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How to create a Table of Contents in a translated file


One day one of my fellow translators came over to me asking to help him with a table of contents. After a couple of questions, it was clear he was working on an OCR-ed file. The problem is that TOC in such files is a plain text and in order to set the page number in it you have to find this piece in your text below, which entails a lot of up and down scrolling and copy-pasting. Since my friend did not know an easier way out he had to do it manually. I promised him to make up a simple instruction as to how to do it correctly.

A table of contents in your file is like a map for those who will read your translations. Not only it structures the information but also helps navigate the document faster. Needless to say, that if your TOC is good-looking and helps to navigate it makes an added value to your translation.

How to create a table of contents

When do we have to make up a TOC in the translation? After the OCR of a PDF file that is compiled from a scanned document in the first place. I however do it for every PDF since I am not satisfied with the OCR quality of any file. As the practice shows, I am on the right path.

After you OCR-ed your text you had better format it before you either feed it to your CAT or start translating manually. It will definitely save your time in the future.

To make a good-looking table of contents you need to be a little bit familiar with the Word Styles. However, just a little bit.

First, you need to understand how many levels your table of contents contain.

How to make table of contents in Word_Understand Levels

This table of contents has two heading levels. Level 1 is a heading in bold, Level 2 are sub-headings in regular font. In other words, level 1 refers to your main headings only, level 2 refers to subheadings. There may be more subheadings for sure. The more you have the more levels there are in your TOC. There are several methods to create a table of contents. I use styles for this purpose. To get a heading in the TOC it has to be formatted accordingly.

When you get the document after the OCR the original table of contents can be removed completely. We will make it later automatically.

Let us start. First, turn on the Styles list so that you can see them.

TOC_Turn on styles

That is what you get.

Going through the text find the heading you want to be in the table of contents and select Heading 1 in the list.

TOC_Select Heading 1

Our text changes. I bet this is not exactly what you want. Further, we need to format it to make it look the way you need.

Let us save the style and set it the following way.

TOC_Save style

Press Create a Style.

TOC_Save styles

Press Modify.

TOC_Modify styles in Word

Then the window opens where you do all the settings. Give it a name you will remember (the styles names of mine are comprised of my client’s abbreviation and style name itself, e.g. LVL_Heading1). I have many styles in the document, therefore, the style name is critical. If the settings in the window are not sufficient press Format button below.

TOC_Modify styles

I also use Format button to set shortcut keys for my styles.

TOC_Set shortcut keys

Once you press Shortcut keys option above, the following window pops up.

TOC_Shortcut keys1

Select Save changes in your current document. By doing, so all the changes and styles are saved in a template other than Normal. I prefer to them save in a separate template as the formatting may vary for various translations and gradually you will end up with a mess of styles in the Normal template. Moreover, it may cause problems when saving your document as Normal template gets changed.

Set a new shortcut key in the Press new shortcut key for the Heading style. My preferred shortcut key combination for the Heading 1 style is Alt+H+1. That is you have to press H and 1 consecutively holding Alt all the time.

Then press Close and OK.

Further, you go down your text and whenever you come across one of the headings, format it using shortcut key combination. No need to select the phrase with a mouse. Just place the cursor there and you are good to go.

Then create a style for Level 2 heading and other styles the similar way.

After you are done with all the chapters, appendices, pictures and tables go to References menu in your ribbon and select Table of Contents.

TOC_Select Table of contents

Select Custom Table of Contents.

TOC_Modify TOC

Then set your parameters.


There you might need to remove all the Levels given there by default, i.e. Heading 1, Heading 2 and so on. Just remove the level number on the right.

TOC_Set heading levels

What should stay is only the heading names that you had set previously. Scroll down the whole list to find them. Then set the level number against each of them.

TOC_Set levels

In the end, you should get a good-looking table of contents. If there any changes in the text, you would need only to select your TOC, right click on that and select Update the field.

In case you are not satisfied with the font used in your TOC go back to References –>Table of contents –> Modify (the button next to Options).


Here you get a list of available TOC styles in your template. Most probably, your TOC is formatted based on the first item in the list, i.e. TOC1. Press Modify.


The window here looks very much similar to the one that we used to set up the heading style. Here you can also change the TOC name and any other parameters including the font.

TOC_Set TOC parameters

So, that is basically it.

Has creating or modifying a table of contents been ever problematic to you? Was this post helpful? Let me know in your comments below. Thank you.

2 Responses to How to create a Table of Contents in a translated file

  1. Irina says:

    Andrey, thank you for this article. I’d never think a TOC can be created and formatted like that! The procedure described seems like a long way to go but in practice it has to be easy )