Word 2007: Create an automatic Table of Contents

July 23, 2010

It’s very easy to set up an automatic Table of Contents (TOC) in Word 2007 — the only ‘rule’ is that you must use styles for your headings. (Word 2003 instructions)

You can either use Word’s built-in Heading styles or create your own. To get a hierarchical TOC, make sure you also use hierarchical heading styles for each topic’s main heading, subheading, and sub-subheadings (e.g. Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3).

Step 1: Set up your document

You need to use hierarchical heading styles for your headings and subheadings.

  1. Start a new document.
  2. Press Enter a few times to create some space for the TOC.
  3. Add some headings and some text.
  4. Apply Word’s default Heading 1, 2, and 3 styles to the headings.

Step 2: Insert a default Table of Contents

  1. Click in the empty space you created at the beginning of the document.
  2. Go to the References tab > Table of Contents group.
  3. Click the Table of Contents button.
  4. Select one of Word’s built-in TOCs from the list.
  5. Your Table of Contents is inserted.

Step 3: Update the TOC

After you add more content to the document or shift content around, you’ll need to update the TOC to reflect the revised page numbering and the new or deleted headings. There are several methods you can use to update the TOC — choose the one that best suits the way you work:

  • Click anywhere in the TOC, then press F9.
  • Go to the References tab > Table of Contents group, then click Update Table.
  • Click in the built-in TOC, then click Update Table (this only works for built-in TOCs, not a TOC you create yourself).

No matter which method you use, you’ll be asked if you want to update just the page numbers only or the entire table. The safest option is Entire Table — this updates both the page numbers AND adds or removes headings to reflect the current headings used.


Insert your own TOC

You might not like the default TOCs that Word provides, in which case you can create your own using various settings. For example, you might want to show one, two or four heading levels, instead of the default three; you might not want dots for the tab leader; you might not want the page numbers over on the right, etc. To take advantage of these settings, you’ll need to insert your own TOC.

  1. Click in the empty space you created at the beginning of the document.
  2. Go to the References tab > Table of Contents group.
  3. Click the Table of Contents button.
  4. Click Insert Table of Contents.
  5. Change the settings on the Table of Contents window to suit your style, then click OK.

Modify the TOC styles

If you don’t like the fonts used in the TOC, or how the heading levels are indented,  you’ll need to modify the styles. You can either do this through the Styles pane or from the Table of Contents settings (as I describe below).

  1. Click anywhere in the TOC, then go to the References tab > Table of Contents group again.
  2. Click the Table of Contents button, then click Insert Table of Contents again.
  3. Click the Modify button to change the ‘look and feel’ of the TOC.
  4. Select the TOC style (e.g. TOC 1, TOC 2 etc.), then click Modify to change that style’s font, tab indentation, etc.
  5. Make the changes to the style, then click OK.
  6. Repeat Steps 4 and 5 for each of the other TOC levels you want to change.
  7. When you have finished changing the appearance of each TOC level, click OK.
  8. You will be asked if you want to replace the existing TOC — click OK to do so.

Add or remove a level from the TOC

You might have appendices or other elements in your document that you want to include in the TOC, but they use their own heading styles, not the standard ones. These steps show you how to add or remove a style from the default list of styles used for the automatic TOC.

  1. Click anywhere in the TOC, then go to the References tab > Table of Contents group again.
  2. Click the Table of Contents button, then click Insert Table of Contents again.
  3. Click the Options button to specify other styles to use to create the auto TOC and the hierarchical level appearance they will take, or to remove styles from the TOC.
  4. You’ll notice that Headings 1, 2, and 3 already have 1, 2, and 3 next to them if you’ve kept the default setting of three levels.

    • To add another style to the TOC, find the style in the list, then type 1, 2, or 3 in its TOC Level text box (use 1 for a TOC 1 listing, 2 for a TOC 2 listing, 3 for a TOC 3 listing).
    • To remove a style from the TOC, find the style in the list, then delete the number from its TOC Level text box. Don’t press the spacebar — just delete the number.
  5. Click OK.
  6. You will be asked if you want to replace the existing TOC — click OK to do so.

See also:

[Links last checked July 2010]


  1. I’m getting an “Error 404 – Not Found” for the Word 2003 instructions.

  2. […] […]      by Word 2007: Create an automatic Table of Contents « CyberText Newsletter July 23, 2010 at 5:34 […]

  3. Link fixed now — thanks for letting me know, Craig.

  4. Many thanks, Rhonda. Have yet to see Word 2007. Still using Word 2003.

  5. Thanks, I have done it perfectly. Victor

  6. […] its Outline Level paragraph setting set to Level 1 so that it gets picked up and displayed in the automatic Table of Contents. However, these appendices do not use a standard Heading 1 to 9 style so are not listed in the […]

  7. How do I do this for Word 2010? Specifically, remove the Title from the Table of Contents? The frustrating this is I accidentally stumbled upon it but now I can’t find it again.


