Customize the Table of Contents in a Google Docs Document

At work I often use Google Docs for collaborative writing, but the software really has its drawbacks: one example is the generation of the table of contents (TOC). In short, you can create the TOC in two variants (with or without page numbers), and that’s it. However, if you have a long document with many headings on different heading levels you may want the TOC to only contain the level 1 headings leaving out the other ones.

The Problem

If you use the TOC generator you may get a long list spanned over multiple pages. Of course you can now manually delete the entries you don’t want in there, but if you trim it down so that you save one or more pages, the page numbers will be off. Now you have to edit all the page numbers.

The Solution

This solution also includes the manual deletion of unwanted lines. Google Docs let you decide where to put the TOC. We use this to avoid the page numbers being off at the end: First, add a placeholder at the place in the document where you want your TOC to be that takes the space your final version will consume. Secondly, generate the TOC at the end of the document, edit it the way you want and then replace the placeholder with the generated one. The page numbers will be correct.

This may seem to be a very simple solution, but it helped me in many situations where my collaborators would have edited the page numbers manually in the TOC.

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