Structure your book with the Table of Contents

There are many ways in which you can control the table of contents for your book. Most of them involve adding syntax to your _toc.yml file.

This page covers a few common options.


The _toc.yml file for this site has an entry for each of the features described below for reference.

General TOC structure

The table of contents is broadly organized like so:

  • The first entry of your _toc.yml file is the introduction to your book. It is the landing page for the HTML of your book.

  • Subsequent entries define either parts or chapters in your book. These make up the main structure of your book. See Defining chapters and parts in _toc.yml for more information.

  • Each chapter can optionally have sections that are defined by separate files. These are nested underneath the top page of the chapter. See How headers and sections map onto to book structure for more information.

  • Throughout the _toc.yml file, - file: entries point to text files that make up your book’s content. Their paths are relative to the book’s root.


By default, the landing page of your book will appear in the navbar, but this can be disabled in your _config.yml file by setting the home_page_in_navbar option to false (under the html section).


Currently, it is not possible to add nested sections to your landing page (see #844)

For reference, here is an example similar to this book’s _toc.yml file:

- file: myintro
  numbered: true

- part: Get started
  - file: start/overview
  - file: start/build

- part: Reference and test pages
  - file: test_pages/test
      - file: test_pages/layout_elements
      - file: test_pages/equations

The sections below cover this information in more depth.

Defining chapters and parts in _toc.yml

The top layer of entries in your table of contents allows you to define chapters and (optionally) parts of your book.

The first entry (- file: myintro above) defines the introductory page for your book. It is also where you can control some behavior for the entire book (in the example above, we set numbered: true to number all sections of the book).

Below the first entry you have two options for defining the structure of your book:

  1. A list of chapters. You can specify each chapter with a - file: entry. Below is an example _toc.yml file with this structure:

    - file: myintro
    - file: firstchapter
    - file: secondchapter
  2. A list of parts with chapters. If you’d like to separate chapters into groups, do so by using - part: entries in the top level of _toc.yml. Each part should have a chapters: section that contains a list of - file: entries, each one pointing to the file for a chapter. Below is an example _toc.yml file with this structure:

    - file: myintro
    - part: My first part
      - file: part1_firstchapter
      - file: part1_secondchapter
    - part: My second part
      - file: part2_firstchapter

    Note that chapters do not continue between parts. Think of each part as a self-contained collection of chapters (e.g., for the purposes of numbering).

Don’t mix these two structures!

When designing the top-level sections of your _toc.yml file, you must pick either a list of chapters via - file: entries, or a list of parts via - part: entries with chapters inside of them. You cannot intermix them both.


Files point to a single file of content in your book’s folder. If these files are at the top level of your _toc.yml file, they will denote chapters. If they are nested within another file (via the sections: key) then they will denote sections within a chapter.

Here is an example file entry:

- file: path/to/myfile

Additionally, files can have nested sections in other files. These subsections allow you to define hierarchical structure in your book. For example, you may wish for the top-level file to serve as an “introduction” for a collection of files underneath, like so:

- file: my_intro
    - file: my_first_page
    - file: my_second_page
        - file: my_second_page_subsection

We recommend nesting your sections no more than 3 layers deep (as shown above).

Specifying alternate titles

If you’d like to specify an alternate title from the one defined within a file, you may do so with the title: key. For example:

- file: path/to/myfile
  title: My alternate page title

Note that this only applies to the sidebar in the table of contents, it does not change the actual chapter/section title.

Number your book’s chapters and sections

You can automatically add numbers to each chapter of your book. To add numbers to all chapters of your book, add the numbered: true flag to your introduction page entry (the first entry in _toc.yml). For example:

- file: intro
  numbered: true

- file: chapter1
- file: chapter2
- file: chapter3

This will cause all chapters of the book to be numbered. They will follow a hierarchy according to the sub-sections structure defined in your _toc.yml file. You can also limit the TOC numbering depth by setting the numbered flag to an integer instead of true, e.g., numbered: 3.

If you’d like to number subsets of chapters, group them into parts and apply the numbered: true flag to the parts whose chapters you wish to be numbered. For example:

- file: home

# Chapters in this part will not be numbered
- part: Introduction
  - file: page2

# Chapters in this part will be numbered
- part: Part 1
  numbered: true
  - file: chapter1
  - file: chapter2

Numbering caveats and notes

Jupyter Book relies on Sphinx to apply section numbering, and this has a few quirks to it. Here are a few gotchas:

  • Numbering applies to sections of your page. Note that when you add numbering to a section, it will add numbers to each header in a file. This means that if you have headers in a top-level section, then its headers will become numbered as sub-sections, and any other files underneath it will begin as third-level children. See How headers and sections map onto to book structure for more information.

