Headings in Tables Not Showing in TOC

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated November 21, 2015)


When Peter applies a heading style to a paragraph in a document, that paragraph shows up in the Navigation pane and in any TOC he creates. If he applies a heading style to a paragraph inside a table, that paragraph does not show up in the Navigation pane and the TOC. Peter wonders why this occurs and if there is a way around it.

There are actually two separate items at play here: the inclusion of headings in (1) the TOC and (2) the Navigation pane. It is instructive to discuss each item in turn.

First, the inclusion of headings in the TOC. Headings within your document and within tables should automatically be included in a TOC if that TOC is based on heading styles and if those styles have been applied properly. The biggest potential "gotcha" here is that you may not apply the heading style to the entire paragraph of your heading.

When it comes to styles, the built-in heading styles are defined as Linked styles. This means that they can be applied to an entire paragraph or to any portion of a paragraph. What the style is actually applied to depends on what is selected when you apply the style. In other words, if you select (say) just a word or a phrase in your heading paragraph and then apply the style, it is only applied to that word or phrase, not to the entire paragraph. The problem is that only if the entire paragraph is formatted as a heading will it be included in the TOC.

The easiest way to make sure that you apply the Linked heading style to the entire paragraph is to NOT select any word or phrase in the heading paragraph. Instead, just place the insertion point in the paragraph and then apply the style. You could also, if desired, select the entire paragraph by triple-clicking within the paragraph text. Either way is fine; once you apply the heading style, it will apply to the entire paragraph.

Remember, as well, that if you make any updates to the heading formatting within the document, you'll need to update the TOC. Changes are not reflected automatically. (To update the TOC, right-click on it and choose Update Field.)

If headings in tables are still not showing up in your TOC, then it is possible that your document is exhibiting an early sign of corruption. You can verify this by creating a brand new document, putting some text in it (not text copied from the other document), adding a few tables and headings in it, and generating a TOC. The new document should show the headings from the table in the TOC just fine.

The second item is the inclusion of headings in the Navigation pane. The headings included in the Navigation pane are also only those in which the entire paragraph is formatted with the heading style. The biggest difference between what is included in the Navigation pane and in the TOC is that the Navigation pane does not include any headings in tables or in text boxes. This is a huge shortcoming to some Word users, but it is a shortcoming that has been in Word for years and years.

Unfortunately, there is no way around this shortcoming. The only possible suggestion is a workaround: Break your table into two and place the heading between the two tables as a regular paragraph. This obviously means more work in keeping multiple tables in sync with each other (relative to formatting issues, such as column widths), but it is the only known way to work around the shortcoming.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10146) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Specifying Colors in a Chart

Microsoft Chart is a handy program that allows you to display numbers and charts without the need for Excel. If you need ...

Discover More

Putting a Chart Legend On Its Own Page

Displaying information using charts in Excel is easy and there are a variety of chart styles to choose from. Integrated ...

Discover More

Avoiding Scientific Notation on File Imports

When importing information from a CSV file, you may get unintended results from time to time. Here's how to force Excel ...

Discover More

Comprehensive VBA Guide Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is the language used for writing macros in all Office programs. This complete guide shows both professionals and novices how to master VBA in order to customize the entire Office suite for their needs. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2010 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

Hyperlinks from Headings to the TOC

A table of contents is a great way to help organize lengthy documents. In a default TOC, you can use each entry as a ...

Discover More

Adding Headers or Footers to a TOC

Word is very flexible in allowing you to include all sorts of information in a table of contents. This includes ...

Discover More

TOC Heading Numbers Always Show in Bold

Linda's got a document that includes a table of contents that is based on headings in the document. When the headings ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 9 + 2?

2018-05-29 13:42:18


This article is too long and involved. Instead of long paragraphs, use bullet points and subheads. I cannot find any information in here! It is too much confusing information to read and a lot of it does not apply to what I am looking for.

2017-04-21 08:39:48


Thanks for the tip! At least now I can stop trying and move on with this sad state of affairs in Word. :(

2015-11-25 07:09:18

Paul Franklin Stregevsky

Very useful contribution, Ken. Thanks.

2015-11-24 20:10:34

Ken Endacott

Heading styles typically have spacing before and after the paragraph and when used in a table causes the row height to increase which can upset layout. A custom style based on the heading style but with no before and after spacing will overcome this. However, the custom headings will not ordinarily show up in the TOC.

In a similar manner, a custom heading style might be needed where headings are numbered but a TOC entry is also required for unnumbered headings such as Introduction or Appendix.

To include custom heading styles in the TOC, when creating the TOC click the Options button and untick "Outline levels".

The "Outline levels" option puts a u switch in the TOC field which causes only styles with outline numbering to be selected but inbuilt heading styles will be selected even if they do not have outline numbering. A custom style even if based on an inbuilt heading style will not be selected with the u switch active unless it is actually given outline numbering.

There are a couple of other ways of including custom styles in a TOC that I won't elaborate on here. TOC generation can get complex if you stray outside of a vanilla TOC using inbuilt heading styles and it is not helped by quirks in the system.

2015-11-23 09:14:09

Jennifer Thomas

Thanks for that Alan -- for years I have been trying to figure out why the Navigation bar won't show heading in tables ... now I know & can cross that off my mental treasure-hunt list :).

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.