How to Update Table of Contents in Word: A Step-by-Step Guide

Updating a table of contents in Word is a breeze once you know where to look. If you’ve made changes to your document and the table of contents is no longer accurate, you simply need to refresh it. The process involves clicking on the table of contents and then hitting the update button. It’s that easy, and it’ll save you the hassle of manually editing the entire thing. Let’s get into the step-by-step tutorial to make sure you’re updating like a pro!

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Update Table of Contents in Word

Before jumping into the steps, it’s important to know that updating your table of contents can save you tons of time and keep your document looking professional. Whether you’ve added new sections or changed page numbers, these steps will help you align your table of contents with the rest of your document.

Step 1: Click on the Table of Contents

Click on the table of contents in your Word document to select it.
When you click on the table of contents, you’ll notice that it becomes highlighted. This indicates that you’ve selected it and are ready to proceed with the update.

Step 2: Click on the Update Table Button

On the References tab, click on the "Update Table" button that appears in the Table of Contents group.
Once you click "Update Table", a small dialog box appears, giving you the option to update only the page numbers or the entire table. Choose which update you need.

Step 3: Choose an Update Option

Select either "Update page numbers only" or "Update entire table", then click OK.
If you’ve only changed page numbers, the first option will suffice. However, if you’ve added new titles or rearranged sections, you’ll want to update the entire table to reflect these changes.

After completing these actions, your table of contents will be updated to mirror the changes you’ve made in the document. This ensures that your readers can navigate your document accurately. Remember that every time you make substantial changes to your document’s structure or page numbers, you’ll need to update the table of contents again.

Tips for Updating Table of Contents in Word

  • Always check that your headings are formatted correctly before updating the table of contents. This ensures accuracy in the update.
  • Use the "Styles" feature in Word to format headings which will be automatically included in the table of contents.
  • If your document is long, consider using a multi-level table of contents to make navigation easier.
  • Regularly update your table of contents as you work, so it doesn’t become a huge task at the end.
  • Remember that any manual changes made to the table of contents will be overwritten when you update it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I have manually edited the table of contents and then update it?

Any manual edits made to the table of contents will be lost when you update it. Word generates the table of contents based on your document’s heading styles, so make sure you use these styles to make changes.

Can I customize the look of my table of contents?

Yes, you can customize your table of contents by modifying the styles for each level under the ‘References’ tab and in the ‘Table of Contents’ menu.

Why isn’t my table of contents updating correctly?

Make sure that your document’s headings are properly formatted using Word’s styles. Incorrectly formatted headings can cause issues with the update.

Can I undo an update if I make a mistake?

Yes, you can undo an update by pressing Ctrl + Z on your keyboard or by clicking on the ‘Undo’ button in the Quick Access Toolbar.

How do I delete a table of contents?

Click on the table of contents to select it and then press the Delete key on your keyboard.


  1. Click on the table of contents to highlight it.
  2. Click on the "Update Table" button in the References tab.
  3. Choose to update page numbers only or the entire table, then click OK.


Updating a table of contents in Word doesn’t have to be a dreaded task. With the simple steps provided, you can ensure your document’s table of contents reflects the most recent changes with just a few clicks. Remember to utilize heading styles throughout your document for seamless updates, and don’t forget to regularly refresh the table of contents as you edit. Not only does this maintain the document’s professionalism, but it also improves navigation for your readers. If you’ve been manually updating your table of contents, it’s time to let go of the tedious task and embrace the efficiency Word offers. Happy updating!

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