TOC template with placeholder text and you type in each entry manually.

Troubleshooting the Table of Contents in Word

The table of contents updates automatically as you work on the document. Occasionally, your table of contents may misbehave. Here are a couple of fixes for TOC updating problems:

  • If you find that the fields aren’t updated when you view your document, try using the F9 key to update the document fields. 
  • If the fields don't update when you print the document, check your print options. Click Tools and select Options. Open the Print tab and then select Update fields in the Print Options section. Click OK.