Tech Tips

Creating a Table of Contents (TOC) in Word

This Tech Tip was provided by Gayle Fink, Assistant Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, Bowie State University.


This past winter break, I was editing an accreditation report for one of our academic departments. They had set up the table of contents manually, requiring constant double-checking as we were editing. A little bit of time to automate the table of contents saved me many tedious moments in the long run. I hope you find this tip helpful in your report writing.

Generating a TOC is a two-step process:  1) identify the text for the TOC by applying heading styles, and 2) direct Word to create the TOC. Detailed steps are below:

Step 1 – Applying the Styles

In your document, click on the first major heading you want to appear in the TOC and select the Heading 1 style by accessing the Home tab and then the Styles group. Then click the Heading 1 thumbnail to apply (Word 2007 and Word 2010).

In the same way, apply the Heading 1 style to other major headings in your document. Apply the Heading 2 style to sub-headings, Heading 3 style to sub-sub-headings, etc.

Step 2 – Generating the TOC

 Follow the steps below to generate the TOC in Word 2007 and Word 2010:

  1.  Choose References > Table of Contents

  2. Choose one of the following items on the menu:

      • One of two built-in “automatic” tables of contents: Automatic Table 1 and Automatic Table 2. If you click the thumbnail for either of these, your TOC will be inserted into a content control, and Word will add a heading.


      • A built-in "Manual Table." This takes you back to the era of the electric typewriter. If you like typing things out for no good reason and your life expectancy is a lot longer than mine, this is for you.

  3. Right-click on Automatic Table 1 or 2 and select where you would like the TOC inserted -- you now have a table of contents!


You can use the content control to manage your TOC. Use the update function at the end of your editing, which makes life a lot easier.



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Total Comments: 4
Melanie posted on 1/31/2012 10:45 AM
Great tip. When I think about how many times I’ve just typed in a TOC and then had to update it over and over again… this ends up being a real time saver. I love the Tech Tips section because besides sharing shortcuts and ideas, I've found that it also serves as a reminder to me to think through a project before I get started, which is a welcome reminder indeed!
Becky posted on 1/31/2012 11:02 AM
This is great... I guess Word's auto formatting is not all evil if you know how to use it to your advantage.
Kathryn posted on 1/31/2012 11:32 AM
This is a great tip. I'll be sharing this with a few committees as we work on new and re-vamping reports.
Paul posted on 4/27/2012 4:35 PM
An added benefit of using this method is that when you save the document to PDF it creates a hyperlinked table of contents and a set of bookmarks on the left for each heading level you use. I have a document that uses Heading 1 through Heading 4. The entries are indented in the TOC and the bookmarks all nest nicely.