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Embedded Indexes: A Trend in Publishing

The words you write could be published in a book, on a CD-ROM, on a website, or in a format we’re not yet aware of. To handle this repurposing, publishers are increasingly embedding book indexes into the Word manuscript documents so that the index marks are associated with the text and not with a particular publishing format.

The index is considered “embedded” because the index entries are fields that can be “turned on or off,” that is, viewed or not seen at all. Therefore, the index is buried beneath the surface or embedded within the text.

Why embed an index? If a work is going to be updated often, an embedded index can be regenerated quickly. If the document will be displayed online, it’s fairly easy to convert the index entries to links. Embedded indexing works well for custom publishing, where a selection of chapters may be chosen from a book and perhaps combined with chapters from other books.

If you are considering writing an embedded index, I offer one suggestion: Use the James Lamb utility WordEmbed. The WordEmbed utility allows you to use your indexing software (Cindex, Sky, Macrex) to index in the usual manner: You can see the index grow; you can take advantage of your tools such as entry autofill and cross-reference checking; and you can edit the index as usual. This results in a higher quality embedded index.

Let me give you a taste of embedded indexing without the WordEmbed utility so that you can appreciate the ease of using the utility: To mark an index entry in Word “by hand,” click the cursor into the text associated with the entry, bring up the Mark Index Entry dialog box, type in the main entry and subentry heading text, and click Mark. What you’re doing is inserting a field that contains the main entry and subentry heading texts, so you could copy and paste the field, altering the heading texts as necessary.

The Mark Index Entry dialog box can remain open to make the process more efficient. If text is selected, then that selected text is put into the main entry field, saving some typing. An index field is placed next to the selected text, or the index field is placed at the cursor location, if there is no selected text. If you want to indicate a range of text for an index entry, first define a bookmark for that chunk of text, then in your Mark Index Entry dialog box select the Page Range Bookmark and hit the dropdown list to find the name of the bookmark you just defined.

Indexer Lucie Haskins offers a PDF with screen shots of the process of inserting index fields. James Lamb wrote an article for the British Society of Indexers journal that explains the embedding process. In that article, Lamb captured the mirror-image nature of embedded indexing by contrasting conventional indexes, in which each heading has a collection of references indicating locations to which the heading refers, against embedded indexes, in which each location in the document has associated headings.

Okay, this process of hand embedding doesn’t sound too bad—until you actually do it. For the entire length of a book. Then you understand the indexer estimate that embedded indexing takes three to five times as long as conventional indexing (see the Lucie Haskins PDF).

The current versions of indexing software provide another approach to embedded indexes: their drag-and-drop capability between the software and Word documents. The index is written and edited as usual, then displayed in page order. Each entry is dragged to the proper location in the Word document; when dropped, an index field is created for that entry.

Now let’s see how this all works when using the James Lamb WordEmbed utility:

I keep my indexing software window side-by-side with my Word document window. I can select the text in the Word document or simply click the cursor, then hit the keyboard shortcut of Control-Shift-backslash (Ctrl-Shift-\ or Ctrl-|). This puts a comment into the Word document. The comment contains a number, which was also placed on the clipboard. In my indexing software, I enter the main heading and subheading—taking advantage of autofill—then paste the clipboard contents into the page field.

This number is also displayed in a comment balloon in my Word document, so I could copy it from there to paste into the page field or I could simply type it in. The number consists of the current page number then a period then the line number of the beginning of the selection. The final digit differentiates multiple markers on the same line. When the index is embedded at the end of the process, this number in the comment field matches up with the index entry to be embedded. With a click, the comments can be removed once the index is embedded.

Indexing then becomes a natural rhythm of marking the text electronically, hitting the keyboard shortcut, and creating my index entry in my indexing software. A range of text can be indicated in a number of ways, all intuitive. I enjoy the visual nature of WordEmbed. The toolbar has a Go To Locator tool that moves you to the location of the entered locator number. You know the exact text associated with that locator; there’s no guessing as to which text on the page is being referred to. This aspect makes editing a joy.

And editing can follow its full path: Use your indexing software cross-reference tool to verify all the cross-references. Easily run up single subentries. When deciding if subentries can be combined, it’s a big help to easily know the exact text being referred to.

When you are happy with the edited index, the index is written to RTF with an equal sign (=) marking the subentries (easily achieved). Click on the Embed Index tool on the WordEmbed toolbar, point to the RTF, and watch WordEmbed work through the document, putting in the index markers. The index appears at the end of the document.

Be aware that Word hangs its See also cross-references off the main heading text. The WordEmbed utility is able to put the See alsos as last subentries, which gives cleaner main headings that are more easily scanned by the index user.

The James Lamb WordEmbed utility is the second easiest way to embed an index into a Word manuscript document.

KlefstadLearn more about Ms. Klefstad


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