  8. Hi Debbie

    I presume you mean removing the ‘Content’ or ‘Table of Contents’ heading from one of the automatic TOC styles provided by Word 2007/2010? If so, there are two options:

    • Option 1: Insert your own TOC and don’t use one of the in-built ones (see instructions above).
    • Option 2: Insert one of Word’s default TOCs, then delete the ‘Table of Contents’ title and assign one of your body paragraph styles to the paragraph where the heading was. Be careful — if you delete the paragraph mark after the title, the first TOC entry will take on the heading style; so just delete the letters of the heading.

  9. didnt work for me.

  10. Hello Debbie

    I have in the body of my document (2007) two line headings:

    Section Three
    Proposal Evaluation Criteria

    I want these on one line in the TOC :

    Section Three Proposal Evaluation Criteria……….25

    Have you any idea how to do this? I’ve looked on the net, tried a soft return as suggested in a few spots but nothing happens. I’ve looked at the field codes such as I can find but nothing seems to help.

    any suggestions will be appreciated.

  11. Hi Larry

    The soft return option worked for me in both Word 2003 and Word 2007. After inserting the soft return (Shift+Enter) to separate the two parts of the heading, I updated the TOC, selecting the Update entire table option. It all displayed on the one line.

    I also added some spaces after ‘Section Three’ before entering the soft return. These spaces weren’t essential, but they added a bit of visual space between the ‘Section Three’ bit and its title.


  12. […] Larry had a problem. He had a heading on two lines, and he wanted the heading to display on a single line in the Table of Contents (TOC). […]

  13. I only can find Heading 1 and 2, how do i pull out heading 3 and 4?

  14. On the TOC dialog box, select ‘4’ for Show Levels.

    Also, click Options on the TOC dialog box, and make sure ‘3’ is next to Heading 3 and ‘4’ is next to Heading 4.

    You may also need to fiddle with the TOC 3 and TOC 4 styles to format them as you want them.


  15. Can Word 2007 show more than the nine levels in the automatic TOC? I am writing a document that will require about 15. Thanks for all your help. Much appreciated.

  16. As far as I know there are only 9 heading styles and levels. You can show any styled text in a TOC and apply a level to it, even if it’s not an ‘official’ heading.

    When you insert a new TOC, click the Options button and type level numbers in the boxes next to the styles you want to include in the TOC (e.g. I would type 1 next to ‘Appendix H1’ to include the Appendix Heading 1 as a first level heading in the TOC). I don’t believe you can go lower than 9 levels.

    I won’t get into WHY you need 15 levels, or why all of those levels need to be in the TOC! I deal with some very long (400 pages is common) and complex documents and the authors rarely go to Level 6 (typically Heading 4 is the lowest most docs go) and we only show levels 1 to 3 in the TOC.

  17. thanks
    then how can i do the same in open office

  18. Sorry Dennis — I can’t help as I’ve never used Open Office.


  19. Trying to get a setup a table of contents, however, the tool is recognizing parts of the document as items to be put into the table of contents without me having specified/selected them as headings to go into the table of contents. Any ideas for getting around this? It’s driving me nuts. Thanks in advance!

  20. Hi Adam

    From your description it sounds like some text and/or images are ending up in your TOC when they shouldn’t be. If that’s the case, then the incorrect style is applied to those pieces of text/images.

    See this blog post: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2008/09/30/pictures-in-a-word-table-of-contents/

    And if you want to see the styles assigned to the paragraphs/images: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/word-display-styles-for-each-paragraph/


  21. Thanks Rhonda, a bunch of the text had varying styles which was causing my headaches. Now that I’ve got that cleared up, I’ve stumbled upon my next challenge: how do I get a horizontal line as my header with the page number above that, left justified PLUS a lines worth of space between the horizontal line header and the text…? I’ve got the page number above the horizontal line header, however, when I move the header up, the text comes with it. I want the text to stay put at its default alignment and move only the header and page number further up. Any ideas? Thanks!

  22. Hi Adam

    The quickest way to get header elements to align as you want them and to stay put (with paras above/below and underlines) is to use a table. If you have three elements — left, center, and right — then use a one row/three-column table; two elements, then a single row/two-column table, etc.

    I typically make the table borderless except where I want the dividing line to go (usually the bottom border only). An empty paragraph is automatically inserted below a table when you insert it, so you can change it’s spacing too to give you that bit of white space between the header and the body content.


  23. OK, I’ve got all that figured out. Back to the table of contents: some of the headings are long and they not only wrap onto the next line (fine) but they butt up against the page number. I’d like to have the text wrap onto the next one or two words earlier, is that possible? You’ve been a great help, thanks!

