How to Create a Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for Office 365

611434 How to Create a Table of Contents in Microsoft Word for Office 365

A table of contents is a useful tool for organizing and navigating long documents in Microsoft Word. It allows readers to quickly find chapters, sections, or key topics within your document.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn how to add an automatic or manual table of contents to any Word document. We’ll cover everything from basic setup to customizing and updating your table of contents in Word 365.

Why Use a Table of Contents

There are several benefits to adding a table of contents in your Word documents:

  • Improves navigation – Readers can quickly navigate sections by clicking on links in the TOC. This is handy for long reports, legal documents, or books.
  • Provides structure – A TOC gives a nice overview of the document structure so readers know what to expect.
  • Looks professional – Including a TOC makes your document look well-organized and professionally edited.

Add an Automatic Table of Contents

The easiest way to build a table of contents is by using the built-in headings in your document. Here are the steps:

  1. Add headings to your document – You can use the pre-built Word heading styles like Heading 1, Heading 2, etc. Highlight text and select the heading you want from the Styles menu.
  2. Place cursor where you want the TOC – Usually this is near the beginning of a document. Click to place your cursor there.
  3. Go to the References tab – In the Table of Contents group, click the Table of Contents button and select one of the automatic options.

That’s it! Word scans your headings and automatically inserts a TOC into your document.

Customize the TOC Format

You can customize the look of your automatically generated table of contents at any time. Some options include:

  • Show page numbers
  • Right align page numbers
  • Add leader dots between headings and page numbers
  • Show more or fewer heading levels
  • Change the tab leader character or font style

Create a Manual Table of Contents

For advanced customization, you can create a manual table of contents in Word by manually typing each entry. Follow these steps:

  1. Create a blank TOC page – Place your cursor where you want the TOC. Insert a page break if needed to create some space.
  2. Type “Table of Contents” – This will be the title so format it with bold or a larger font size. Hit enter a few times to give space below it.
  3. Type in your TOC entries – Manually type each entry, for example: Introduction ............................... 1 Chapter One: Getting Started ................. 2 Chapter Two: Key Concepts .................... 3
  4. Add leader dots – Place your cursor between the text and page number. Go to the References tab and click the Tab Leader button to add dots.
  5. Format text – Use bold or italics to format entries as needed.
  6. Add page numbers – Go to each page and insert the current page number.

The manual method takes longer but allows precise control over the look of your TOC.

Update a Table of Contents

As you edit your document, you may add, remove, or rearrange headings. When this happens, you’ll want to update your table of contents so it stays current.

To update:

  1. Click in the TOC – Place your cursor anywhere in the existing TOC.
  2. Go to the References tab – In the Table of Contents group, click the Update Table button and select Update Entire Table.

Word scans for edits and updates page numbers and the TOC structure. Your table of contents will now accurately reflect the document headings.

Tips and Tricks

Here are some additional tips for working with tables of content in Word 365:

  • Update your TOC often during edits so you don’t forget.
  • Use Heading 1, Heading 2, etc to build your initial TOC since these have outline levels assigned.
  • Create TOCs for each chapter if working on a very large book or thesis.
  • Add a title like Contents before your Table of Contents text for a nice introduction.
  • Play around with the tab leader and indent options to customize spacing.
  • Associate a unique custom style with headings for advanced TOC formatting.

Troubleshooting Issues

Here are some common issues and solutions:

Headings not showing in TOC: Check that your headings use Word’s built-in heading styles. If you used manual formatting like bold or underline, the headings won’t connect to the TOC.

TOC formatting looks off: Make sure you did not accidentally update an automatically generated TOC after switching to manual formatting. You’ll need to undo this action then reformat text manually or regenerate the automatic TOC from scratch.

TOC not updating properly: A corrupt field code can cause update errors. Select the entire TOC, delete it, then regenerate it from scratch to fix.


Adding and managing a table of contents doesn’t have to be difficult in Word 365. Use this guide to quickly build a TOC using headings, customize the formatting, and troubleshoot issues.

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