How to create and update a table of contents in Microsoft Word

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Using a table of contents in your document makes it easier for the reader to navigate. You can insert a table of contents in Word from the headings used in your document, and then you can update it after making changes to the document. Here’s how to do it.

How to add a table of contents

Regardless of the size of your document, using a table of contents can take the reader exactly where they need to be. In addition to making the document more user-friendly, a table of contents also makes it easier for the author to go back and add or remove content as needed.

By default, Word generates a table of contents using the first three built-in heading styles (Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3). To apply heading styles, select the particular style in the “Home” tab. If you are not satisfied with the types of heading styles available, you can change the default heading style.

Apply Heading Styles

You can handle this in two different ways. You can either apply the heading styles to each section after the document is complete, or add them as you go.

Once you’ve applied your heading styles, it’s time to insert your table of contents. The first thing you need to do is place the cursor where you want the table of contents to appear. Once ready, go to the “References” tab and select “Table of Contents”.

Select the table of contents option in the References tab

A drop-down menu will appear. Here you can choose between the three different built-in tables.

Integrated Table of Contents menu

The only difference between automatic tables 1 and 2 is the title, which is “Content” and “Table of contents” respectively. Selecting automatic table 1 or 2 will create the table of contents using the names of the headers.

Table of contents inserted

If you have chosen the “Manual Table” option from the “Table of Contents” drop-down menu, it will insert a template for you which you will need to modify yourself.

Table of contents of the manual

You may notice in this table of contents that there are sub-levels. Each level represents a heading style in your document. So if you are using the automatic table and want sublevels in your ToC, you will need to use rubric 1 for level 1, rubric 2 for level 2 and rubric 3 for level 3.

If you want your table of contents to go beyond the three main heading styles, you can do that as well. From the drop-down menu when you click the “Table of Contents” button, choose the “Custom Table of Contents” option.

custom table of contents option

In the Table of Contents window that opens, click on the “Options” button.

click on the options button

In the Table of Contents Options window, next to each available style that you want to use (these are Word’s built-in styles starting with heading 4), type the level of table of contents that you want to use. Click “OK” when finished.

select the heading styles you want to use

How to update the table of contents

If you ever need to add or remove a section from your document, you can easily update the table of contents to reflect those changes. To update your table of contents, select it, click “Update Table” from the pop-up menu that appears, and then choose whether you want to update only the page numbers or the entire table. Click “OK” to apply the changes.

Your table of contents will now be updated. This is very useful when you want to add or remove a title from the table of contents.

How to delete the table of contents

Deleting the table of contents is easy. All you have to do is select it and then click on the arrow in the menu that appears.

drop-down arrow to remove the menu from the table of contents

At the bottom of the drop-down menu, select “Delete Table of Contents.”

Delete the table of contents

Your table of contents will now be removed from your document.

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