Word 2004: Table of Contents styles are automatically updating

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
February 1st, 2005 • 4:18 am

More on the problems with automatic tables of contents in Word. If you’ve ever used the feature, you’ve probably noticed that, when you try to change the formatting of the table of contents generated by Word, changes you make to one particular line in the table of contents automatically apply to all other lines that are in the same style.

This one is a typical Microsoft problem. First, they introduce a new feature in Word — automatically updating styles — that no one has asked for. Then either they turn the feature on by default, forcing users who want to keep using Word the way that they’ve been using it to turn it off manually — or, in this case, they sneakily force you to have to deal with the issue even if it’s not turned on by default.

See, when Word builds an automatic table of contents based on your document’s headings, it uses a predefined set of styles to format the table of contents itself. These predefined styles are called “TOC 1“, “TOC 2“, etc. and they are part of the default style sheet in every Word document.

When Microsoft added automatically updating styles to Word’s feature set (some time in the early 2000s, I think), they didn’t turn all the default styles in Word’s “Normal” template into automatically updating styles. That would probably have caused too much of an uproar.

But they did change some of these default styles so that they were now automatically updating styles. And the table of contents styles are part of those styles that were changed.

Why these ones? Why not the default heading styles as well? Only Microsoft knows. I suppose it’s their way of gently trying to get us accustomed to this new feature that we didn’t ask for.

Fortunately, it is possible to turn the damn thing off. But in order to do so, you need to edit your “Normal” template itself, whose default location is now your “Microsoft User Data” folder inside your home folder’s “Documents” folder.

Open the “Normal” template, go to the “Format” menu, select “Style…“, scroll down to the style called “TOC 1“, select it and click on “Modify…“. In the dialog box, uncheck the box labelled “Automatically update“. Click on “OK“, and then repeat the procedure for every TOC style.

When you are done, close the dialog box and save the “Normal” template. That’s it. From now on, your automatic tables of contents will no longer use automatically updating styles.

Now, of course, you might happen to be one of those users who find automatically updating styles useful. Good for you, I say. But for the rest of us… this is the procedure required to tame Word when it comes to table of contents formatting.

2 Responses to “Word 2004: Table of Contents styles are automatically updating”

  1. mricart says:

    In fact, I myself adore this automatically updating features, as it helps me overcome yet another incredible Word behaviour: when I update the TOC (just right-click anywhere in the TOC and select “Update Field”, I am presented with 2 options: “Update page numbers only” and “Update entire table” (you may wonder why Word can’t already see that all heading entries haven’t changed, but anyway). When I select the 2nd, as I know I’ve changed some heading, Word will collect the entries, but also will add a tab to all TOC styles, ruining my carefullt crafted TOC styles. This is where auto update is nice, I (just) have to go in each level of the TOC and remove the added tab. Grrr.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    “Adore” might be too strong a word here :). Let’s just say you find it convenient in order to work around another Word annoyance… Not quite in the league of “adorable features”, IMO :).

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