create a table of contents in Word
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Creating the index in Word is a convenient feature that allows you to save a lot of time searching for the contents within an article or a medium-long length document. In practice, an index consists of creating a list of words or titles (or captions) followed by the relative page number to allow quick identification. In this article, we will explain how to create a table of contents in Word, the well-known word processor from Microsoft, for Windows and macOS (for now, neither the mobile nor the internet versions have the appropriate function).

How to create a table of contents in Word?

In Word, there is a clear terminological problem. What in editorial jargon is called “index.” In Word, it is called “summary.”

While for “index” on Word, we mean what editorially is called “analytical index.”

Word index

In this paragraph, we will see how to insert a title index on Word documents.

Fortunately, the procedure is automated, just:

  • Open the document you want to index with Word and make sure that all the chapter titles are formatted as titles;
  • Click on the “References” tab and then on the “Summary” item;
  • Press on “Automatic summary 1” or on “Automatic summary 2 “;

At this point, the summary will be created.

If you continue to work on the document, the page number may no longer match. In this case, you need to click on “Update summary.” The item is always found in the “References” tab next to the “Summary” item.

How to insert an index in Word?

We have seen that Word is not exactly clear in terms. What is indicated as an index on the program is the analytical index from an editorial point of view. The index is a list of all the most relevant items followed by the page number they appear.

To create an index in Microsoft Word, you need to start by selecting the item’s text within the document that we want to add as an item to the index. To select one or more words, just hold down the left mouse button while selecting the words of interest.

Then in the Word tab bar, which is located at the top above the command bar, in the “References” tab, you must click on the “Mark item” command.

When clicked, a menu will open in which, in the “Main item” section, you will have to check if the selected text portion is present, as well as being able to select different options:

If you want to select the single result of our selection, just click on “Mark “;

Otherwise, if you want to select any relevant result in our document that is the same as our selection, you will have to click on “Mark all.”

In the same window, you can choose whether to put the numbers in Bold or Italic.

If you want to apply a very specific rule to our document (for example, if we want to exclude the pages of the introduction from the analytical index), you can choose the bookmark option, through which you can select the number of pages that the index will have to take into account in the application of the commands seen previously.

In the options menu, we also find the cross-referenced item. This is very useful since it allows us to insert custom text in our reference index.

Following the creation of each element that we want to enter in the index, we can take the next step.

Let’s go to the end of our document and insert a page break using the appropriate command in the “Insert” tab, under “Pages.”

Create the custom index

The creation of the customized index takes place using the appropriate item next to the “Mark item” command used before, then through the “References” tab and the “Index” section.

After clicking on it, from the appropriate menu, we will be able to customize our index: we will be able to select both the type of format to be used and the alignment and type.

Suppose we choose the page number assignment option on the right. In that case, we will have the possibility to also use the formatting options of the fill character (it is the space between the text of the index entry and the corresponding page number, typically dots are used).

As soon as the customization is finished, click on “Ok,” and the Word index will be created.

If you want to add changes, just select the index by clicking the cursor and press the “Update index” button, which is located in the references tab, under insert index.

To delete an element from the index, just look for it in the text and delete it between the brackets.

Create an index of figures

This is an index where items that have a caption appear. To add a caption to an image or a table, click on it with the right mouse button and select the “Insert caption” item, or operate via the “References” tab and click on the appropriate “Insert caption” button.

Once this is done, we will customize both the text and the caption style via the menu. Following the creation of our captions, you can go to the “References” tab and click on the item “Insert index of figures.” The menu that opens will be similar to the one for creating indexes and will allow you to change the formatting. If we want to update it, just click on the update table button next to the command.

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