  24. Hi Adam

    Funny you should ask… here’s your answer: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/word-text-butting-up-against-page-numbers-in-a-toc/


  25. Hi Rhonda,

    I am stumped. I am trying to create either an alphabetical TOC or an index that meets the following criteria:

    It automatically updates and retains formatting to include the Heading 1 title, followed by the Heading 1 numbering system, followed by the page number, all evenly spaced on one line for each occurence of Heading 1.

    For example:

    Applicable Law 25.0 7
    Article Heading 44.0 10
    Assignment 30.0 8

    In the document, Heading 1 is displayed as “25.0 Applicable Law”.

    Any assistance with this would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks in advance.


  26. I’m not sure you can do this. I played around a bit with TC field codes, but couldn’t get a TOC to generate, let alone one with the outline numbering AFTER the heading and the headings in alpha order.

    You should be able to get an alphabetical index that has the heading and the page number using the Mark Index Entry options (you have to add these manually for each entry). But I doubt you can get the section number to display as well, let alone reversed.

    Try asking this on the Microsoft Answers forums for Office/Word (http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/word). Someone there may have a macro or a solution for you. If you do get an answer, post the link to it hereto share it with others having the same issue.


  27. Hello,

    Does anyone have any idea how to place the page number of a TOC in front of Chapter name?

    To be more precisely:

    the default style of TOC is:
    Chapter name……..page number

    but I’m interested if is any way to show it like this:
    page number……..Chapter name

    Thank you in advance.


  28. I accidently deleted the built in automated Table of Contents. How can I create new ones?

  29. Hi Elaine

    Follow Steps 1 and 2 above, or, to customize your own, follow the ‘Insert your own TOC’ steps under ‘Extras’. That should do it.


  30. Debbie, Thank you for being such a helpful resource. My problem is I have two line headings in the body of the document:
    Chapter 3
    The Wages of War
    In the TOC I have:
    Chapter 3………………20
    The Wages of War…..20
    I would like to have:
    Chapter 3
    The Wages of War…..20
    ie no page number for Chapter 3. How do I do this? Thanks.

  31. Hi Lou

    I’m not sure you can do this. A soft line break between the Chapter number part and the Chapter title part in the body of the document puts them both on the same line, so short of doing it manually, I’m out of ideas.


  32. I wrote my first chapter and had no problem creating the auto TOC. Now I want to go on to chapter 2, but when I use the same steps to add to my TOC – my original TOC is deleted and replaced with the new information. Suggestions? What am I doing wrong.

  33. Hi Barb

    Based on your comment, I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to do — have a single TOC for the doc (the default) or have a separate TOC for each section (chapter)?

    You can only have one ‘standard’ TOC in a document, so what should have happened is that the Chapter 2 headings should have been added to the Chapter 1 headings when the TOC was replace/regenerated, thus creating a single TOC.

    However, if you want a TOC for each section (chapter), you have to create it using bookmarks. See this post for an explanation: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/word-adding-a-toc-for-a-section/.


  34. Excellent tutorial. Please keep up. May God bless you and add you more

  35. I have had myy headings formatted, but only those formatted as heading 1 appears. I have gone thru doing the style selection again, but it still doesnt show…Help!!

  36. Hi Ene

    Take a look at the last section in the article above — ‘Add or remove a level from the TOC’. That should help.


  37. Thanks its a new idea to me.

  38. the page number is not updating. Ive got different page orientations. how?

  39. Hi JC

    Page orientations shouldn’t make any difference. Have you updated the table of contents, each time saying ‘Update entire table’? There are several ways to do this, including pressing F9 or right-clicking and selecting ‘Update Fields’, but if they don’t work, try going to the Reference tab, and clicking Update Table in the Table of Contents group — that one usually works for me if the other two methods don’t.

    Also, see this Microsoft article about page numbers not updating (i.e. you get the same page number — e.g. page 2 — listed throughout the TOC): http://support.microsoft.com/kb/912940/en-us


  40. Thanks a lot!!

  41. Thanks a lot :)

  42. I’m not using the default Heading x styles because if someone else opens the doc I don’t want whatever default styles they’ve changed to override the format of the document. (Assume any author can update their chapter or section and future authors can make changes as they’re needed.)

    *I’d like to know: what links or ties a document paragraph style to a TOC style? And where do I change that?*

    It does not appear to be the document paragraph’s outline level as I have paragraphs with outline level 2 and 5 both creating TOC 3.

    I know Office/Word creators have tried to make Word be as encompassing as possible, but I’d like to see “reveal formatting” tell me what TOC paragraph style will be created/generated from that document paragraph style, and be able to change it.

  43. Hi Phil

    First, you should be able to prevent another user’s styles from overriding yours by using a template that ISN’T the default normal.dotx, AND by turning off ‘Automatically update styles’ under Developer tab > Document Template button.

