Anatomy of Word: Create a table of contents using defined styles

The Styles box provides quick access to Word's available styles

This gallery is also available as a TechRepublic article.

Have 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.

Rather 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

I'm 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 indexes.

Using heading styles to build a table of contents

First 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".