How to Format a Table of Contents in Google Docs

Formatting a Google Docs table of contents is a breeze. Start by using the built-in heading styles throughout your document. Then, place your cursor where you want the table of contents to go, click on “Insert,” choose “Table of contents,” and pick a style. Voila! Your document now has an organized, clickable table of contents that will guide your readers through your text.

After completing this action, your Google Docs file will have a slick, clickable table of contents that automatically corresponds to the headings in your document. This neat addition will transform your document into a navigable and professional-looking piece, making it easier for your readers to jump to sections that interest them.


Are you looking to add a professional touch to your Google Docs document? A well-organized table of contents can do just that, guiding readers through your work with ease. It’s like giving them a roadmap to your thoughts, arguments, and findings. Why is this important, you ask? Imagine having to sift through a thick novel with no chapters listed at the beginning—frustrating, right? That’s exactly how someone might feel when navigating a lengthy Google Doc without a table of contents.

This small yet mighty feature is relevant to students who are submitting papers, professionals crafting reports, and anyone in between who aims to present a lengthy document. Google Docs makes creating a table of contents simple, but knowing the tips and tricks can save you time and give your document that polished edge. Stick around, and you’ll be a table of contents wizard in no time!

Related: How to Insert Checkbox in Google Docs

A Step by Step Tutorial

Before we dive into the step-by-step process, understand that what we’re about to do is going to make your document not just reader-friendly, but also dynamically linked. This means that clicking on a section in the table of contents will take the reader directly to that section in the document.

Use Heading Styles

Apply the heading styles to the sections in your document.

This is foundational because Google Docs generates a table of contents by looking for these styles. They signal to Google Docs what should be included. Make sure each section has a heading and that subheadings are consistently formatted.

Insert Table of Contents

Click “Insert,” then “Table of contents,” and choose your preferred style.

You will see different styles, some with links and some without. This is where you decide how you want your table of contents to look. Remember, the links are super handy for quick navigation.

Refresh to Update

Refresh the table of contents to update any changes made in your document.

Anytime you modify the headings or add new sections, right-click the table of contents and select “Update table of contents” to reflect those changes. This ensures that your table of contents is always up-to-date.


Creating a table of contents in Google Docs offers several benefits that can enhance your document.

Easy Navigation

Provides a clickable navigation tool within your document.

The most obvious benefit is that it makes your document way easier to navigate, especially if it’s a long read. Readers can simply click on the section they’re interested in and jump right to it.

Professional Look

Gives your document a more professional and organized appearance.

A table of contents automatically upscales the look of your document. It’s like telling your readers, “Hey, I’ve put effort into this, and it’s worth your time.”

Dynamic Updating

Automatically updates as you edit your document.

This feature saves you the headache of manually updating your table of contents every time you make changes. It’s a dynamic system that evolves with your document.


While there are many advantages to using a table of contents in Google Docs, there are a few drawbacks to consider as well.

Initial Setup Time

Requires time to set up properly.

Getting all your headings in place before you insert your table of contents can be a bit time-consuming, but it’s a necessary first step.

Limited Customization

Offers limited customization options.

Compared to some other word processing programs, Google Docs has fewer options for customizing how your table of contents looks. You may not get every fancy feature you’re dreaming of.

Manual Refreshing

Requires manual updating to reflect changes.

While the table of contents is dynamic, it doesn’t automatically refresh in real-time as you make changes. You have to tell it to update, which can be an extra step to remember.

Additional Information

There’s more to a Google Docs table of contents than meets the eye. For starters, getting familiar with the different heading levels can really enhance the utility and appearance of your table of contents. The heading levels correspond to the different sections and subsections in your document, and they’ll show up differently in your table of contents, which can help differentiate main topics from subtopics at a glance.

Another tip is to ensure that your document is free of any stray heading styles, as these will pop up in your table of contents whether you want them to or not. Be consistent with your styling to maintain a clean table of contents. If you need to customize the look of your table of contents beyond what Google Docs offers, consider using third-party add-ons or manually tweaking the fonts and spacing after you’ve inserted it.

Lastly, remember that the table of contents feature is not just for traditional text documents. It’s also useful for organizing digital portfolios, work proposals, instructional guides, and more. Think of it as an indispensable tool in your Google Docs toolbox.


  1. Use heading styles to format section titles in your document.
  2. Insert the table of contents from the “Insert” menu.
  3. Refresh the table of contents to update any changes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I customize the look of my table of contents?

You have limited customization options directly in Google Docs, but you can manually adjust the text and spacing after inserting the table of contents.

Will the table of contents update automatically?

No, you will need to manually refresh it to update any changes by right-clicking and selecting “Update table of contents.”

Can I use a table of contents in a shared document?

Absolutely! It works great in shared documents, allowing all collaborators to navigate the document easily.

Is there a limit to the number of headings I can have?

No, there is no limit, but for the sake of readability, it’s best to keep it organized and not overdo the number of headings.

What happens if I remove a heading after creating a table of contents?

If you remove a heading, you will need to update the table of contents to reflect this change.


Crafting a table of contents in Google Docs is a straightforward task that can significantly enhance the readability and professionalism of your document. While it does require a bit of setup and occasional updating, the ease of navigation and organized structure it provides is well worth the effort. Remember, any great written work deserves a great introduction, and that’s exactly what a table of contents offers: an inviting start to your readers’ journey through your document.

Whether you’re a student, a business professional, or someone working on a personal project, taking the time to format your table of contents is a small step that can make a big difference in how your document is received. So the next time you’re working on a Google Doc, take a moment to give your readers the gift of easy navigation. They’ll thank you for it!

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