How to Build a Table of Contents in InDesign

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How to Build a Table of Contents in InDesign

When you produce a large document in InDesign, such as a book or catalog, you’ll almost certainly want to add a contents page. While you may accomplish this by yourself, it is preferable to let InDesign create your table of contents for you.

Not only will your contents page refresh automatically, but you can also apply custom formatting and reuse it for contents pages in other publications.

Here’s how to create a table of contents in InDesign.

Preparing Your Document for a Table of Contents

We’ll be creating a table of contents for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a Project Gutenberg text file. To keep things simple, we copied and pasted the whole content into one document.

It is conceivable, however, to have distinct chapters in separate InDesign documents and then combine them into a single book file. InDesign can generate tables of contents from all documents in a book file, not just one.

Create a Master Page spread first. Ours includes page numbers on every page, the book title on the left, and a section marker on the right. There are 102 pages total, including the cover, with all of the material included and no formatting done.

Tables of contents are created by InDesign using paragraph styles that you specify. That implies you must apply a paragraph style to whatever you wish to be pushed through to your contents page.

Because our document had chapter numbers and chapter names, we used a different design for each. Our Chapter paragraph style is used for chapter numbers, while our Chapter Title style is used for the titles of the chapters in the book. We looked over the manuscript and used these styles where they were required.

Page three of our publication will include our table of contents. The first page is the cover, while the second page is blank.

Getting Started with Tables of Contents in InDesign

We can begin developing our contents page now that all of our paragraph styles have been applied across our manuscript.

Select Layout > Table of Contents from the top menu. This displays the Table of Contents.

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You may give your table of contents a title or leave it as “Contents.” You may alternatively leave it blank if you don’t want to include a title in your table of contents.

Define a style for the title here, which will affect its formatting. We utilized our Chapter Title style for this, but you may design a whole new paragraph style if you choose.

There are two columns in the Styles portion of the Table of Contents: Include Paragraph Styles and Other Styles. Add the Chapter and Chapter Title styles that we established before to the Other Styles column. You may either click and drag them over, or you can click and drag them over.

This creates a hierarchy between the two styles, which InDesign will utilize to construct your table of contents. You may also change this hierarchy by dragging and dropping, or by using the Level buttons further down in the panel.

When finished, click OK. Place the contents table anywhere you want it.

Formatting Your InDesign Table of Contents

As you can see, the table is still not completely accurate. The formatting from the paragraph styles, not just the text that utilizes them, has been pulled in by InDesign. Let’s put it right.

Return to Layout > Table of Contents. Click on Chapter, and you’ll see that the Entry Style dropdown option is set to Same Style under Style: Chapter.

Change this to another paragraph style, either one you’ve already specified or a new one. We’ve picked [Basic Paragraph], a standard paragraph style used in every InDesign project. Repeat with Chapter Title, then click OK.

The text in our table of contents is now formatted in the [Basic Paragraph] style.

However, we have duplicate page numbers. Each chapter number and name is followed by a number. We can modify this with a few mouse clicks.

Return to the Table of Contents screen and choose More Options. Click the Chapter paragraph style from the enlarged panel’s Include Paragraph Styles section.

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Change the selection next to Page Number to No Page Number under Style: Chapter. Select OK. The page numbers will no longer be shown with the chapter numbers.

Next, let’s add some line breaks to our table of contents to make it more readable. Although this may be done manually, it is preferable to build a paragraph style for this reason.

Click the Chapter style under Include Paragraph Styles in the Table of Contents window. Change the Entry Style to New Paragraph Style under Style: Chapter.

This brings up the New Paragraph Style dialog box. We’ll call the new style “Chapter with space above” in the General section since that’s what it will accomplish. We’ll also choose [Basic paragraph] from the dropdown option.

Select Basic Character Formats from the left-hand side of the New Paragraph Style screen. Click OK after setting theLeading to 25.

There is now a space above all the chapter numbers.

Your style may have any formatting you like. As an example, you might make your page numbers bold or use a different typeface. Experiment to see what happens.

Adding Spaces and Tab Leaders to Contents Pages

Our page numbers are currently separated from our chapter titles by a tab space, which is added automatically by the Table of Contents panel. You may have noticed that you have the ability to adjust this. Let’s do it right now.

Under Include Paragraph Styles, choose the Chapter Title style. Click the arrow next to Between Entry and Number under Style: Chapter Title.

You may set a number of spaces and formatting choices here. Combinations may also be entered. For instance, you may include a space, three tabs, and an em dash. Alternatively, you can just write in the text or spaces you wish to be added.

Enter a sequence of period points to show. This will add the number of periods you choose.

But this isn’t precisely what we’re looking for. What we want is for InDesign to automatically align all of the page numbers on the right and fill in as many dots as necessary. This isn’t an option in the Table of Contents panel, thus it necessitates the creation of a new paragraph style.

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To get the desired look, we must construct a paragraph style for our table of contents Chapter Title elements. Create a new paragraph style named “Chapter title with dots” based on the [Basic Paragraph] style, using the same steps as previously.

Go to the Tabs area of the New Paragraph Style panel this time. Click the third from the left tab arrow on the right. Add a period point where it says Leader. Place the tab marker using the ruler and then click OK.

You’ll be left with right-aligned page numbers, and the space before them will be filled with dots automatically. You may, of course, substitute any symbol for the periods.

Reusing Your Table of Contents Styles

You may construct a contents page that looks precisely as you want it using the strategies shown here. We’ve just covered the basics, but you may also order items alphabetically and include stuff on hidden levels.

Whatever you do when creating a table of contents, you should consider importing your work onto additional contents pages.

Save Style in the Table of Contents panel if you want to use the same style in other tables of contents in other documents. Layout > Table of Contents Styles will then have access to your work here.

Master the Table of Contents in InDesign

If you work on a number of papers with the same structure and layout, learning how to create a table of contents will save you a lot of time and effort. It will also make it easier for your reader to locate what they are searching for.

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