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Inserting an index into a Word document: a practical guide

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How to create and insert a table of contents in Word
Update the table of contents


Inserting an index into a Word document: a practical guide

Long text documents with many sections are usually provided with an index or table of contents that allows readers to get a quick idea of ​​the content and also indicates where to find each type of information..

Fortunately, in Word, you don't need to write the indexes manually by copying each of the rubrics or the page numbers, since the word processor offers a function to create links that facilitates the work. In this manual we explain step by step, with screenshots, how to use it.

  1. How to create and insert a table of contents in Word
  2. Update the table of contents

How to create and insert a table of contents in Word

Follow the steps below to create and insert a predefined index..


The steps in this guide are intended for Microsoft Office 2016, but the indexing feature is included in all recent versions of Word.

Step 1. Place the cursor at the point in the document where you want to insert the index..

Microsoft Word 2016 - Example of a text document with titles or headings.

Step 2. Go to the tab? References? (References) and then click on the? Table of contents? (Table of Contents).

The Microsoft Word default index can be inserted at any point in the text document.

Step 3. From the drop-down menu, choose a format type for the index. Word offers two formats for automatic indexes and one for manual indexes.

  • Automatic index. Select one of the two formats for inserting tables of contents if you want Word to create an index from the heading styles used in the text.
  • Manual index. Select the format? Manual table? (Manual Table) if you want to complete the index manually, regardless of the content of the document.

Creating an index in Word as an automatic table of contents only works if the text headings have been assigned heading styles or formats.

Word offers three options for creating an index: as an automatic table (red), as a manual table (green), or as a user-defined (yellow).

Another option is to insert a custom index by the user.

If you choose the option of a custom index, you can decide what content will appear and with what layout. You can also choose between an index without page numbers or choose your own characters to fill the table.

Then, Word will insert the index with the chosen format in the position you have marked with the cursor.

For the example, we have chosen the index format? Automatic table of contents 1 ?.

Update the table of contents

The steps to follow to update an automatically generated index are as follows:

Step 1. Select the index in your Word document.

Step 2. Click on "Update Table", which appears just above the index itself and on the ribbon.

Step 2. Choose if you want to update only the page numbers or the full index.

If you update the entire table of contents, any changes you have made, for example to titles, will also be saved.

Microsoft Word is not the only option for creating these types of text documents. There are many other programs with a full range of functions. We have analyzed the best alternatives to Microsoft Word and compared them in detail.