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How to create a Table of contents in Word

How to create table of contents in word

Now that I’m back in school after a long time, I’m also back to having to create different PowerPoint presentations and write reports in Word. How to create a table of contents in word? This question always arises in my mind when I am creating reports in word. There are a lot of features in Word that most people never use unless they are in school.

One of these features is the Table of Contents. Word has a great feature that allows you to create an automatic content table. The great thing is that even if you already have a Word document with a lot of content. It is very easy to modify it so that you can generate the table of contents automatically. But most users don’t really know how to create a table of contents in word.

In this article, I will guide you through the process of setting up your Word document with the correct headers and then talking about how to create the table of contents. I will also talk about how you can customize the table of contents to your liking.

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Configuring and displaying headers in Word

The first thing you want to do before you can create a table of contents is to configure your headers. By default, the allowed headers that you can use are H1 (Title 1), H2 (Title 2), and H3 (Title 3).

how to create a table of contents in word

You can find them in the Styles box on the Main Home tab of the ribbon. These are the only three that you can use for a default TOC. If you add a custom TOC, you can also use H4 (Title 4), H5 (Title 5), H6 (Title 6), Subtitle, Title and Spreadsheet Title.

When you browse your document to add the different headings, do not hesitate to choose among the titles mentioned above if H1, H2 and H3 feel too restricted. You will just have to insert a custom OCD and change some settings, which I will also mention.

Styling Headers in Word

It is very easy to apply headers to text in Word. Just click on the line with the text, then click on the title style you want to apply.

how to create a table of contents in word

Go through the document and add as many titles as you want. Note that when you add headers, it will be difficult to see the headers, even if you have visible paragraph marks. To quickly display all the headers of a Word document, click the View tab and then select the checkbox under Navigation Pane.

When you do this, a pane will appear on the left side of the document and you will be able to see the different topics, subtitles, etc.

configure heading in word

By clicking one of the items in the list, you access this topic in the Word document. It’s a great way to quickly see your title structure before creating your final OCD. Now the next step is to create TOC keep scrolling & I will guide you on how to create a table of contents in word.

How to create a table of contents in word

Adding a table of contents in Word

Now the question is How to create a table of contents in word or add TOC in a word? Now that we have all our headers properly configured, let’s go ahead and insert a table of contents. First, let’s start with the default TOC set up in Word. Before you begin, it may be a good idea to add a blank page at the beginning of your document.

To do this, go to the top of your current first page, then click Insert and Blank Page.

Now click on References, Table of Contents and choose from the automatic choices at the top.

Insert table of contents in word

A manual table will only be filled text in the format of a table of contents, but you will need to manually make any changes. When you insert the automatic table of contents, you should see something like this:

Table of contents in word

Impressive! Now you have a beautifully formatted TOC in your Word document! Once you have inserted the TOC, you can still edit the headers of your document. But the changes will not automatically be reflected in the TOC.

Update a table of contents in Word

To update the table of contents in word, simply click inside the table of contents and click Update table at the top.

It will ask you if you want to update only the page numbers or the entire table. If you have modified, inserted, or deleted headers, you must choose the entire table. If you have added more content to your document, but have not added or deleted headers, you can choose only page numbers.

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Customize the table of contents

If you have used titles other than H1, H2, and H3, you will notice that they will not appear in the TOC. To use these additional headers, you must choose the Custom Table of Contents when you insert the table of contents.

Table of contents in word options

This opens the options dialogue for the TOC. You can change some basic settings, such as to display page numbers, and to align or not line numbers. Under General, you can choose from several styles and you can also choose to display more levels beyond three, which is the H3 title.

If you click Options, you can choose additional elements to build the table of contents with. If you scroll down, you will be able to select the subtitle and table of contents header.

Toc word options

Customize the Appearance of a table of contents

To customize the appearance of the table of contents, you must click the Edit button. If you simply click the TOC and choose Font or Paragraph, it does not format the table of contents.

When you click Edit, you get another dialogue where you can edit each TOC level. TOC 1 represents H1, TOC 2 represents a group H2, etc.

Click the second Edit button and you will be able to change the formatting for that particular title. So, if you want, you can do all H1 bold headings and different font size.

Modify style of TOC in word

If you click the Format button at the bottom, you can customize even more settings like paragraph, tabs, border, frame, numbering, etc. Here is my TOC with H1 bold and with larger font size.

Table of contents in word

Finally, if you press the CTRL key and then click anything in the table of contents, you will be taken to that page.

However, if you find it annoying to have to press the CTRL key, you can change that by going to File – Options and then click Advanced.


Go ahead and uncheck Use CTRL + Click to follow the hyperlink. Now you can simply click the TOC items as links without holding down the CTRL-key. Unfortunately, this only works on your local copy of Word.

When you send an email to someone and if they do not have this setting changed, they will have to CTRL + click. This is about it when it comes to the table of contents in Word. Enjoy!


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Lara Johnson

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