Table of Contents in Word

When do you need a Table of Contents?

In my view, it doesn’t really make sense to go to the trouble of creating a Table of Contents (easy though the process is) until you’ve a document that’s a few pages long that incorporates a number of headings. Even multi page letters would probably look a little “odd” if they included a Table of Contents.

However, if you’re writing a report or proposal, then a Table of Contents on the first or second page (if you have a “front or title sheet” can make a lot of sense as it can not only aid your writing of the document, but, more importantly, allow your reader to quickly find the information that they need.

In the past, I’ve seen people manually typing Tables of Contents & then having to re-read their documents after any change to ensure that the headings are on the same pages & if not, adjusting their TOC’s accordingly; however, if we get them right from the start, that problem goes away!

So, how do we create them; And more importantly, create them properly?

Inserting a Table of Contents

Provided that you’ve been using Styles (we covered that in our last Word Tips posting) for any Headings or Sub-Headings in your document, then it’s very easy…

As you can see, we’re using the Styles set up following last month’s tips for the Safeguarding Association. When applying styles to headings, remember that the same style gets applied to the same level of heading; so your most important headings are likely to be Heading Style 1, your second most important, Heading 2, etc

Once you’ve got your document set out (‘though it doesn’t have to be complete – remember the Table of Contents will automatically update), you need to think about making space for it.

In this example, I’ve put my mouse pointer to the immediate left of the first letter “F” in the first main heading & hit the ENTER key

When I then select the line, it shows that it is still Heading 1, so I need to select “Normal” to reformat it; I may also choose to insert a new page here to put the Table of Contents onto a separate page (CTRL+ENTER is a quick way of doing this)

Then it’s over to the References Tab & Table of Contents

Whether it’s laziness or not, I invariably use the Automatic Table 1 to create…

As you can see, subheadings are indented & if the heading style is changed (for example a H2 becomes H1 or H3) or new pages are inserted or deleted, or even a section (including its headings) is moved elsewhere in the document, then clicking on the table of contents brings up the Update Table button & clicking on this allows you to either refresh simply for changes in page numbers, or more major changes (I tend to update the entire table each time “just in case”)

Navigation made simple

Once you’ve inserted a Table of Contents, by hovering your mouse over it, you’ll see that there is the ability to “jump” to it by holding down the CTRL button & clicking on the link…

In addition, by selecting (from the View Tab) Navigation Pane, an outline of the document appears in a right hand task pane allowing you to quickly navigate through the document. In addition, clicking & holding the left mouse button down on one of these navigation links allows you to move the heading & its associated text to elsewhere in the document