A table of contents can improve readability in a complex document; readers can find the sections they need with a quick glance and a click. An annotation improves that process by clarifying headings. To add an annotation, you can style existing text or reference text hidden in a field code. Neither method is intuitive, but they’re both easy. In this article, I’ll show you how to annotate a table of contents using both existing and hidden text.

I’m using Office 365’s Word 2016 (desktop), but you can use earlier versions. You can work with your own document or download the demonstration .docx or .doc files. You can’t insert a table of contents using the browser edition.

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Use a style for existing text

The standard method for annotating a table of contents is to apply a heading style and set its level accordingly. Let’s illustrate this method using the simple document shown in Figure A. The table (at the top of the page) displays two levels using Word’s built-in heading styles Heading 1 and Heading 2. That means we can use Heading 3 as the annotation.

Figure A

We’ll add annotations to this table of contents.

For this to work, you must apply the built-in headings as follows:

Video: Heading 1
Professional: Heading 2
Themes and Styles: Heading 1
Efficient: Heading 2
Readability: Heading 2

With the heading styles applied, you can insert a table of contents as follows:

  1. Position the cursor where you want to insert the table.
  2. Click the References tab, and then click Table of Contents in the Table of Contents group.
  3. Choose a built-in table from the gallery; I chose Automatic Table 1. Note that the built-in table supports three levels: Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3.
  4. The resulting table displays two levels even though it supports three; we haven’t applied Heading 3 to anything, so let’s do that next and see what happens. Highlight the first sentence under Video, and click Heading 3 in the Styles gallery. Choose a heading style that you won’t use for anything else in this document. In addition, you must choose a heading that’s included in the level settings. We’re displaying two levels and using the third level (Heading 3) to display annotations. If you used Heading 4, this wouldn’t work because the selected table doesn’t support a fourth level (see step 3).
  5. Next, update the table of contents by clicking anywhere inside, and click the Update Table option (Figure B). In the resulting dialog, click the Update entire table option, and click OK. Figure C shows the new annotation for the Video section.

Figure B

Update the table of contents.

Figure C

We added an annotation to the Video section of the table of contents.

There are a couple of things you might not care for: The in-body annotation is formatted differently than the rest of the paragraph, and the annotation in the table of contents has a page number. Let’s take care of both.

Changing the format for the annotation style (Heading 3) is simple. Right-click Heading 3 in the Styles gallery and choose Modify. Then, choose settings to match the body style you’re using. In this case, I chose Calibri (body) 11 and changed the color to automatic, to match Normal.

Removing the page number from the annotation takes a bit more work because we must modify the underlying field code, but it isn’t difficult:

  1. Select the table of contents and press Alt+F9 to see the underlying field code.
  2. Modify the field code by adding the \n 3-3 switch (Figure D). The \n switch disables page number and the 3-3 component specifies the third level. If you wanted to disable number for all of the levels, you’d use \n 1-3.
  3. Press Alt+F9, and then click Update Table in the Table of Contents group. In the resulting dialog, choose Update entire table, and click OK to generate the table of contents shown in Figure E.

Figure D

This switch disables page numbering for a specific level.

Figure E

The annotation (level) displays no page number.

You can also create a custom style and map it to the appropriate level by inserting a custom table instead of choosing one of the built-in items.

Use a field code for text not in the document

Sometimes you’ll want to annotate a level with text that doesn’t appear in the document. You’ll need a field code for this–specifically, the {TC} code. This code allows you to display in the annotation text that you’ve hidden in the document. Let’s add an annotation using a code field to the Themes and styles section as follows:

  1. Position the cursor at the end of the heading (to the right of the last s in styles).
  2. Click the Insert tab, click the Quick Parts option in the Text group, and choose Field.
  3. In the Field names list, select TC.
  4. Enter the text entry, Not your grandma’s theme party!
  5. Check Outline level and enter 3
  6. Check Suppresses page number (Figure F).
  7. Click OK.

Figure F

Choose the field code settings.

At this point, you can’t see the TC field code. To do so, click Show/Hide in the Paragraph group on the Home tab. Figure G shows the field code. Click Show/Hide again before you continue.

Figure G

Use Show/Hide to display the TC field code.

The table won’t display the field code even if you update it–not yet. You must add a switch for that:

  1. Select the table of contents and press Alt+F9 to see the underlying field code.
  2. Modify the field code by adding the \f switch (Figure H).
  3. Press Alt+F9 and then click Update Table in the Table of Contents group. In the resulting dialog, choose Update entire table, and click OK to generate the table of contents shown in Figure I. There isn’t a page number for the new annotation because we disabled page numbers for level 3 earlier.

Figure H

Modify the underlying field code.

Figure I

The hidden annotation text appears in the table of contents.

Send me your question about Office

I answer readers’ questions when I can, but there’s no guarantee. Don’t send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. You can send screenshots of your data to help clarify your question. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, “Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what’s wrong” probably won’t get a response, but “Can you tell me why this formula isn’t returning the expected results?” might. Please mention the app and version that you’re using. I’m not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at susansalesharkins@gmail.com.

See also