Table of contents

The table of contents allows us to automatically create a list of headings and sections under the document. This is helpful (and almost mandatory) in documents with several modules and multiple pages. In addition, when exported to format like PDF or website, the references of the table become clickable links to their sections.

Activity 1: First, we identify one or more participants that do not know how to create a table of content, and ask them to describe the process they are using to generate an index in their documents. Understanding what is wrong and what can be improved is essential for this training.

To insert a table, we need to go to Insert -> Table of contents.

Figure 3: Inserting a table of contents in Google Docs

An empty table of contents will appear. To fill it with links, each section of our document has to be titled with a heading. Headings are special paragraphs that identify the different sections of our document, and are used by the TOC to create the reference list. To select a heading level, put the cursor on the title text and choose a heading in the Styles option:

Figure 4: Choosing the header level

Then we will need to update our table of contents. Click on the reload button:

Figure 5: Updating the table of contents

The resulting table of contents will have the headers as indexes, and will show the number of the page the content is (depending on the type of table of contents we chose).

Figure 6: Resulting table of contents


It is obvious that we can format our document the way we want, and completely change the appearance of it from the default style.

We have two ways to do it: the manual way, individually changing the colours, sizes, margins and rest of properties of every chunk of text, or we can define the default style of our document and let Google Docs format the content for us.

The advantage is obvious: not only we save a lot of time by not having to edit every paragraph manually, but also it allows us to create templates and reuse the same style for multiple documents. For example, if we want to author the content of a full course and every document has to have the same style, this is the way to go.

Google Docs has style definitions for the paragraphs, the titles and the headings.

We find the section to apply and modify the styles under Format -> Paragraph styles. We can apply a define style here, or we can change its default appearing with “Update to match”. This way we’ll modify how every one of those sections look like in the document.

Figure 7: Updating a paragraph style

Activity 2: Ask the participants to change the highlight colour of the headings by using styles.

Working collaboratively

What if several people want to work on the same file at the same time? Just sharing the file will allow every user to access the file and modify it. The changes made by them will be seen by everybody in real time.

In addition to this feature, we can add comments to the document – that is, without really modifying the document. For that, we select the piece of text we want to comment and we click on the floating button on the right.

Figure 8: Adding a comment

The result will be visible to the right side of the document. Other users can then reply to this comment, or resolve and close it.

Figure 9: Adding a comment

Additionally, we can suggest edits to the document.

Figure 10: Changing to suggestion mode

This way, any modification we make will be seen as a suggestion, and not a change. Someone will have to manually accept it to be inserted in the document.

Figure 11: Suggesting a modification

Activity 3: Create the structure for a weekly plan. Choose one learner as the main editor. Give the rest of the learners access only to suggest edits. Now, let the whole class fill the whole plan by using comments and suggestions.