Learning Paths

Table of Contents in Adobe InDesign

Having a table of contents is a must in any book, magazine or any form of large publication.  A table of contents displays the structure of the publication helps the reader navigate it’s contents.  By displaying significant sections of a publication along with its page number, will link the reader to the information they’re looking for without having to scan the entire publication.

InDesign can automatically generate a table of contents from the information already in the document.  This means that you don’t have to manually write-out the table of contents, but there is still a fair bit of preparation work involved to get the table of contents generated properly.  You will also need some actual content inside the document before you can even create a table of contents as well.

To save time, I’ve attached an InDesign document with some dummy content that you can download HERE.  It’s only for Adobe InDesign versions CS6 and above, so sorry to those with those with the earlier versions.



When producing a table of contents, you will need to first assign some paragraph styles to certain sections of the content and to the table of contents itself.  You will see later why this is important.  In the file I’ve included in this tutorial, I have already assigned the paragraph styles with their own formatting.  However, I will still go through where the paragraph styles need to be used and you can format them to your own tastes if you’re working on this tutorial from scratch.

1) Open open the document and make sure the Paragraph Styles panel is available by going Window > Styles > Paragraph Styles.

2) In the Paragraph Styles panel, create six new styles by clicking on the Create new style button at the bottom of the panel.


Here’s what each of the styles will be used for:

Chapter Heading: Style used for the chapter headings on each page.  I’ve made mine 50pt and bold, so it’s quite large.

Chapter Summary: Syle used for the short bit of description text right under the chapter heading.

Body text: This is simply the style for the blocks of lorem ipsum text.  Not really essential for the table of contents.

TOC Chapter Name: This will be the style used on the table of contents itself for the chapter names.

TOC Summary: Another paragraph style for the table of contents in the summary text part.

TOC Title: Style to be used for the table of contents title.


3) On the file I’ve provided, all the paragraph styles have been set.  However, here’s how to customise the paragraph styles if you need it:

To give each new style the same names as above (or the names you want) along with the formatting, double click on the style button (but not on the text part), which will bring up Paragraph Style Options window.  Basic Character Formats on the side bar is the place to go.


Get all five paragraph styles done and move on to the next step.


4) Now you need to apply these new paragraph style to the right bits of text.

With the Selection Tool select the text you will be using for the chapter titles.  Open up the Paragraph Styles panel and click onto Chapter Heading to apply the style.


Then do the same for the Chapter Summary and Body Text.


Time to Generate a Table of Contents

Return to the first page of the document, which should be blank.  Here we will place the table of contents.

1) Go Layout > Table of Contents… which will open up a window:



2) In Title type in ~ Contents ~ and set the Style to TOC Title.



3) Under Styles in Table of Contents Select Chapter Heading and press << Add



This will tell InDesign that we want all text assigned with this paragraph style to be included in the table of contents.


4) Do the same for Chapter Summary:



5) Underneath we need to adjust how both the Chapter Heading and Chapter Summary will appear on the table of contents.

First, under Entry Style set the style to TOC Chapter Name, make sure Page Number is set to After Entry and type in ^>p. which will add a space and then a “p.” inbetween the Chapter Heading and page number.



6) Select Chapter Summary and underneath set TOC Summary for the Entry Style and set Page Number to No Page Number as we do not want a number to appear after the summary text.



7) Finally hit OK and your mouse cursor will transform into a lump of text:



8) Click onto the top of the page to generate the table of contents.



You can now tweak the table of contents just like any other block of text in InDesign:



Also, if you make any changes to the titles or summary text in the document, you can update the table of contents by simply going Layout > Update Table of Contents.

 . . .

Want to learn more? Download 8 Adobe InDesign Tips and Tricks For Faster Work [Infographic] and use the Live Chat to let us know your needs.