you ever worked hard on a large Word document only to find that you needed to
create a table of contents? That part isn’t so hard. What is hard is manually keeping your table of contents current as you
make changes to your document. Suppose you shifted an entire section of your
document. Afterwards, you would need to go back through your document and
update the page number throughout your table of contents.

than handle the task manually, make liberal use of Word styles to automate the
solution. In this article, I’ll show you exactly how this is done and how you
can make your life a little easier.

A little about styles

only going to go over styles as they pertain to tables of contents in this
article. I’ll be using Word’s built-in styles for my examples. In upcoming
articles in this series, I’ll show you how to create an index in Word that
will leave your cube-mates jealous. In a future article, I will also show you
how to create your own styles to use in Word and in your tables of contents and

Using heading styles to build a table of contents

off, it helps to know what I mean by “styles”. When you first open
Word and begin typing text, you’re probably typing using the Times New Roman
font at 12 points in size, unless your organization uses different defaults. Take
a look immediately to the left of the font list on the formatting toolbar. You
should see a little box that says “Normal”.

Figure A

The Styles box provides quick access to Word’s available styles.

this case, the word “Normal” refers to a “style”. A style
tells Word a little about your text: the font, the size, the orientation (left,
right or centered) and much more. Basically, styles allow you to achieve
consistency throughout your document. Clicking the down arrow in the style box
brings up a list of some of the styles available in your Word document.

Figure B

We’ll focus on these “heading” styles in this article.

change a style, just place your insertion point in the paragraph to which you
want to assign the style and choose the style from the styles list. Figure C shows you an example of the
three heading styles included in Word’s normal template.

Figure C

Note the differences in the text formatting.

the rest of this example, I’ll use a sample “Annual Financial Report”
document that has a number of different headings. The Heading 1 style is used
for the main title, while I’ve used the Heading 2 and Heading 3 styles to
denote lesser categories. This same document also includes an update about
changes in the company’s executive ranks. In total, it’s a 20-page document. It’s
not horribly long, but it could still take some time to build a complete table
of contents.

how I’m using styles:

  • Heading 1: Main headings and titles
  • Heading 2: Subcategory headings
  • Heading 3: Subcategory details

not making any changes to the default headings in Word. I’m using them as-is. I’ve
gone through the document and made sure that all of the headings are using one
of these three styles. The remaining text is all in the “Normal”
style. Here’s a look at small section of the document.

Figure D

Here’s a look at Heading 2 and 3 samples.

on to creating a table of contents — first, you need to position your
insertion point where you want the table of contents to appear in your document.
This may be the very beginning of the document, or may be after a heading page
of some kind. It doesn’t really matter where you decide to put the information.
For my example, I’ll put the table of contents right at the beginning of the
document. Now, from the menu, choose Insert | Reference | Index and Tables.

Figure E

Go to Insert | Reference | Index and Tables.

opens the Index and Tables window. On this window, choose the Table of Contents

Figure F

The Index and Tables window with the Table of Contents tab selected.

are quite a few options on this window. I’ll go through the most pertinent
areas. If I don’t go over a particular button or option, read the rest of the
article as I may cover it elsewhere.

  • Print and Web Preview: This area shows you a little
    about how your table of contents will be formatted. Note the terms “Heading
    1”, “Heading 2”, and “Heading 3”. These
    correspond to the Word styles you’ve sprinkled throughout your document.
  • Show page numbers: In some cases (I can’t think
    of any offhand), you might want a table of
    contents that doesn’t show page numbers. Deselect this checkbox to remove
    the page numbers.
  • Right align page numbers: When selected, your page
    numbers will be aligned at the right-hand border of your document. Deselect
    this checkbox to show the numbers right next to the heading. Here’s a look
    at what the result would look like.

Figure G

This looks a little funny because the heading name includes a number. But,
you can see the result. Compare this to the preview box shown in Figure F.

  • Tab leader: In the example shown in Figure F, a series of dots leads
    up to the page number. You can change this dashes or underscores, or
    remove the leading character altogether.
  • Formats: The Print Preview box (Figure F) shows you the formatting
    for your table of contents. However, Word also provides a number of other
    standard styles, including the ones shown below in Figure H. You can also completely customize the formatting of
    your table of contents by using the Modify button.

Figure H

Here’s a quick look at four built-in table of
contents styles.

decisions you may need to make are, for example, to decide how many levels you
want in your table of contents. Use the “Show levels” box to make
this adjustment, if necessary. You can also change which styles correspond to
which heading level for your table of contents. Suppose, for example, you created
a new style solely for fourth level headings. Click the Options button and type
in the level at which you want the new style to appear. In the example shown in
Figure I, I’ve created a fourth
level style named “Heading Sample Style”. Figure J shows you what that style might look like.

Figure I

It’s easy to add more levels to your table of contents.

Figure J

Take note of the new fourth level entry here.

you’ve got your styles all set up, click the OK button to add your table of
contents to your document. I’ve opted for the standard style (I’m not really
that boring, but it shows you the best layout for illustrative purposes). The
result is shown in Figure K.

Figure K

The newly inserted table of contents.

probably looks like it would be really easy to type, but keep in mind that a table
of contents in Word can stay current without you having to manually rebuild the

To keep
a table of contents current just right-click anywhere in the table of contents
and choose the “Update Field” option. If you’ve only added some
content that may have shifted pages deeper into your document, choose the “Update
page numbers only” option. If, on the other hand, you’ve added new
headings, or made substantial changes to your document’s structure, choose the “Update
entire field” option instead.

Figure L

Update page numbers only if you’ve added content that may shift items. If
you’ve moved a lot of stuff, or added sections, update the whole field.

Down and dirty

the down and dirty that you need to know to create your own tables of contents
without having to resort to a bunch of manual work every time you make a
change. In my next article, I’ll talk about the “outline method” for
creating tables of contents and will go over some more advanced topics related
to tables of contents.