If you’ve ever created any kind of lengthy Google Doc, then you know how annoying it can be to try to scroll through a long document to find a specific page. Trying to scroll through 36 weeks of lesson plans to find where I am was difficult. So this year, I linked a bunch of pages through hyperlinks as a table of contents, but then I found an even easier way. Google Docs will create a table of contents for you in just a few simple steps.
1. Create your document
First things first, go ahead and type up everything in your document. Worry about the formatting later because it’s probably going to change some anyway. Type everything out like you want it. Depending on the document you’re creating, you may want to use Ctrl+Enter (Cmd+Enter on Mac) to create a page break for each section.
2. Use paragraph styles for all your section headings
A lot of people will highlight each word or phrase and then select the font style, size, and other features. Instead of going through all of that, just use paragraph styles, and you can change everything in just a couple of clicks.
First, highlight the text you want to change, a heading or subheading. Next, click on the box that says “Normal Text” in the toolbar, and you’ll see several options. For a table of contents, you’re going to want to select one of the headings. You can change the look of these styles as well.
3. Insert a table of contents
Once you’ve changed the paragraph styles of the headings and subheadings, you’re going to add the table of contents. Go back up to the first page. Click Insert, then hover over table of contents at the bottom. There are two options: TOC with numbers and TOC with blue hyperlinks. Personally, I prefer the one with numbers because I think it looks cleaner.
Once you click your option, Docs will insert a table of contents using all of the headings you previously changed in paragraph styles. The best part is that it automatically inserts a link to the page, so now you can click the table of contents link and go directly to that section of your document
What if I change something?
If you change, add, or delete anything, Docs will update the table of contents for you. Click into the box that contains the table of contents, and you’ll see a refresh button appear in the top-left part of the box. Click the button, and it’s updated.
I’ve found that this is incredibly useful in my classroom. A lot of documents I create for my students has a lot of information on it, so I’ll insert a table of contents at the beginning to help them navigate the document when they need specific information. My syllabus, writing assignments, my lesson plans. I use it for everything. It’s just another little detail that keeps things organized and easy to find in your classroom.
Have you used a table of contents in documents? How have you found them useful? What other benefits have you seen from using them?