Turn your Word doc into a PDF with a live table of contents

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Jon Berger asked for a way of “creating PDFs with automatic links in the table of contents” to chapter titles in the main body of the document.

A long report needs to be broken up into sections. Readers will want shortcuts to the chapters that most interest them. So, if you’re distributing your reports as PDFs, you’ll want live tables of contents in which readers can easily go to the chapters they want to read.

Fortunately, this is easy to do in Word 2010 or 2013 (I haven’t tested this in earlier versions).

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

First of all, you need to set up your document properly. Use Word’s outline styles—Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on—to organize your report. For instance, you might want to assign large section titles as Heading 1, chapter titles as Heading 2, sub-chapters as Heading 3, and so on.

By the way, using these headings has other advantages. You can select View>Outline and work on your document as a collapsible outline. Also, the left tab of the Navigation pane uses these styles.

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But back to the table of contents.

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When you’re ready to distribute your document, select the References tab and click Table of Contents. Select a table design.

You’ll now have a table of contents at the top of your document. What’s more, each item on it will be a link that will take the reader to another part of the document.

Now you have to convert it to a PDF. And forget about print-to-PDF programs such as Bullzip. They’re handy for a lot of things, but I haven’t yet found one that can create a PDF without sacrificing the links. (And when you think about it, the reason is pretty obvious. You can’t expect a “printed” document to be interactive.)

So you have to do the conversion in Word. Press F12 to bring up the Save As dialog box. In the Save As Type pull-down menu, select PDF. Then save the file.

The resulting .pdf file will start with the table of contents. Every line of that ToC will be a link. It won’t be blue, but clicking on it will have the desired effect.

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