Updating an Automatic Table of Contents In MS Word

Dennis Faas's picture

A reader recently wrote to ask "Once a table of contents has been created, can you change the page numbers appearing on the right side of the TO?"

I am assuming that the reader is talking about an automatically generated Table of Contents (TOC). And if that is the case, the answer is yes, absolutely!

The caveat is that you have to know how to create an automatically generated TOC in order to update it when you add more text.

You can generate a table of contents using Word's built-in styles, such as Heading 1, 2, and 3, or by creating and using your own custom styles. If you have a document with no style formatting, the first step is to select the headings and other paragraphs in the document that need to be in the table of contents, and then apply the appropriate styles to the paragraph.

A quick and easy way to designate heading styles is to highlight the text that you are applying a style to, and then depress your Shift and Alt keys and use your right and left arrows to cycle through the different styles until you find the one you want.

If the document already contains styles, you need to decide which styles to use in the table of contents. One way to visually determine which styles are being used in the document is to activate the Style Area. The Style Area appears in a pane on the left margin of the screen. It lists the style for each paragraph next to the paragraph it is applied to. The Style Area is available in Normal or Outline view. From the Tools menu, choose Options and then select the View tab. In the Outline and Normal options section, change the Style Area width from 0 to 1 inch. Switch to Normal or Outline view to see the styles in the document.

Insert a Table of Contents

  • Open a document and apply Heading 1, 2, and 3 to paragraphs that you want to appear in the table of contents.  
  • To quickly apply Heading 1 style, place the insertion point in the paragraph and press Alt+Ctrl+1. Press Alt+Ctrl+2 for Heading 2, or Alt+Ctrl+3 to format the paragraph with Heading 3 style.  
  • Place the insertion point in the document where you want to insert the table of contents.  
  • From the Insert menu, choose Index And Tables, and then select the Table of Contents tab. The Table of Contents tab appears on top of the stack.  
  • Click the drop-down arrow in the Formats list box and select a format. Notice how the Print Preview window changes to reflect the format you have selected.  
  • Clear the Show Page Numbers option if you want to remove page numbers from the table of contents.  
  • Clear the Right Align Page Numbers option if you want to place the page numbers directly next to the headings.  
  • Click the spin box arrows next to Show Levels to specify which levels of heading styles should be included in the table of contents. Keyboard users can type a number directly into the Show Levels box.  
  • Choose (none) in the Tab Leader box if you want to remove tab leaders from the table of contents, or select a tab leader that you wish to use. Remember that tab leaders disappear in a Web Layout view.  
  • Click OK to insert the table of contents.

Next time we will discuss building a table of contents using custom styles.

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