    Second, the styles that Word uses to create a TOC are all listed on the ‘Table of Contents Options’ window — you can add or remove these styles to suit. See the last section in the blog post above on ‘Add or remove a level from a TOC’. As far as I know, that’s the only place you can see this information in Word.


  44. Is there any way to copy and paste table or figure in the word and then word give each table or figure number like fig (1) table (1) etc ?
    thank you

  45. Hi Qusay

    Take a look at this blog post: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2008/04/27/word-2003-automated-tables-of-figures/


  46. Hi Rhonda,

    Its nice to see you reply to everyone’s questions and doubts. I was wondering if you could help me out.

    I want to create an automatic table of contents which resembles a 3 column table formatting having three headings, Chapter number, Title and Page No., this is required as per given out college thesis format.

    I know how to create an automatic table of contents. I am aware that inserting a custom table of contents would give me title (or headings along with their chapter numbers if created with a multi-level list). The problem is the format for text entry is like this:

    Chapter 1


    1.1 General

    as you can see, Introduction has no prefixed number while General does.

    If I create an automatic table of contents, I would get something like this:

    ABSTRACT iii
    1.1 GENERAL 1
    1.1.1 Temp 1

    What I need is something like this:

    Table of Contents

    Chapter No. Title Page No.

    ABSTRACT iii

    1.1 GENERAL 1
    1.1.1 Temp 1

    2 Review 2

    I have tried to enter the table of contents in a table but it loses a bit of formatting, I can do the heading in a table but how do I get the chapter numbers 1, 2 to appear? Or would it be easier to make a 3 column TOC and enter all data manually?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!


  47. Hi Chirag

    It looks as though your ‘Introduction’ isn’t set as a Heading level with outline numbering — if t was, it would pick up the number. It’s possible that you can do what you want, but without looking at the document and its structure, I’d only be guessing as to how to go about it.

    If the TOC isn’t huge (i.e. no more than a page or two), then doing it manually in a borderless table may be the way to go — you could spend days trying to figure out a solution that may not exist, so you have to look at the time/effort you put into this as versus doing it manually. Of course, the downside of a manual TOC is that if you add/delete any contents that forces headings etc. onto new pages, the TOC won’t reflect those changes.

    However, you might be able to use a workaround using cross references. See the ‘insert an automated section number’ section in this blog post: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/word-assigning-automated-cross-references/. For the number column, choose ‘Heading number (no context)’; for the title column, choose ‘Heading’; and choose ‘Page number’ for the page number column. That way you could automatically update the TOC if content was added/deleted.


  48. Hi Rhonda,

    Thanks for your reply. Yes you are right, I have spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to do this. I think that I will do it manually now. I will try your method on another document as the deadline for the current document is nearing. Thank you.


  49. What about a table of contents using tabs…?? I mean manual table of contents

  50. Unless it’s a very short document or a document that will NEVER be updated, I’d strongly advise against a manual TOC. The maintenance becomes a nightmare. Much better to use heading styles (Word has them built in), and let Word create your TOC from them.

  51. Hi Rhonda,
    How do you update a pre-formatted TOC that has hyperlinks? Also, the TOC is highlighted in gray, how is that highlighiting removed?

  52. Hi Teresa

    See ‘Step 3: Update the TOC’ in the details above for various methods for updating a TOC.

    As far as the grey shading goes, that means the field shading is turned on, either ‘Always’ or ‘When selected’. The TOC is a field, and so if field shading is turned on, it will get a grey background. The only way you can remove it is to turn field shading to ‘Never’. BUT that will turn off ALL field shading in the document (all auto numbered table captions, all cross-automated references, the TOC etc.). My advice is to leave field shading on — it is a visual reminder that it’s a field and shouldn’t be modified as you would modify ordinary text. It never prints with the shading — only you ever see it. If you do want to turn it off, follow the steps here: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/04/19/word-show-those-fields/


  53. Thank you, Rhonda! The problem is now corrected!

  54. i have created some word templates which have fields in them if I use protect forms in order to prevent users deleting the fields then external macros that update the fields on opening the templates can not access the fields and update them (based on information in database) as they are protected.

    is there a way to detect a field about to be deleted by a user and prevent deletion in a similar manner to that when forms protection is enabled but will allow external macros to update field contents.

    i have being trying to crack this for some time without success, I will be surprised if this can be done



  55. Hi John

    I suggest you ask your question in the Microsoft Office Community forum for the version of Word you are using. Start here: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office


  56. Thanks for responding I will do

  57. Wow! Thanks for sharing practical way of creating the content table, the lesson has enabled me to come up with automatic table which i did not have an idea. Keep it up at least for now
    i have moved from manual to automatic.

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