Ok, so hands up if you know how to create a contents page in Microsoft Word. No, I don’t mean if you know how to type one, I mean the automated one that will save you bags of time at the end of typing up a huge operations manual, where you can have an automated contents page in about 30 seconds. What do you mean you didn’t know you could do that?? Well you’re not the first person to tell me that lately…so here’s how to do it…

The basis of constructing your Contents Page in Microsoft Word is the ‘Headings’ feature which is found on the main home tab of the ribbon. In order for Word to know which text or sections to use for the contents page, you need to apply heading styles to the relevant parts of your document. So for example, we have a manual that has Chapters and also subheadings in some chapters.

We start by applying heading styles to the chapter and sub-heading text. Do the following:

  1. Highlight the relevant text
  2. For Heading 1, press Ctrl+Alt+1 or for Heading 2 press Ctrl+Alt+2 (Alternatively, you can click on the heading style in the ribbon under ‘styles‘)
  3. Do this throughout your document for all headings

Next, place your cursor at the point that you want your table of contents to appear.

  1. On the ribbon select the tab named ‘References
  2. On the left hand side you will see ‘Table of Contents‘ button. Here you can select from a number of different styles. Choose the style that you prefer
  3. If you want to edit the format of your table before inserting it, you can do so by clicking ‘Insert table’ from the drop down box on the ‘Table of Contents’ button. You’ll then see a box where you can choose some options, such as whether or not show page numbers.
  4. Click ok and hey presto! Your contents table appears.

Your new, fancy, table of contents is finished. But what happens if somebody makes changes to the document? The pages numbers will all be out of sync won’t they? Of course not. All you need to do is update the table, which can can be done in two ways:

  1. Choose ‘update table‘ which is located under the table of contents group from the references tab or
  2. Right click on the table itself and select the ‘update field’ button from the resulting menu


Either way, you’ll then be presented with a dialogue box as above, where you can choose to update just the page numbers or the entire table. Choose your selection and click ‘ok’. That’s all there is to it!

Steph Middleton is owner of Outhouse and an experienced VA. She spends a lot of her time working with clients & other virtual assistants helping them to streamline their business procedures to make their working day faster and more efficient.