1. Deploying a Table of Contents


Quickly insert a table of contents into a document to provide a quick overview of its structure.

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Lesson Goal

Learn how to insert a table of contents.

What is a table of contents?

A table of contents is a list of all the main sections within the document. It’s useful for any documents with a narrative structure because it gives the user a very quick summary to the order of information in the document.

It’s also very useful for very long documents. Users who want to skip ahead to a particular part of the document can quickly glean the table of contents to find the exact page number. This is far more efficient than scrolling through the entire document to find the section.

These benefits are useful for both virtual and printed documents, however, readers using Word can hold Ctrl and click their desired section to immediately jump to that point in the document.

Inserting a table of contents

Before inserting a table of contents, it’s essential that the document makes proper use of text Styles. All headings and subheadings in the document should use the appropriate style. This is because the table of contents is populated with all text with a heading style.

To insert the table, navigate to the References tab and click the Table of Contents dropdown command and choose a preset.

Alternatively, we can select Custom Table of Contents. This opens a window with some customization options.

We can turn off page numbers, although it’s usually best to keep these. We can also space out the table by right aligning the page numbers and to make it easier to read, we can add tab leaders which connect the section name to the page number.

In the formats section, we can also choose a preset format.

Updating a table of contents

Edits to the document can easily result in the table of contents becoming out of date. This is because the table doesn’t automatically update. When a change has been made, we just need to select the table of contents and click the Update Table command.

When updating the table, we’ll be prompted to update page numbers only or the entire table. If a section heading has been edited and we choose to update page numbers only, the page numbers will update, but the section heading will not change. Choosing to update all will update both the section heading and the page numbers.


We'll start this course by learning how to provide an overview of a document's contents. In this lesson, we'll learn how to insert a table of contents. Longer documents can often be difficult to navigate.

It's easy to get lost even when they're structured with headings and subheadings.

Most books and lengthy documents overcome this issue by including a table of contents.

This table contains a list of all the document's headings along with their locations. Word's automatic table of contents make the process of making these elements easy. However, before we insert our table of contents, we need to create space for it.

We'll place the cursor before the first word on the page after the cover page and insert a page break.

We'll then move up to the top of the new page, navigate to the References tab and click the Table of Contents dropdown to reveal Word's built-in presets.

We'll choose the first preset to insert a new table of contents.

Let's take note of some key features.

Each entry is based on a heading, so you must make regular use of styles to correctly deploy a table of contents. These entries can also be used as a link.

If we hold the Control key and click Introduction, we jump to the Introduction heading in the document.

We'll scroll back up to return to the table of contents.

We can also create a custom table of contents.

We'll delete the current table by placing the cursor on any element in the table, clicking the Table of Contents dropdown and selecting Remove Table of Contents.

We'll then open this dropdown again and select Custom Table of Contents.

In the Print Preview section, we can configure three options.

The first is to show or hide page numbers. Page numbers are essential in most printed documents, so we'll keep them.

Next, we can choose to right align the page numbers.

If we uncheck this, we can see that the numbers get a little too close to the headings, so we'll leave it checked.

Last, we can choose the leaders.

As with tab-stop tables, leaders make it easier to connect text separated by wide spaces.

We can choose to remove the leaders or change the type.

We'll keep the default.

It's not common to use Word to create web pages, so we won't cover that portion of the menu.

Below, we can choose from a selection of table contents formats.

We can also increase the number of levels included in the preview above.

We'll choose the fancy format but note that any of these formats are appropriate for professional documents.

We'll then click OK to insert our new table of contents.

As expected, this table was built using text set with a heading style but this isn't a live connection. Changes to the headings will not be automatically updated in the table of contents.

In these cases, we need to manually update the table.

At this stage, you may have noticed that these page numbers don't look right. Sourcing Ingredients should say page six, not page zero.

Let's jump to the heading before to investigate why this is happening.

If we scroll down a little, and reveal formatting marks, we can see that there's a section break here. The author used the section breaks to change the orientation of a single page to landscape.

However, Word restarts page numbering with a new section by default. To fix this, we'll select the entire document, navigate to the Insert tab, click on the Page Number dropdown command and select Format Page Numbers.

We'll select the option to continue from the previous section.

This means new sections won't restart page numbering. If we return to the table of contents, we can see that it still uses the old page numbers.

To update it, we'll select the table, navigate to the References tab in the ribbon and select Update Table.

This gives us two options, Update Page Numbers Only just updates changes to the page numbers.

Update Entire Table will change the page numbers along with any other changes such as a heading name or a change of heading type. We haven't made any changes like that, so we'll select Update Page Numbers Only.

Now that our table of contents is complete, we'll stop the lesson here. In the next lesson, we'll learn about how to add footnotes and endnotes to the document.

Perfecting Your Document
Adding References


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