How to Add a Table of Contents in Word 2016

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top word table of contents

Want to add a table of contents to your Word document, one that can be easily updated if you change your doc? It's a cinch to use this helpful feature. All you have to do is format your Word document appropriately.

To insert your table of contents:

1. Format your document using heading styles found on the Home tab, e.g., Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on. Word will create your table of contents based on these headings, so do this for all of the text you want to show up in the table of contents.

word headings toc

2. Place the cursor where you want the table of contents to appear (usually, the beginning of the document)

3. Click Table of Contents on the References Tab, and choose one of the types of tables of contents available.

word insert toc

The two automatic tables can be updated when you change the heading text, rearrange the order of your content, or change between heading styles. (They only differ by either saying "Contents" or "Table of Contents" at the top.)

Alternatively, if you click the Custom Table of Contentsā€¦ option, you can format the way the table of contents will look: Choose a different style, hide page numbers, include more heading levels than the default three levels, and more.

word toc custom

If you choose instead to create a manual table of contents, Word will add dummy text to the table instead of using your headings, you'll have to manually type in each entry, and Word won't be able to update the table of contents for you--not very much fun.

That's it! Once you've chosen one of the automatic tables of contents or the custom option, Word will create the table of contents for you.

Updating the Table of Contents

To update the table of contents--for example, if you changed the heading title or page numbers have changed:

1. Click anywhere on the table of contents, then click Update Tableā€¦

2. Choose to update either the entire table or just the page numbers.

word toc update

Remember to do this before you finalize your document so the table of contents will be current.

The table of contents is a finishing touch on long documents, such as reports, manuals, or books. Thankfully, you don't have to create and manage one manually, as Word's built-in table of contents tool does the heavy lifting for you.

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5 comments
  • Elaine M Cardinal Says:

    In response to the nay sayers...I spent a whole day trying to figure this out...then had a v8 moment. First go to your document and put your cursor by your first chapter(example only)then to your Home tab on the ribbon on the right top side you will see headings 1 2 3.Click on the header 1...that will keep it in place until you are finished with all you want in the toc...it is at that time you go back to this page and follow accordingly. It is not your brain...so its only as good as the entries by a human. I found that out.

  • John H Waaser Says:

    You put the things you want in the TOC using the header styles 1, 2, and 3, just like the article says to do....

  • Uncle Buck Says:

    I found it quite useful. Not sure why the previous two didn't. In answer to their question, as mentioned, use the 'Style' part of the Home tab to format the various headings in your document that you want showing up in the TOC. eg 'Heading 1'. These will then appear in the TOC. The TOC itself can be created from the 'References' tab. It can later be refreshed when changes are made to the items formatted as Headings - which will change the TOC accordingly.

  • Hello Says:

    Agreed. This is worthless. Doesn't give guidance on how to designate what goes into TOC.

  • Jennifer Abbey Says:

    Useless -- how do you select text to go into the table of contents

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