In today's digital age, much of the content you produce in Microsoft Word will be replicated beyond print. Dissertations and theses are often published online. Book authors, whether fiction or non-fiction, choose to self-publish, and that means creating and distributing working eBooks. Even if you write and publish lengthy reports in PDF format, you still need to consider the best way for readers to access and navigate your document.
This is where hyperlinks in Microsoft Word become important.
- For dissertation and thesis writers, creating a linked table of contents will not only make your document easier for users to navigate, but the table of contents will be easier to update as you review your content. All graduate students will agree that any time saved is gold!
- For self-publishers, readers expect clickable table of contents in their ebooks, and most ebook retailers, including Amazon, require hyperlinks. This extends beyond tables of contents to URLs that appear in your text, endnote numbers, and the like. Often creating these links in your Word document before converting to EPUB or MOBI (i.e. Kindle) will automatically create the links in the eBook files, especially if you use conversion services like those offered by Draft2Digital or freeware like Caliber.
- For any lengthy document published online such as a PDF, a clickable table of contents and active URLs, email addresses and links to other documents are, in a word, essential and, frankly, expected by users.
This article describes, with the help of screenshots, how to link content and create a linked table of contents (TOC). Let's start by learning how to create simple hyperlinks.
Creating Simple Hyperlinks in Microsoft Word
This process is relatively simple. Let's see.
You have a document open in Word. Perhaps your document contains a URL. Often your user settings will be specified to automatically convert a typed URL into a hyperlink. If you type a hyperlink, for example http://www.google.com/, and it doesn't link automatically, you can enable this setting in FILE → Options, and this window will open:
From here, click Proofing on the left side, then the AutoCorrect Options button at the top:
On the AutoFormat tab, make sure the "Internet with hyperlinks and network paths" box is checked:
If you're like me and prefer to disable this automatic formatting, you can still manually create a hyperlink. First, type the URL into the document and highlight it with your cursor:
Then right-click on the highlighted text and choose Hyperlink from the drop-down menu (down):
Doing so will open a box:
At the top you will see "Text to display"; at the bottom you will see "Address". To keep the URL text in the document, just click the OK button. Word automatically used the highlighted text as "Display Text" and the same URL as "Address":
Alternatively, you can replace the "Text to display" with something else. In this case, let's replace it with “Google”:
When you click OK, the URL you entered will now be replaced with the text "Google", with a hyperlink to http://www.google.com (because you kept that URL in the "Address" box at the bottom):
You could also, for example, simply type "Google" into your document, highlight it, right-click, choose Hyperlink from the menu, and type the address http://www.google.com into the "Address" box. . This will produce the same result.
You can also use the Hyperlinks menu to link to other places in the document. For example, you might want to link a mention of a section to that actual section in your document. Consider the following text:
Here, we want to link the mention of "Section 2" in our text in Section 1 to the actual title of Section 2, so that if our reader wants to jump to that section, they can do so with one click. (Let's assume Section 2 isn't there!)
Before we can link, we need to tell Word that these are headings. We do this using styles and formatting. Highlight both headers, go to the HOME tab on the ribbon and choose a header style. Word has a few built-ins: let's choose Heading 1. (There are a few places it could be, depending on how Word is set up. The next two screenshots show a few places you can find the styles menu.)
Now your headers are styled as titles. You can always change its appearance in terms of color, size, etc. The important thing is that Word now knows they are headers. You gave them an ID bracelet.
Now highlight the hyperlink text again and open the Hyperlinks box. This time, however, make sure you click the "Place in this document" box all the way to the left. Since we have the headers formatted as headers, you will see that these headers are listed. Highlight the one you want to link to and click OK:
"Section 2" in the text now links to the Section 2 title of the document! If you click on the "Section 2" link, you'll see the cursor jump to the Section 2 header.
You may have noticed that in the Hyperlink box, there is an option on the left for "Email Address". To insert a linked email address, simply type the address (or a name, or whatever) into the document, highlight it, open the Hyperlinks box, choose "Email Address", check "Text to Display ". says what you want, and then you can enter the email address and even a suggested subject line, which will auto-populate. Fresh!
Now, you might be thinking that this is also a good way to create a table of contents. It's a possible way - you could write the chapters and link each one individually - but it's not the most efficient way. Let's now move on to the best way to create a table of contents in Word.
Creating summaries in Word
Word has a built-in TOC tool that automates the creation of TOCs and, more importantly, lets you update them with just one mouse click.
First things first: you'll need to go back to your styles and formatting and format each heading in your document to the appropriate level. For example, you might call chapter headings Heading 1, first-level headings Heading 2, second-level headings Heading 3, and so on. In fact, you can name your styles anything you like by creating new styles, but we'll stick to Word's built-in heading styles for simplicity.
Consider the following document, which I created with one chapter heading (Heading 1), three level one headings (Heading 2), and two level three headings (Heading 3). (As a side note: Word has created several different formatting schemes that you can choose from. Go to the DESIGN tab on the ribbon and click through all the options until you find one you like.)
Now, let's do an OCD. First, place the cursor where you want the table of contents to appear. Then go to REFERENCES on the ribbon and choose Table of Contents. Wow! You'll see some automatic options that Word will format for you:
Let's choose the first one!
Here it is!
The good thing about this TOC is that you can update it with a mouse click. Let's say you change a heading or maybe add a few paragraphs so the headings show up on new pages. You can right-click on the table of contents and bring up a menu, from which you can choose Update field:
Click Update Field and you will see an option to Update Page Numbers Only or Update Entire Table. If only pages have changed, choose the first one; if you have edited the headers text, added new headers or similar, choose the second option. Bang! New and updated TOC.
The more adventurous person, or the more experienced Word user, can customize the appearance of the table of contents by replacing the Table of Contents suggested by Word and choosing Custom Table of Contents under REFERENCES -> Table of Contents:
Here you can decide how many levels to show, whether you want to include a reference point such as indentation, space, color or whatever each level is, etc.
This is a more complicated process. You would start by choosing the tab leader (dots, no dots, etc.) and the number of levels to include in the screenshot above. Make sure "Use hyperlinks" is unchecked if you don't want the blue underlined hyperlink to "dress up". Then you would click the Options button, where you would tell Word which style corresponds to which heading level, e.g. Heading 1 is level 1, Heading 2 is level 2:
After clicking OK, you can click the Modify button to tell Word how to style each heading level, where TOC1 is heading level 1, etc.
After making all the changes, click OK until the table of contents is placed in the document.
This process is not for the faint of heart and takes some practice and experimentation to learn.
If you can't find a formatting style that Word includes by default and don't want to deal with the custom table of contents process, you can of course just go to the built-in table of contents that Word has created for you and change things the normal way. (change fonts, sizes, colors, etc.). Note, however, that if you do this and choose to update the table of contents, you will lose all formatting.
That's the essence of hyperlinks in Word. Remember these steps are essential if you are producing a digital document or planning to turn your document into an eBook.
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HOLLY MONTYHe is a nonfiction editor, dissertation editor, and self-publishing consultant. She specializes in Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe InDesign, LaTeX and APA Style.
Latest posts by Holly Monty(see it all)
- How to Put a Hyperlink in Your Table of Contents in Microsoft Word- September 21, 2018
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