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The table of contents in Word is a field code. If you press Alt+F9 on your keyboard, you can toggle this field code on and off. Because of this fact, if you manually make changes to your table of contents, or TOC for short, every time Word updates the field, you'll lose all of your modifications. This can be time consuming and just plain frustrating. So how do we get this field code to stop overwriting our changes? Well, you probably guessed it--styles.
Word uses built-in styles, appropriately named TOC styles, to format the TOC. Therefore modifying the TOC styles will tell Word to keep our formatting and our modifications. Let me show you how this works. Open the Styles pane. Now click on this first line that's starts with "DESERT TO SEA." This area is highlighted because it's a field. We want to indent our TOC on the left at two inches, so click and drag this bottom square in your indent to 2. And we also want our page numbers to be indented on the right.
First off, you can see you've a right- aligned tab. It looks like a backwards letter L. If you click and drag--drag it to 6 inches here--and let go, it will move your tab in. Let's also indent on the right by clicking and dragging this upside-down triangle to 6 as well. Now this is what we want our TOC Heading level 1 to look like. Now what we're doing here is creating a style by example. So this is our example, so all we have to do is come over to our Style pane, locate TOC1, click on the down arrow, and then choose Update TOC1 to Match Selection, and that's it.
Now when we update our table, it will stay in place and keep our formatting, because we changed the TOC style. If we had used Heading styles 1 through 3 in our TOC instead of simply using just one level, we could continue making modifications to the built-in TOC style 2 and the TOC style 3, and you could see both of those over here in our Style window. Modifying a TOC and getting the same results each time you update the table is simply a matter of modifying your built-in TOC styles.
By doing so, you'll avoid gray hair due to stress and hair loss from pulling it out in frustration.
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