TOC What?

I’m confused. Do you mean as in “tic toc”?

Have you ever been working with MS Word’s online help and you surprisingly run into that little gem? Was it explained to you or did you file it in the back of your mind as another one of the many unexplained Microsoft mysteries?

Just in case it’s in your “unexplained” category, let me tell you they were referring simply to a “table of contents.”

Yep, it’s that simple. No mysterious computer jargon here, just your basic table of contents.

Now, with regards to the TOC, have you ever found yourself impatient with them? I mean, you create the document, then you have to go through the entire thing to assemble the table of contents. It’s a nightmare of endless title copy / pasting (or the constant hoping that you’re retyping titles exactly), tabs and page numbers. It just never stops.

(Let’s not even go into what happens when you later edit the document. We’ll save that little mess for another day).


You bet.

Would you like to find out how to get Word to create the table of contents for you?


Good, I was hoping you were.

All aboard for the TOC Express.

Okay, so we’re ready to discover the secrets of MS Word’s automatic table of contents feature. Let’s get right to it.

The first thing you need to do is establish your document with heading styles. You need to use consistent headings for chapter / section titles and then consistent headings for the subsections below each section title.

For example, you may apply Heading 1 to each section title in the paper. Then apply the Heading 2 style to each subheading in the sections. Then, if there are further divisions within the subheadings, apply the Heading 3 style to them and so on.

Once you have consistent headings applied throughout the document, you’re ready to create the table of contents.

Or, should I say that you’re ready to have Word do all of the work of creating the table of contents for you!

No more printing out the document, assembling section and subsection titles along with their page numbers. None of it. Just have Word do all that with a few clicks!

To begin, you need to put your cursor at the point you want to insert the TOC.

Next, you’re looking for the Insert menu. In older versions of Word, you need the Index and Tables choice. In newer Word versions, you’ll need to go to the Reference submenu to find the Index and Tables choice.

Once the Index and Tables window opens, you’re looking for the Table of Contents tab.

If you’re working with Word 97, the window looks like this:

It’s here that you will choose the basic style of TOC you want to create and make decisions concerning modifications to the style.

On the left of the screen, you’ll find a list of TOC format choices. As you click on each name, you’ll notice that the preview on the right changes. Keep an eye on the preview section anytime you make a change. It’s the best way to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

Below the style choices, you’ll find a couple of choices concerning page numbers. You can decide if page numbers should be displayed and whether you want them right aligned or with the TOC entry itself.

For the right aligned page numbers, you can choose a tab leader type (the line that connects the TOC item to its page number) from the drop down list or choose to have no leader at all.

The “Show levels” field allows you to set how detailed the TOC gets. If you’ve used many levels of heading styles for subsections, you may not want the TOC to contain every little thing. Basically, the number refers to how many heading levels you want it to include. (Bigger numbers = more details).

We should also discuss what to do if you’ve used heading styles that aren’t the standard 1, 2, etc.

In this case, you’ll want to click the Options button.

This will take you to a window where all the styles that are available in the current document are listed. Here, you can scroll through the list and number the styles in the correct order. Place a 1 for the style applied to the main section headings. Then a 2 for the next level of subsection, and so on, until you’ve labeled all the styles you’ve used in your document that should be included in the TOC.

When you’ve completed the numbering, click OK.

You’ll be returned to the Table of Contents tab. When you’ve completed the settings there, click OK.

And poof!

A completed table of contents has been inserted into your document. Section titles, page numbers and all.

At this time, we should take a look at newer versions of Word. The Table of Contents tab should look like this:

It’s pretty much the same stuff, just rearranged a bit. But still, it’s all there. (To find the table of content style choices, you’ll need to look in the Formats drop down list).

The new addition would be the Web Pr
eview window

This is to let you know what it will look like if you’re creating an HTML document. Page numbers aren’t used here, because they are direct links to each location.

Wow! That was quite a bit, but I’m sure that once you give this a try, you’ll like it. The trick is to apply the heading styles consistently throughout the document and the rest will automatically fall into place.

It’s much faster than the old routine of creating it all by hand and it’s far less aggravating!

~ April