Software

How to create one table of contents from multiple documents

I is possible to create a single table of contents for multiple Word documents, it just requires an extra step or two. Susan Harkins explains how.

In the last blog post, I showed you how to generate a table of contents based on built-in heading styles. If you're working with two or more documents, Word's table of contents feature won't work the same way, but it's not impossible - it isn't even hard. You'll use fields in a separate table of contents document.

Before you start, if possible, save the documents that comprise the table of contents to the same folder. This step isn't necessary, but it simplifies things a bit. When you're ready to build the table of contents, open a new document and save it using a descriptive name to identify it as a table of contents document.

In the table of contents document, insert a Reference Document field for each document that you want to include in the table of contents, as follows:

  1. Click the Insert tab.
  2. From the Quick Parts dropdown (in the Text group), choose Field.
  3. Choose RD from the Fields Names list (RD stands for reference document). In Word 2003, choose Field from the Insert menu.
  4. In the Filename or URL control, enter the name of the first document you want to include in the table of contents.
  5. If the document's in the same folder as the table of contents document, check the Path Is Relative To Current Doc option. Otherwise, be sure to enter the file's full path.
  6. Click OK.

At this point, you won't see anything, but don't worry. Press Enter and repeat the above process for each document you want to include in the table of contents. Reference files in the order of the content. Then, generate the table of contents as you normally would:

  1. Click the References tab.
  2. In the Table of Contents group, click Table of Contents.
  3. Choose an option from the gallery options. In Word 2003, choose Reference from the Insert menu and then select Index and Tables.
  4. If the control displays a field code instead of the table of contents, press [Shift]+[F9] to update the field.

Notice that the page numbers are all 1. That's because both documents in this example have just one page, and I didn't alter the page-numbering scheme for either - both documents begin with page number 1. When using this technique, you'll probably want to alter the page-numbering scheme for all but the first document. For instance, in this case, I'd start the second document with the page number 2, instead of 1. That calls for a bit of manual manipulation, but it's not difficult. It might be a bit time-consuming if you have many documents.

If you modify any of the referenced documents, you might have to update the beginning page number of some, maybe all, of the documents. It's not a perfect solution, but it works. There's no built-in function for basing a table of contents on multiple documents.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

8 comments
a.khatab
a.khatab

Thank you very much 
It is really helpful 
What is the steps if I want to create one 

table of figures(tables) from multiple documents?

JaneHawkins
JaneHawkins

I struggle with Master documents and sub documents so this was a godsend. Didn't seem to work at first as Word couldn't find my files and then I noticed my fatal flaw, I had forgotten to include the file extension as part of the document name!!

tomkinsr
tomkinsr

Why would I not use a Master document and Sub documents? I believe, reading the help office.com stuff at Microsoft, you end up with a TOC that is as easy peasy to insert.

arvindpatil
arvindpatil

very helpful word tip. btw, i usually save helpful tips in a folder. earlier they were available for d'load as pdf. saving as webpage is not exactly liked by me. any other way?

lennyash
lennyash

I appreciate the feedback on this. I will study it and try it out. Thanks so much.

tomkinsr
tomkinsr

I have been told by someone that Master Documents are dangerous. I do not know this for a fact, one person said this has been an issue for every version of Word, something about corruption. I have tried it out a couple of times to learn the mechanics of making it work. I currently work with file extensions turned off (Windows 7) and created my subdocuments as shown by Microsoft in their miserable online help, and it worked. This is a similar process to FrameMakers Books and I have made use of that in past Technical Documents with great success.

DesertPete9
DesertPete9

I also used to download the .pdf files, but recently I've started using Microsoft OneNote and find it works well for organizing ideas. I have a Notebook called "Office Tips" sectioned into the various applications. I copy the headline into the title of a page, then copy the article and comments into the body of the page. One of the neat things is that the URL is automatically copied at the bottom, so if you want to follow comments later, just open your notebook page, click on the URL, and add further relevant comments to your notebook page. I'm still learning the ins and outs of OneNote, but I'm liking it.

arvindpatil
arvindpatil

thanks. i've just started using OneNote after your tip and find it useful