How to update your Table of Contents, Table of Figures or Table of Tables

15 Jul

This article explains how to update the Table of Contents (Contents Page) or Table of Figures or Table of Tables in your Word 2007, 2010 or 2013 document, which could be a report, dissertation, thesis, book or anything else. To find out how to create a Table of Contents in Word, please refer to this article. To find out how to create Tables of Figures and Tables of Tables, please refer to this article. We’ll refer to it as “Table of Contents” in this article, but this works for all kinds of contents listings.

Why would I want to update my Table of Contents?

If you create a Table of Contents for a document but then change the actual document, it’s likely that you will also change …

  • One or more headings (maybe swapping between Title Case and Sentence case or just changing the wording)
  • What page a heading falls on (and all the other headings after it) (maybe by adding text or just moving a heading to join its text on the next page)

Although a Table of Contents will update to match the actual contents “automatically”, you have to tell it to do so. This is how to update your Table of Contents so that it matches what your reader will find in the actual document.

How do I update my Table of Contents?

First of all, hover your cursor over the Table of Contents. It should be highlighted in light grey. Right click on any part of the grey area:

update contents page word

This will give you a menu – you need to select Update Field:

update contents page - update field

Once you’ve clicked on Update Field, you are given the choice of Update page numbers only or Update entire table:

update page numbers or all fields

Choose wisely – see below! Once you’ve chosen, click OK and your Table of Contents will update!

When to update page numbers only in your Table of Contents

You might want to Update page numbers only if …

  • You are absolutely sure that you have only changed what text / heading is on what page (but you could still Update entire table anyway, just to be certain)
  • You have manually amended your Table of Contents (e.g. one heading was too long to fit on a line and you shortened it) AND you know you haven’t changed any heading text in the actual document.

In the second case, when you’ve manually amended the contents page, if you choose Update entire table, it will over-ride your manual change and replace it with the exact text that is in your heading in the main document, and you’ll have to manually update it again.

Apart from the case where you have manually edited the Table of Contents, I STRONGLY SUGGEST that you always choose Update entire table.

When to update entire table in your Table of Contents

I highly recommend that you always use this option. In this way, your Table of Contents will match the text of your document.

This is especially important to remember if someone else has amended and edited your document.


In this article, we have learned how to update a Table of Contents, Table of Figures or Table of Tables. If you have enjoyed this article or found it useful, please share it using the sharing buttons below.

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use –  Word 2007, Word 2010 and Word 2013, 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

Other relevant posts on this blog:

How to create a contents page in Word

Tables of figures and tables of tables


Posted by on July 15, 2015 in New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing


Tags: , , , ,

7 responses to “How to update your Table of Contents, Table of Figures or Table of Tables

  1. Hanifa Namazzi

    September 25, 2015 at 9:43 am

    This has been so helpful for me


  2. Philip Clarke

    November 8, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    There’s no need to manually edit the Table of Contents to shorten an entry. If you put a style break into the heading (where it appears in the body of the document) by typing Ctrl-Alt-Enter, then only text before this will appear in the TOC. You would need to manually format the text after the style break, though, so that it matches the first half of the heading, but you only need to do this once, and it is honoured each time you update the TOC.



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