The first time you create a long document in Word, you often also are faced with creating a table of contents. This process can come as a rude shock, depending on how you use Word. Generating a basic table of contents is extremely simple if you format your text using styles. But if you don’t know anything about styles, you’ll probably run into problems.
1. What’s a Style?
Microsoft defines a style as "formatting characteristics that are named and stored as a set." So what does that mean? With a style, you can apply a whole bunch of formatting all at once. For example, suppose you want your headings to be formatted as 12 point Arial bold. If you’re like a lot of folks, you highlight the text and choose Format|Font to change how your text looks.
2. Create a Style
When you use a style, rather than doing the Format|Font routine, you create a style that has all those attributes and give it a name. Then you apply the style to all your headings. If you change the style, all your headings change automatically, which can be a tremendous time saver. Plus, whether you realize it or not, every particle of text in a document is in fact formatted with a style: the Normal style.
To create a new style in Word XP and later, you use the Task Pane. In Word 2000 and earlier, you choose Format|Style. (The figure below shows the Task Pane.)
3. Built in Styles
Word comes with a number of built-in styles other than Normal. It has styles named Heading 1, Heading 2 and so forth up to Heading 7. Even if you normally don’t use styles, you want to learn about the heading styles to create a table of contents. To apply a built-in heading style, place your cursor in the text you want to change and choose the style name from the Style drop-down on the Formatting toolbar, which is the one to the left of the Font drop-down.
4. Time to Generate
After you have applied the built-in heading styles to your text, you can generate a table of contents. The concept is simple. Word takes the text in the paragraph that has the heading style, figures out what page it is on to create a table of contents entry.
So to make Word generate the table of contents, place your cursor at the point you want Word to insert it. Then in Word 2000 choose Insert | Index and Tables (in Word XP select Insert | Reference | Index and Tables) and click the Tables of Contents tab.
5. Change the Look
Click the Formats drop-down to change the appearance and click the Show Levels number to change the number of heading levels Word will use to generate the table of contents. Click OK and Word magically creates the table of contents.
6. More customization
If you don’t like any of the built-in table of contents looks, you can use your knowledge of styles to format your table of contents too. You’ll notice that each table of contents level is formatted with a style. You can change those styles, just like you can any other style. So you can create a table of contents that looks just the way you want.