  • Numbering resets across parts. If you specify groups of sections via - part: entries, then numbering will restart between them. That means if you have two - part: entries with 2 pages each, you will have two sets of 1. and 2. sections, one for each part.

How headers and sections map onto to book structure

Jupyter Book uses the Sphinx documentation engine under the hood, which represents the structure of your book in a particular way. Different choices for the structure of _toc.yml and the header structures within your pages will result in different outcomes for your overall book structure. Here are some general tips and best-practices.


This is particularly important when you number your book’s sections or when you build a PDF of your book through Latex.

Chapters are at the top of your book hierarchy. The top level of your _toc.yml contains a list of chapters. The title of each file will be the chapter’s title.

Headers map onto sections. Jupyter Book interprets your book as a collection of sections, and decides how those sections should be nested according to the hierarchy of _toc.yml and the hierarchy of headers in a page. Within a file, the first ## header it discovers will define the top-most section in the file, and any subsequent ### headers underneath will become sub-sections (until another ## section is encountered). This behavior is a bit different if the page is nested under another (see below).

Nested files define sections underneath the last section of their parent. If you specify sections that are nested under a file (with the sections: key) then those sections will begin underneath the last headers of the parent page.

For example, if your _toc.yml file looks like this:

- file: myintro

- file: chapter1
  - file: chapter1section

Then the sections of chapter1section will begin under the sections of chapter1. Any headers in chapter1section will be treated as a “next-header-deeper” section in chapter1.

In other words, if chapter1 and chapter1section look like this:

# Chapter 1 title

## Chapter 1 second header

# Chapter 1 section title

## Chapter 1 section second header

Then your book will treat them like so:

# Chapter 1 title

## Chapter 1 second header

### Chapter 1 section title

#### Chapter 1 section second header

However, if had an extra third-level header, like so:

# Chapter 1 title

## Chapter 1 second header

### Chapter 1 third header

# Chapter 1 section title

## Chapter 1 section second header

Then your book would treat them like so:

# Chapter 1 title

## Chapter 1 second header

### Chapter 1 third header

#### Chapter 1 section title

##### Chapter 1 section second header

Keep this in mind when you design the structure of your files.


A good rule of thumb is to take one of these two approaches:

  1. don’t put headers in your introduction pages. This is true for both the book’s introduction, as well as for any chapter introductions. Instead, leave the headers to pages that have more content in them, and use bolded text where you would otherwise use headers.

  2. Use a flat list of files instead of nested files. This way the section hierarchy is defined only in a single file within each section. However, this means you will have longer files in general.

Exclude some pages from your book’s build

By default, Jupyter Book will build all content files that are found in your book’s folder, even if they are not specified in _toc.yml (and will raise a warning if it finds a file that isn’t listed there).

If you’d like Jupyter Book to skip a file entirely, you can do so with the following configuration in _config.yml:

exclude_patterns: [pattern1/*, path/to/myfile.ipynb]

Any files that match the patterns described there will be excluded from the build. If you’d like to exclude files from being executed but still wish for them to be built by Jupyter Book, see Exclude files from execution.

Web-based navigation bar functionality

The following sections apply to controlling the left navigation bar in HTML books built with Jupyter Book.

Add a table of contents to a page’s content

If you’d like to add a table of contents for the sub-sections of a page within the page content (in-line with the content on the page), you may do so by using the {tableofcontents} directive. You can use it like so:


See the source of the content types page for an example.

Automatically generate your _toc.yml file

You can use jupyter-book to generate a table of contents file from your book using the filenames of your book’s content. To do so, run the following command

jupyter-book toc mybookpath/

Jupyter Book will search mybookpath/ for any content files and create a _toc.yml file out of them. There are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Each sub-folder must have at least one content file inside it

  • The ordering of files in _toc.yml will depend on the alphanumeric order of the filenames (e.g., folder_01 comes before folder_02, and apage comes before b_page)

  • If there is a file called in any folder, it will be listed first.

You may also generate navigation bar titles from each file of your book. If you do so, note that if the file name begins with <integer>, then the <integer> part will be removed before it is inserted into _toc.yml.