I'm having that infamous issue of InDesign generating a TOC with a peculiar order and not matching the top to bottom flow of the titles on each page.

I'm aware it scans top-left to bottom-right and some of my titles are further right than ones below it, causing InDesign to regard them as coming first.

Is there a way to force top-to-bottom scanning only and ignore left-to-right? My level 2 headings are further right than my level 3 and are often placed in the TOC in the 'wrong' order. It's due to a graphical style I need to keep and can't think of an elegant workaround?

My TOC is in the style of:

Chapter Title
--> Instruction Number
----> Place Name (Sub Title)

The Place Name/Sub Title is a text frame that runs the width of the page and centres the text. The instruction number is text inside a circular frame where the frame is centred as running it to the page edges distorts the circle. These titles are in separate frames. See below, with frame of instruction number highlighted and Place Name/Sub Title shown below it:

frame of instruction number highlighted and Place Name/Sub Title shown below it

3 Answers 3


I'm not entirely sure I'm grasping your question — do you want Level 3 entries at all? Are they there but in the wrong order? — but I can think of a few things to try:

1) Don't add that style to your TOC when you're setting it up to generate.

2) Create two otherwise identical styles, Level 3 and Level 3 TOC. The ones that you need in the TOC are styled TOC, and the ones you don't want counted are styled just Level 3.

3) Before you generate your TOC, change the left indent of your problem style(s). Generate the TOC, and then put the indent back where it needs to be.

  • 'Are they there but in the wrong order?' - Indeed, and yes, everything in my document is pertinent and needed. You may need to be familiar with how infamous the question of 'why has InDesign generated a TOC in an order not matching my pages' is. I passed through that description quickly just to note that I'm familiar with why the order is 'wrong', but am looking for suggestions to overcome it when I need to keep the style I am using. At the moment I'm considering just manually laying out the TOC. Jan 15, 2017 at 15:01
  • @biscuitstack I'd manually fix just those entries rather than redo the whole thing, but I guess it depends on the size of your document. Jan 15, 2017 at 15:13

The answer appears to be, no, there is no way to force InDesign's TOC generator to only scan top-to-bottom and not include a left-to-right hierarchy as well. This seems like an odd omission given this option's strength in allowing more creative choice with layouts, rather than a design style being affected by a tool.

I managed to keep my current design through a simple enough alteration that plays nicer with the TOC generator. It's not as elegant but certainly not too messy:

I got rid of using a text frame inside a circle altogether and used a text box set to the page width with a separate circle shape arranged behind it and centred. The text has a paragraph style with large left and right indents that encroach on the text strongly enough to push the second word (the number, see screenshot in question) onto a second line, emulating the constraints of the original circular text frame, while avoiding a line break (which would carry through into the TOC and is not wanted).


This is not an answer, but just brainstorming a bit here. I am very familiar with the strangeness of InDD's TOC feature, and have fought with it many times myself. I have used Lauren Ipsum's suggestion of identical styles to solve similar problems multiple times myself.

However, since I haven't ever run into this exact issue, I can only offer a couple of suggestions. Maybe try playing with the layers--I wonder if moving items onto different layers might make a difference in the order of the TOC. Or, maybe the order of the items within the layer makes a difference.

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