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Formatting & Updating MS Word TOCs

Friday, November 19th, 2004 by | Filed Under: MS Word

Formatting & Updating MS Word TOCs

Now that you have the basics of Word’s TOCs you’re probably wondering about appearance, updating and other uses.

Well, it’s good that you’re wondering since that’s what we’re going to cover today.

Let’s begin with the appearance.

You may not be thrilled with the font style or size in the TOC. Fortunately, this is absolutely no problem.

You can highlight all or part of the TOC and change the font type and size just like any other text in the document. (You can use the pull down lists on the Format toolbar—or—you can use the Format menu, Font choice—or—you can right-click on the TOC and choose Font from the pop up menu.)

You can also change things like bolding, italics, underlines, all caps, etc…

Basically, if you can think of a text formatting option that you want set, then it can pretty much be done to the highlighted TOC.

You can also set paragraph characteristics like indenting, bulleting, line spacing, etc…

The catch with setting these options is that they will be applied to all items in the TOC coming from the same heading style. In other words, an indent of 1 inch applied to a subsection coming from a style of heading 2 will then be applied to all entries in the TOC from style heading 2.

(I’m not too sure that last point is truly a “catch” since it’s really a great time saver—after all, I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t want the different sublevels displayed consistently and this feature keeps you from making changes line by line.)

OK, enough with the appearance stuff.

I bet by now you’re also considering editing issues.

I mean, if you make changes to the document that should be reflected in the TOC—do you have to make the changes to the TOC by hand or do you delete it and start all over again?

Happily, I can report that you don’t need to do either.

With just a few clicks you can get Word to do all the update for you.

To start your update, simply right click over the TOC.

From the pop up menu, you’re looking for the Update Field choice.


A small Update Table of Contents window will open where you need to make a choice before proceeding.


The first choice is to have Word update the page numbers only. This will keep all title entries in the TOC the same—even if you’ve made changes to titles in the document.

If you select the second option, Update entire table, then Word will update title names and page numbers.

When you’ve made your choice click OK.

I must add here that when I made font changes, then did a complete table update, the TOC would often revert back to the default font formatting it was first created with.

This annoyed me so I kept playing. I finally found that if I made the font changes, saved the file, then updated the complete table I didn’t lose the new font formatting. So give that a try if you’re having trouble with fonts reverting to their original state.

Finally, in the opening paragraph I mentioned “other uses” for the TOCso let’s touch on a little perk I ran into in Word 2000. (I couldn’t get this one to work in Word 97, sorry folks.)

My accidental discovery was a simple one: I clicked on a TOC entry to highlight it (I was trying to change the font)—imagine my surprise when the document jumped right to the location I had clicked on.

I found that in the newer version of Word, the TOC was linked to each location and could be used for quick navigation.


A quick side note—if clicking on the entry moves you into the document then I’m sure a few of you are asking how you’re supposed to make font changes if you can’t highlight. Never fear—you can still highlight. Try clicking to the left of the line you want to change. The entire line will be selected with just the single click.


Who knew there would be so much to Word’s TOCs?

Not me, but still, even if you choose to make changes to everything possible, it’s still faster than creating it yourself. (Not to mention the time just one edit and update will save!)

~ April

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