How to generate a TOC in Word.
October 4, 2006 7:42 AM   Subscribe

How can I automatically create a table of contents in MS Word? There's got to be a better way...

I have over a hundred pages of notes for my classes (first-year law school). They're outlined using MS Word's default bullet outline setup, with some case headings in bold and others in italics. I figured out (somewhat ham-handedly) how to set up a TOC, but it seems like I have to flag each line that I want to appear in the TOC manually. Is there any way to have the left-most tabbed line in the outline show up in a linked TOC?
posted by craven_morhead to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this helps, but...

Take your document - go to insert > index and tables. Click on the Table of Contents tab, and press 'ok'. Snything styled as a Header 1, 2 or 3 will appear in your TOC. I'm using Word X for Mac, but it should be the same for Windows as well. You should be able to update the TOC as well by going to 'update field' when you right click on the actual TOC.
posted by rmm at 8:27 AM on October 4, 2006

If you are using the built-in outline or heading styles, Word will generate the TOC for you.

It sounds like you aren't, though. There is no automagic way to generate the TOC, then, since Word doesn't know what the headings are.

You would have to define a heading style, and then apply that style to each line that you want in the TOC.

You might try selecting everything and changing the bullet style to one of the outline styles...not sure if that will work, but it might. (Get ready to undo, or better yet, try this on a copy of the file.)
posted by Futurehouse at 8:31 AM on October 4, 2006

Use Heading Levels styles in your content, heading levels will end up in an auto-generated TOC automatically.
posted by Merdryn at 8:31 AM on October 4, 2006

I should learn to preview before I post.

So I'll add more. Ten things every Microsoft Word user should know.
posted by Merdryn at 8:32 AM on October 4, 2006

Shortcut keys, by the way, for heading levels.

CTRL+ALT+1, heading one
CTRL+ALT+2, heading two
CTRL+ALT+3, heading three
CTRL+SHIFT+N, normal style

Stick to those when you're writing, as much as possible.
posted by Merdryn at 8:34 AM on October 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I can get the whole thing to be an outline and then generate a TOC by the outline levels, but I have to manually apply the heading levels, which doesn't seem to mesh with the auto-outlining feature. Can I somehow make each leftmost outline level a 1st level heading?
posted by craven_morhead at 9:18 AM on October 4, 2006

Try formatting the bulleted list itself. Go to the first level, and I think you can set it to be Heading Level 1.

For what it's worth, though, from a recent law school grad who also struggled with this, I will give you some advice: build a read-only working blank template with your outline set-up inside it, and a spot for the TOC, with a section break between the two and proper page numbering for both, then start each classes notes/outline by using the template and saving a copy. Otherwise, you'll be struggling with 3-5 of these each semester.
posted by MrZero at 9:35 AM on October 4, 2006

Oh, by the way, I could never get the automatic function to work satisfactorily myself. I ended up just building the TOC manually as I added to the outline all semester long.
posted by MrZero at 9:36 AM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: Hmmm. I think I like the bulleted formatting more than I do the TOC; I think I'll just keep trucking along with my bullets and then maybe smash together a TOC when I'm ready to start studying.

I've also got a separate set of notes that I've condensed from my class/reading notes, which is siginicantly shorter and easier to understand. I'll probably be doing most of my studying from that anyway.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:45 AM on October 4, 2006

You can link TOC settings to specifically defined styles. Might try editing the TOC settings to include the first level of ordered/numbered list. Don't see any reason why it shouldn't work - but it is definitely easier to set the TOC to use the heading styles.

Play with the settings for auto-generation of the TOC. There are some extra buttons to press for more advanced options, and then drop-down menus or some such for linking page styles to TOC levels.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:51 AM on October 4, 2006

You're really missing out if you don't take the time to learn how to use heading levels properly. They still work with Outline view, too. In fact, most of my writing is in Outline view.
posted by Merdryn at 10:24 AM on October 4, 2006

Not a solution to your problem: Have you considered moving to a different system to take your notes? There are dedicated outlining/note taking systems out there that will prevent this problem from happening in the future.
posted by unixrat at 10:29 AM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: Unixrat,

I've usually contented myself with Word, but then again, I've never taken copious amounts of notes on a laptop before either. I know the programs are out there; any suggestions?
posted by craven_morhead at 10:48 AM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: Oh, and if I would have thought of this sooner I would have launched into just organizing everything by headings, but at this point I have 12 documents totalling over 200 pages. I'll use the heading formatting next semester though.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:51 AM on October 4, 2006

If your headings are truly all in bold (and nothing else is), do this:
Go to Find and Replace (Ctrl H).
Put your cursor in Find but dont' type anything. Go to More: Formats and select "Fonts".
Choose "Bold."
Put your cursor in the Replace box. Go to More: Formats and choose "Style". In the Style menu, choose Header 1.
(If you don't like how Header 1 looks, that's another story--go to Microsoft Help for how to change its format in the Styles and Formatting section.)
Replace all.
(If things other than your headings are in bold, just click through and replace individually. Won't take long.)
You can do the same for the italicized headings.
Then insert a TOC based on styles. (Do this by going to Insert: Reference: Index & Tables: Table of Contents and then you may have to go to "options" and checkmark "Style" and then check "Header 1".

If you don't think that will work, here are the instructions for doing it manually, which really wouldn't take that long.

Go to View: Outline. Make sure the Outlining Toolbar is then showing. (If not, go to View: Toolbars: Outlining and put a checkmark next to "Outlining.") Back in the document, select the text of the first item you want in your table of contents. From the drop-down menu in the Outlining toolbar that should now be showing, select "Level One". If you want sublevels in your TOC, you can select "Level Two," etc. When you're done labeling every entry you want in your TOC, go to the spot in the document where you want the TOC to appear, and do Insert: Reference: Table of Contents.

Does that make sense? It is so hard to describe this kind of stuff!
posted by ubu at 2:12 PM on October 4, 2006

Response by poster: I think I've got it ubu, though I'd have to do it the manual route. I was hoping there was a little faster way to do it, but it doesn't look like there is.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:17 PM on October 4, 2006

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