Microsoft Word: how to create and manage a table of contents

The use of a table of contents in your Microsoft Word document facilitates the navigation of the reader. You can generate a table of contents in Word from the headings used in your document and here we explain how to do it.

Add a table of contents in Micrososft Word

Regardless of the size of your document, the use of a table of contents can direct the reader to exactly where it should be. In addition to making the document easier to read, it also makes it easier for the author to return, add or delete content if necessary.

By default, Microsoft Word generates a table of contents using the first three integrated header styles (Title 1, Title 2 and Title 3). To apply header styles, select the particular style from the "Start" tab. If you are not satisfied with the types of header styles available, you can change the default header style.

You can manage this in two different ways. You can apply the header styles to each section once you have finished the document, or you can add them as you go.

Once you've applied your header styles, it's time to insert your table of contents. The first thing you should do is place the cursor where you want the table to appear. Once ready, go to the «References» tab and select «Table of Contents».

A drop-down menu will appear. Here, you can choose between the three different integrated tables.

The only difference between Automatic Table 1 and 2 is the title, which is "Content" and "Table of Contents," respectively. When you select Automatic Table 1 or 2, the table of contents with the names of the headings will be created.

You will have to edit the templates that you insert in Microsoft Word

If you choose the "Manual table" option in the "Table of contents" drop-down menu, you will insert a template that you must edit.

You can notice in this table of contents that there are sub-levels. Each level represents a title style in your document. So, if you use the automatic table and want sub-levels in your table, you must use heading 1 for level 1, heading 2 for level 2 and heading 3 for level 3.

If you want your table to be deeper than the three main header styles, you can also do it. In the drop-down menu when you click on the "Table of Contents" button, choose the "Custom Table of Contents" option.

In the Table of Contents window that opens, click on the "Options" button.

Now, in the Table of Contents Options window, next to each available style you want to use (these are the integrated Word styles that begin with Title 4), type the TOC level you want to use. Click "Accept" when you're done.

Table of Contents Update

If you ever need to add or delete a section of your document, you can easily update the table of contents to reflect those changes. To update it, select it, click on “Update Table” in the pop-up menu that appears and then choose if you want to update only the page numbers or the complete table. Click "Accept" to apply the changes.

Your table of contents will now be updated.

Delete the table of contents in Microsoft Word

Deleting it is simple. All you need to do is select it and then click on the arrow in the menu that appears.

At the bottom of the drop-down menu, select "Remove table of contents".

The table will now be removed from your document.