How to create an auto-generated Table of Contents

You should never need to create a manual table of contents. Word can do this for you, but you must have used styles to format your text. If you do not already have one, create a document with a Heading 1, Heading 2 and Heading 3 style.

Insert Table of Contents

  1. Place your cursor where you want your Table of Contents inserted.
  2. Click References tab and find the Table of Contents group.
  3. Click Table of Contents. A menu displays.
  4. Click Automatic Table 1 or Automatic Table 2.

A table of contents is inserted at the location of your cursor showing each heading you formatted with a Heading1, Heading 2 or Heading 3 style.

View styles used in Table of Contents

  1. From your Home tab, Styles group, in the bottom right corner, click the angled arrow (the Dialog Box Launcher) to open your Styles Task Pane so that you can see which styles are applied.
  2. Still with your cursor in your TOC, click up and down each heading entry. You will see that each:
  • Heading 1 has the style TOC 1 applied.
  • Heading 2 has the style TOC 2 applied.
  • Heading 3 has the style TOC 3 applied.

Update TOC

When you change the headings in your document, these can be reflected through into your TOC automatically.

  1. Place your cursor in your table of contents. It will highlight and you will see a Content Control at the top.
  2. Click Update Table. The Update Table of Contents dialog displays.
  3. Click to select Update page numbers only or Update entire table.
  4. Click OK.

Modify TOC

  1. Place your cursor in your table of contents.
  2. Click References tab.
  3. Click, Table of Contents, Insert Table of Contents. The Table of Contents dialog box displays. From this page you can modify the look of your TOC.
  • Show page numbers (defaults to ticked).
  • Right align page numbers (defaults to ticked).
  • Show number of heading levels (defaults to 3 but you can change to show more or less heading levels).

Change TOC Options

  1. Click Options. The Table of Contents Options dialog box displays. You can see here the three heading levels that have been included by default. You can change this to any styles in your document.
  2. Click Cancel to exit.

Modify TOC Styles

  1. Click Modify. The Style dialog box displays. This is where you can change how each entry level in your TOC displays.
  2. Click Cancel to exit.


  1. Anonymous20/3/10

    It is too funny that "Modify" is via the [Insert]. Not very intutive and I think one of the reasons older users are frustrated. Right click on the TOC will still bring up the update dialog. Also too many choices when most of use have a coporate or school standard we have to follow.

  2. Anonymous10/4/13

    Thank you so much for all your help. I am so glad I found your site. I have to make a TOC and I really had no idea what it was or how to do it. Now, you have made it simple for me to complete my paper. Thanks.