How to Make a Table of Contents in Microsoft Word

By Aaron Parson

Word 2010 and 2013 take most of the effort out of creating and maintaining a table of contents. With Word, you don't need to format the table by hand or track down the page number for each section or chapter. Word's **Table of Contents** feature isn't magic, however -- for it figure out what you want in the table, you first need to assign **heading styles** to the headings in your document that you want included.

Step 1

Select the first heading in your document that you want to appear in the table of contents, such as "Chapter 1" in a novel. Right-click **Heading 1** in the Styles section of the Home tab and select **Update Heading 1 to Match Selection**.

Step 2

Select each other top-tier heading in your text -- "Chapter 2," "Chapter 3" and so on -- and click **Heading 1** to apply the style. Because you updated the Heading 1 style to match your first selection, choosing the style won't alter how your text looks.

Step 3

Repeat the process thus far with any secondary headings, such as sections in chapters, using the **Heading 2** style. For further subdivisions, repeat using **Heading 3** and so on.

Step 4

Place the cursor in the text where you want to insert the table of contents. On the References tab, click **Table of Contents** and pick one of the **Automatic Table** styles. In Word 2010 and 2013, the only difference between **Automatic Table 1** and **Automatic Table 2** is whether the title reads "Contents" or "Table of Contents." You can also edit the title by hand later.If you're happy with how the table looks, you can stop here. Otherwise, it's time to customize the table's style.

Step 5

Choose **Custom Table of Contents** in the Table of Contents menu. The first few options deal with the table's numbering -- you can turn off page numbers, set whether the numbers align to the right or pick a new **Tab Leader** to change the row of dots leading to the page number.

Step 6

Raise the **Show Levels** number to match the number of heading styles you used. There's no harm in leaving it at **3** even if you only have one or two heading styles. Pick a preset style for the table from the **Formats** menu, or choose **From Template** and press **Modify** to open the Style dialog box and customize each tier of the table manually. In the Style dialog box, **TOC 1** refers to the style for Heading 1 entries, **TOC 2** for Heading 2, and so on. Press **Modify** to change the font, text size, alignment and other style options.

Step 7

Click **OK** and choose **Yes** to replace the automatic table of contents with your custom version.

Step 8

Press the **Update Table** button on the References tab or directly above the table of contents to rebuild the table. Update your table any time you make changes to your document. Choose **Update Page Numbers Only**, or choose **Update Entire Table** to update both page numbers and heading text.

Tips & Warnings

  • Word doesn't offer "Heading 3" in the Styles section until your document contains text using the "Heading 2" style.
  • Right-click an "Automatic Table" option in the Table of Contents menu for quick placement options, such as "Insert at Beginning of Document" and "Insert at Beginning of Section."
  • "Update Heading 1 to Match Selection" only affects the style in the current document. It won't accidentally replace the heading style in other files.