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How to create a table of contents in Microsoft Word

How to create a table of contents for several documents

  • If you have Word 2003, Microsoft has some great online training about Tables of Contents available for free. See
  • A Table of Contents is a field, not ordinary text. To see fields in your document, do Tools > Options > View. Set the Field Shading box to Always. This will show the ToC with a grey background. The grey doesn’t print, but it reminds you that this is a field, not ordinary text.
  • Tables of Contents don’t update automatically when you add a new heading to your document. This is because a ToC is a field. To update a Table of Contents, put your cursor in the Table of Contents and press F9 to update it. Or ctrl-a F9 to update all fields in the document.
  • When you update your Table of Contents, always choose to update the Entire Table.
  • Other tips about Tables of Contents

  • Whenever you see this box, always choose the second option and update the entire table.
  • To ensure that Word always updates the Table of Contents when you print your document, do Tools > Options > Print. Tick the Update Fields box.
  • The Table of Contents will pick up whatever pagination appears in your document. To control page numbers, see How to control the page numbering in a Word document at the Word MVP FAQ site
  • If the tabs in your Table of Contents seem to have gone crazy, see Whenever I update my Table of Contents it acquires unwanted tabs, and I have to press Ctrl+Q to get rid of them at the Word MVP FAQ site
  • To make changes to your Table of Contents, click within the ToC, or use the arrow keys to get within it. Then re-do Step 2. This will edit your existing Table of Contents, rather than creating a new one.
  • By default, all versions of Word make the page number in a Table of Contents a hyperlink to the heading within the document. But Word 2000, by default, makes each entry in the ToC a hyperlink. This can easily drive you crazy.To solve the problem, select the whole of the Table of Contents (selecting a few paragraphs either side is OK). Do Shift-F9. You’ll see the field codes exposed, and they’ll look something like { TOC \o “1-3” \h \z }. Edit these codes to remove the \h. Press F9 again to re-generate the ToC and hide the field codes. (By the way, you can’t type the curly brackets yourself. If won’t work. If you want to type out the field codes manually, use ctrl-F9 to create the curly brackets.)

Note: It is also possible to create a Table of Contents by marking each individual paragraph that you want to appear in the ToC. Then, you tell Word to use your marked paragraphs to create the ToC. You do this using { TC } fields. It seems to me that the chance of human error in accidentally omitting to mark a heading is large. I wouldn’t risk it. But if you’re interested, look at Word’s help under TC.


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