This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.
Today we’re going to look at how to create a contents page or contents list in Word. I am breaking this series up into small pieces, so we have already learned about setting up headings and then numbering them.
You will use this to save yourself time and ensure consistency when you’re setting up a large document and you want it to have a contents page. You can do it manually, but it is FAR easier to do it this way.
Now, for the purposes of making a more interesting contents page, I’ve popped each heading onto a separate page (and we all know how to do that, don’t we!)
So the text is all set up, with headings that are also numbered, and each heading is on a separate page. Now we’re going to put our cursor at the beginning of the document, and make sure we’re in the References tab.
You can see the Table of Contents button highlighted – click on that and have a look at the box that comes up:
Here we have lots of different styles of contents page to choose between. Either double click on the one you want – I clicked on the first one – or click once to highlight it and then Insert Table of Contents. And look what appears! Magic!
You can see lots of lovely headings and their numbers, all laid out nice and clearly (imagine if this was a PhD or another long document with lots of sub-headings.
But what happens if we need to change something in the text? Look – there’s a problem with the document here …
I can see that I should have typed “How Much it Costs” for section 3, and it’s on page 8 along with Section 2, when it should be on page 9. Oh no!
So let’s go to page 8, move the heading onto page 9 and amend the heading itself:
Great – so now the text is sorted out and the heading is on page 9, where it should be. How do we update the Table of Contents to reflect this change?
Go back to the Table of Contents and highlight it (it all comes up in blue if you click on one bit of it). Left click and you should find it puts everything in grey and gives you a little tab at the top like this.
You can use this to change all sorts of attributes on the contents page, or you can just click on Update Field from here or left click when you have the contents list in blue in the last step, and you get this choice:
I always choose Update entire table, just in case. And with one click, it’s updated the Contents list to match the document.
So, no more fiddling around doing a contents page by hand. As long as you set up your headers, you can insert and update your Contents page however you want and whenever you want – so much easier!
This is why, if you use my proofreading services, I will put a note on your contents page reminding you to update it at the last minute, to take into account any changes we might have made to your pagination or heading numberings. Update the Contents page at the very last stage, and it’ll be completely accurate and up to date.
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Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!
Find all the short cuts here …