Word 2007: Table of Contents won’t update

September 14, 2010

Kellie’s problem:

I have updated the text in my document’s headings in response to reviewer comments, yet when I select all, then press F9 to update the Table of Contents page, the page numbers update but not the titles. Same for the List of Tables and List of Figures — new captions are not added to these lists either. So I have old heading titles in the Table of Contents, missing captions for new tables and figures, etc. Please help.

Kellie is using Word 2007, and sometimes the F9 trick (or right-click and Update Fields) just doesn’t update these elements, especially with the template she and I both use (the template has a special update fields macro in it and I think a conflict occurs between that and the standard F9 update fields action).

Here’s how to get these elements to update properly in Word 2007 (Hint: If you have Track Changes turned on, turn it off before updating these tables):

Update the Table of Contents

  1. Place your cursor anywhere in the table of contents (1 in the screen shot below).
  2. Go to the References tab (2) > Table of Contents group (3).
  3. Click the Update Table button (4).
  4. When asked about what you want to update, select Update entire table, then click OK.

Update a table of figures or table of tables

  1. Place your cursor anywhere in the table of figures (1 in the screen shot below). Note: You’ll have to do each table separately if you have a table of figures and a table of tables.
  2. Go to the References tab (2) > Captions group (3).
  3. Click the Update Table button (4).
  4. When asked about what you want to update, select Update entire table, then click OK.
  5. Repeat for any other table like this one.

See also:

[Links last checked March 2012]


  1. Makes no sense — you’re telling us to update the table if the table cant update.

  2. Hi Gregory

    Yes, it seems silly doesn’t it? But the situation with this particular template was that selecting the entire document then pressing F9 didn’t work. The template’s author (not me) had turned off the F9 functionality somehow with the special ‘update fields’ macro he had used for a dialog box he created.

    The only way to update the TOC, Lists of Tables and Figures *in that template* was to do it via the buttons on the ribbon (as above). He hadn’t turned that functionality off — in fact, it was the method he instructed us to use when we wanted to update these elements. However, some people were very familiar with Ctrl+A then F9 to update the entire document — it was this method that didn’t work in this situation.


  3. I am having trouble with my TOC. When I try to update it, Word 2007, it tries to update the entire thing and won’t let me select updating only the pages. The dialog box used to come up, but now it doesn’t even give me the option. I need to just update the page numbers.

    Also, how can I set page numbers for updating in a TOC? It says “Error, bookmark not defined” for a few of the headings. Not sure how to set these without them changing the look of the headings in the document. Thank you.

  4. I’m not sure why it won’t update properly. Which method are you using to update it: press F9? right-click then select ‘Update’? or References tab > Table of Contents group > Update Table? Try each of them and see if there’s any difference. Oh, and you should have your cursor just sitting anywhere inside the TOC when you update it — you don’t need to select the TOC to update it.

    As far as the Error messages go, you’ve either removed headings or shifted them and for some reason the TOC isn’t recognizing that. Normally, you’d select ‘Update Entire Table’ and it should fix it. But if it doesn’t, the quickest way to get that fixed is to reinsert the TOC from the References tab > Table of Contents group > Insert Table of Contents.


  5. I created a TOC but wasn’t happy with it. I got a full TOC minus subtitles in last chapter. I redid the headings but now all I get is a partial TOC for Chapter 7only, There are 7 Chapters in total. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  6. Hi Pat

    Without seeing the doc, I can only guess at what’s happening here. Make sure you are using the Heading 1, 2, 3 etc. styles for your headings. Then make sure that those heading styles are set to 1, 2, 3 respectively in the ‘Options’ section on the insert TOC dialog box (there’s info on this in this blog post on creating an automatic TOC: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/word-2007-create-an-automatic-table-of-contents/).


  7. Every update of WORD from 2003 makes a table process that used to be easy a nightmare! I use custom styles to avoid Calibri, etc. in WORD 2010. I actually went in and manually added field codes, but when I update the table it reverts to something I didn’t select. It doesn’t even maintain my option selections long enough to update the table after I just rechose the correct custom styles and unmarked the levels for the built-in styles. I’d like to somehow fix the TOC that worked once and looks like I want it (except it won’t update). I tried your suggestion, by the way. It doesn’t work for my custom template either.

  8. […] just won’t update March 28, 2012 I’ve had several documents recently where the List of Tables and/or List of Figures just won’t update to list all tables/figures in the […]

  9. Maybe it doesn’t make sense, but it works. You haven’t noticed that Word does crazy things more and more? It’s actually getting *less* stable over time.

  10. When right hand click on TOC the update field is not accessible. When following above instructions, clicking on update table does not bring up any dialog? Any solution?

  11. Hi Biljana

    Sometimes you aren’t asked about updating the pages/entire table. I’ve never figured out the circumstances as to why you’re asked sometimes and not others.

    Also, this technique ONLY works if you’ve inserted an automatic TOC etc. If you’ve manually entered it (that is, typed the headings and page numbers yourself), then it’s not a field and this technique won’t work. Instructions for adding an automated TOC are here: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/word-2007-create-an-automatic-table-of-contents/


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