How to Create Automatic Content Tables in Word


3rd October 2023

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Creating an automatic table of contents (TOC) in Microsoft Word is a handy feature that helps you organise and navigate lengthy documents. Here’s how to create an automatic TOC in Word:

1. Apply Heading Styles: First, ensure that you’ve applied appropriate heading styles to the headings and subheadings in your document. Common heading styles include “Heading 1,” “Heading 2,” etc. To apply a heading style:

  • Highlight the text of the heading.
  • Go to the “Home” tab in the Word ribbon.
  • In the “Styles” group, select the appropriate heading style from the dropdown menu. For example, use “Heading 1” for main chapter titles, “Heading 2” for subsections, and so on.

2. Place the Cursor: Put your cursor where you want to insert the table of contents in your document. Usually, this is at the beginning, before the main body of your content.

3. Insert the Table of Contents:

  • For Word 2016 and later versions:
    • Go to the “References” tab in the Word ribbon.
    • Click on “Table of Contents” in the “Table of Contents” group.
    • Choose one of the built-in styles or select “Custom Table of Contents” to customise it further
  • For Word 2013 and earlier versions:
    • Go to the “References” tab.
    • Click on “Table of Contents” and choose one of the predefined styles or select “Insert Table of Contents” to customise it.

4. Customise the Table of Contents (Optional): If you selected “Custom Table of Contents,” a dialog box will appear. Here, you can customise the appearance and formatting of the TOC. You can modify the font, formatting levels, and more.

5. Update the Table of Contents: If you make changes to your document, such as adding, deleting, or modifying headings, you’ll need to update the TOC to reflect these changes. To update the TOC:

  • Click anywhere within the TOC.
  • You should see an “Update Table” button or an option to update the table. Click it.

Your automatic table of contents will now be generated based on the heading styles you applied in your document. It will include hyperlinks that allow you to quickly jump to the corresponding sections in your document.

Remember to update the TOC whenever you make significant changes to your document to keep it accurate and up-to-date.