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How to Create and Update a Table of Contents in Word

A table of contents makes it easy for the reader to go through your document. You may insert a table of contents in Word using the headers in your documents and then update it as you make changes to the page. Here is how.

How to Create a Table of Contents in Word

Tip: Instructions in this article apply to Microsoft Word 2010, Microsoft Word 2013, Word 2016, Word 2019, Word 2021, Word 365, and Word for Mac. In this article, we are using Word for Microsoft 365 as an example.

Creating a Table of Contents in Word

Here’s how to insert a table of contents in Word.

Using a table of contents, regardless of the size of your Word document, helps bring the reader to exactly where they need to go.

A table of contents makes the document more reader-friendly. It also makes it easy for the writer to go back and add or remove the content as needed.

Microsoft Word generates a table of contents by default using the first three built-in heading styles (Heading 1Heading 2, and Heading 3). To use Heading Styles, click the Home tab, choose the particular style, and apply it. If you are unhappy with the available heading styles in Word, you can customize the default heading style.

Apply heading styles

You have two options for dealing with this. You can either apply heading styles to each section after you have completed the document or add them as you go.

After you have applied your heading styles, insert your table of contents. The first step is to position the cursor where you want the table of contents to display. Then, select the References tab and click Table of Contents.

Select the References tab and click Table of Contents

A drop-down dialog box will appear. You can choose from three different built-in tables, Automatic Table 1, Automatic Table 2, and Manual Table.

Built-In Table of Contents menu

The sole distinction between Automatic Table 1 and Automatic Table 2 is their titles, labeled as Contents and Table of Contents, respectively. Selecting Automatic Table 1 or 2 will insert the table of contents using the heading names.

Inserted Table of Contents

If you choose the Manual Table option from the Table of Contents drop-down box, it will add a template, and you must manually change it.

Manual Table of Contents

There are sub-levels in this table of contents, as you can see. In your Word document, each level represents a different heading style. So, if you choose the automatic table and wish to include sub-levels in your ToC, use Heading 1 for level 1, Heading 2 for level 2, and Heading 3 for level 3.

You can expand your table of contents beyond the first three heading styles. When you click the Table of Contents option, select the Custom Table of Contents from the drop-down list at the bottom.

Custom Table of Contents option

Click Options in the Table of Contents window that appears.

Click Options in the Table of Contents window

In the Table of Contents Options dialog box, type the TOC level you want to use next to each possible style (these are built-in styles in Word beginning with Heading 4).

Select the Heading Styles you want to use

Once done, click OK.

Once done, click OK

Update a Table of Contents in Word

If you need to add or remove a part from your document, update a table of contents to apply those changes.
Steps to update a table of contents.

1. Select the table of contents you want to update.

2. Go to the References tab.

Go to the References tab of Word

3. Click Update Table.

Click the Update Table option

4. In the update table of contents pop-up window, select whether to “Update page numbers only” or “Update entire table.”

Select "Update page numbers only" or "Update entire table"

5. To save the changes, click OK.

Click OK to save the changes

Doing this will update your table of contents. It comes in handy when you need to add or delete a heading from the table of contents.

Note: Word cannot update manually created tables. To update manually created tables, type your changes manually in the table of contents.

How to Remove the Table of Contents in Word

It is easy to delete a table of contents in Word. Here is how.

1. Select the table of contents you want to remove.

Select the table of contents you want to remove

2. Click the drop-down arrow on the left menu that appears.

Drop-down arrow for removing the table of contents menu

3. Select “Remove Table of Contents” from the drop-down window at the bottom.

Select "Remove Table of Contents"

Your table of contents is removed from your document.

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