Table of Figures in Word

How to make a Table of Figures in Microsoft Word.

By Michael Barden

In last week’s issue, we looked at how to make a table of contents.

This week, we’ll look at the similar concept of how to make a table of figures. That’s a list of the images, graphs, tables or equations in a document.

In Word a ‘figure’ can mean anything you like. Normally it’s the obvious things like pictures and graphs but it can also mean tables, equations or (as we’ll see) any place in the document you put a special field code.

Like the table of contents, you can have page references or links to each figure.

A Table of Figures can be useful for creating a proper appendix of figures or tables within more formal documentation. It can be handy to have a list of all the images used in a document either for publication or just for ‘in-house’ use during writing.

Since ‘Figures’ can mean anything in a document you can make reference “Tables of ” beyond anything intended by Word’s developers.


To create a table of figures, you must first add captions beneath the figures in your document. These captions are usually in the format of “Figure #: Short Description of Figure”, although they can be tailored to suit more specific needs.

To manually add a caption to a figure, first select the item under which you want to create the caption. Navigate to Insert | Reference | Caption to bring up the “Caption” dialog box.

The Caption Dialog image from Table of Figures in Word at

The “Label” drop-down list effectively groups the type of figure the caption belongs to, and has the following preset options: Figure, Equation, and Table. The ‘Label’ is used to define the type of table it will belong in.

For example ‘Figure 1’ will appear in a Table of Figures while a label ‘Equation 1’ will be in a ‘Table of Equations’.

The “New Label” button allows you to replace the currently selected “Label” with a label of your choice. You can remove this custom label by clicking the “Delete Label” button. Just some ideas of additional labels are: Recipe, Diagram, Illustration, Chart or Quiz.

The “Numbering” button brings up a dialog that allows you to format the numbering system to be used on the label. These formats include the usual Word options.

The “Include chapter number” checkbox allows you even more control of the numbering format. It treats headings of a particular heading style (e.g. Heading 1) as the start of a new chapter, and the caption numbers increment accordingly. The first figure in the second chapter of a document using an ABC numbering format would appear as: Figure 2-A.

The “AutoCaption” button allows you to set up preferences that will automatically create a default caption when a particular type of object is inserted into the document. Selecting the “Microsoft Word Picture” or “Microsoft Word Table” options in this dialog would prevent you from having to manually create labels every time a new object of these types was inserted.


How you have some ‘figures’ in the document you can make a reference table of them.

To create a simple table of figures, you must first click where you want the table to appear (most likely as an appendix or close to your table of contents). Navigate to Insert | Reference | Index and Tables to bring up the “Index and Tables” dialog then choose the “Table of Figures” tab. The options are similar to the TOC options discussed in the last issue.

Table of Figures Options image from Table of Figures in Word at

To start off, take a look at how the table of figures will appear in the “Print Preview” and “Web Preview” panes. By default, page numbers are displayed and aligned to the right, although you can change this.

The “Caption label” drop down list allows you to select which type of caption (a figure, equation, table or user-defined label) will appear in this table of figures. You can only select one grouping of caption labels per table of figures. Captions relating to images and tables for example, will not normally both appear within the same table of figures (although this can be done as we’ll see below). Instead, they can be placed in separate table of figures, for images and another for tables, thereby keeping the grouping of the image and table entries separate.

The “Formats” drop-down list directly affects the style of the table of figures as can be seen in the preview panes. The available options are:

  • From template
  • Classic
  • Distinctive
  • Centered
  • Formal
  • Simple

To design a custom table of figures layout, click the “Modify” button and create your own style.

When you are happy with the layout, and click “OK” to build you table of figures, Word will search for the captions, sort them by number, and display the table of figures in the document.

If all this seems familiar, that’s because it’s almost exactly the same as the ‘Table of Contents’ options. In fact, a Table of Figures uses the same underlying Word technology as Table of Contents (the {TOC } field).


Updating a table of figures to reflect changes to captions or page numbers works the same way as it does with a table of contents. Right-click on the table and choose the “Update Field” option.

In the “Update Table of Figures” dialog you are given the option to “Update page numbers only” or “Update entire table”. Just like ‘Table of Contents’, it is generally a good idea to choose the “Update entire table” option to make sure any and all changes made within the document are reflected within the table of figures.

Update Table of Figures Dialog image from Table of Figures in Word at


The caption numbers will not automatically update themselves if you decide to add, delete or reorder the caption numbering for figures throughout your document after they have been labeled and numbered.

Let’s say you move “Figure 1” below “Figure 2”. Ideally, Word would recognize this and the numbering would be updated for each of the captions. In reality, the first figure as it appears within the document will now be labeled as “Figure 2”.

To fix this you must select the caption (or just the number within the caption), and press F9. This will correctly change the number for that particular caption, but NOT the numbers for the rest of the captions.

Your best bet is to select the entire document (excluding the table of figures) and press F9. This will completely update the numbering in all of the captions throughout the entire document. Then proceed to update the table of figures as described above.

Alternative: select the entire document and press F9 twice. This will update the captions then the table of figures (regardless of where it is in the document).

If you add, delete, move, or edit captions or other text in a document, you should always remember to update the table of figures before printing.


If you want a single table of figures that includes all of your captions in order of appearance regardless of whether they are a figure, table, equation or belong to a label you have created. Simple – group by style.

By default, Word applies a “Caption” style to any caption inserted into the document. If all of your captions are kept in this default style, or are all changed into another customized style, then you can create a complete table of figures.

Click where you want to insert the table of figures and navigate to Insert | Reference | Index and Tables, and click on the “Table of Figures” tab as before. Click on the “Options” button and select the “Style” checkbox. Now click the style name that you have used for the figure captions (by default this is “Captions”, although other options include “Normal”, “Heading 1” and so on), and then click the “OK” button.

The corresponding table of figures will now appear with all of your different types of captions placed within the same table in the order that they appear within the document.