A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Brown, Fred

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Alphabetizing an Index

It is important to alphabetize your index in a consistent manner. Otherwise, your readers may become confused or miss an important entry. There are two basic ways to alphabetize, or sort, an index: word by word; letter by letter.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing>Editing


Checking Cross-References

Before publishing your index, you need to ensure that the 'See' and 'See also' cross-references work correctly. The text in each cross-reference must exactly match the text in the index heading it refers to.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2002). Articles>Indexing>Editing


Converting Indexes with WebWorks Publisher

While WebWorks Publisher (WWP) 7.0 can convert FrameMaker indexes into different online formats, getting things to work initially can be a bit of a challenge. Page ranges in index entries result in hyperlinks to both the starting and ending locations. Index hyperlinks don’t always link to the top of a help topic, but often to somewhere in the middle. For Simple HTML and Dynamic HTML, “See” and “See also” references can fail to convert altogether. However, if you do get stuck, Customer Support can help pull you through.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2002). Articles>Indexing>Software>Adobe FrameMaker


DocBook (SGML/XML)

The DocBook document type definition (DTD) was developed during the 1990s to provide an application independent method for creating computer documentation. Versions of the DocBook DTD have been created for both SGML and XML. You can create an embedded index in DocBook using index elements.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing>XML>DocBook


Editing Indexes

Like any well-written document, an index needs to be edited. Editing ensures consistency, clarity, completeness and accuracy. And an effective index contributes substantially to the usability of a document.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (1999). Articles>Indexing>Editing


Embedded vs. Stand-alone Indexes

Selecting the right type of index can save you both time and money. You create an embedded index by entering index markers directly into your document. You then generate the index from the embedded markers. With a stand-alone index, you create the index as a separate text file using dedicated indexing software. Embedded indexes are used commonly for software documentation while stand-alone indexes are used extensively in book publishing.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing


Embedding Indexes in FrameMaker

FrameMaker provides you with the ability to enter individual index headings using index markers. Once entered, you can automatically generate the index with the correct page numbers.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2002). Articles>Indexing>Software>Adobe FrameMaker


Finding Information in Different Ways

People think about questions or information in different ways. It’s important for an index to provide multiple ways of locating any given piece of information.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2003). Articles>Indexing>Editing


Formatting Indexes

Formatting your index attractively can improve readability and help your audience to locate information quickly. The following tips apply to printed indexes.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2000). Articles>Indexing>Information Design


Gathering Together

An index pulls together all the references to a topic that are scattered within a publication. If a reference is omitted, the user may assume that particular sub-topic is not discussed.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2002). Articles>Indexing>Editing


Great Indexes

The American Society of Indexers identifies criteria for measuring a great index. An index is not an inverted table of contents, nor is it a simple listing of where certain terms appear in a document. An index consists of a 'compiled list of topics covered in the work, prepared with the reader’s needs in mind.'

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing>Assessment


Indexing Acronyms

Acronyms and initialisms pepper the workplace conversation in many technical and scientific environments. If you’re new to the organization or industry, the many unknown acronyms can be a real barrier to comprehending anything at all. Published books and technical documentation often spell out the full term when first used and then employ the acronym only. As indexers we need to serve both the “newbies,” who find the acronyms confusing, and the “old hands,” who dream only in acronyms.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2002). Articles>Indexing


Indexing in FrameMaker: Challenges and Opportunities

Indexing in FrameMaker can feel frustrating and time-consuming — especially when under the pressure of a deadline.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2000). Articles>Indexing>Software>Adobe FrameMaker


Indexing Names

Handling personal and geographic names can be complicated. Many rules apply to personal names.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2002). Articles>Indexing


Indexing User Tasks

Because user tasks form the foundation of modern 'task-based' documentation, tasks should be well-represented in the index. We need to create index headings for both the broad objectives of the user (e.g., balancing a cheque book), and the specific actions required by the application (e.g., opening a file).

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing>User Centered Design


Indexing with Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word assists you in creating an embedded index. While Microsoft Word makes it easy to enter individual index entries, much effort is still required to create page ranges and to edit the final index.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing>Software>Microsoft Word


Just-In-Time Indexing

Indexing often waits until a document is nearly finalized or “camera ready.” This is because indexers often need to have the final page numbers or the original document files before starting. But, starting the index so late means extending the publication process by several days or even weeks. And the time available to create a quality index — likely the most well-used part of any business or technical publication — can be severely squeezed.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing


Keywords Online

Online indexes have the same logical structure as print indexes with main headings and usually subheadings. Some online indexes can also be searched electronically. A search request in Yahoo! returns a list of online category headings. Online indexes, like their print cousins, are true 'searchable structures,' not simply concordance lists of terms appearing in the text.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing>Online


Objects, Tasks and Concepts

Effective documentation is built around the work environment of the user. The index, too, should relate to the work the user performs. As in the body of your documentation, topics in your index should consist primarily of objects, tasks and concepts from the world of the user

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2000). Articles>Indexing>Information Design


Preparing to Index

Before starting to write the index, take some time to absorb the overall gist of what’s being said and how things relate one to another.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing>Planning


'See also' Cross-References

'See also' cross-references assist the user to quickly navigate to the right index term. The same principles that apply to 'See also' cross-references apply equally to hypertext linking. 'See also' cross-references are constructed using the following relationships: a broader term to a narrower term, e.g. 'mammals, See also whales'; sailing craft, See also hulls overlapping meaning between two terms, e.g. 'gold, See also money'

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2000). Articles>Indexing>Editing


Single Source Indexes

Many publishers of technical material are now publishing in more than one format, e.g. print, Adobe Acrobat (PDF), HTML, HTML Help and XML. Typically, a master document is first created in a package such as Adobe FrameMaker or Microsoft Word. The master document is then converted into different formats for publishing. Indexes are often the Achilles heel of such a process, because indexes can rarely be converted like regular material. Indexes usually have to be regenerated or recreated within the new format rather than simply converted from an existing file.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2002). Articles>Indexing>Single Sourcing



Subheadings enable your readers to find detailed information quickly. They also give the reader an idea of how deeply a topic is covered. Subheadings provide more detail about the topic stated in the main entry. Effective subheadings represent distinct aspects of a topic.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing>Information Design



Including synonyms can be one of the most effective ways to improve the usability of an index. Synonyms assist users to navigate easily to the information they are looking for using their own terminology. In an index you use the terms that appear in the text of the document. But, the user may employ different words for the same concepts. This situation can happen when a user is familiar with another environment, for example when an experienced Microsoft Windows user is learning about Linux. The user may also be familiar with common terms while the document may use scientific or other official terminology. Different industries, organizations or product groups can also develop their own specialized vocabularies.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing


Value of Indexing

Recently on INDEX-L, the indexer’s listserv, there was a thread on quotes about the value of indexing. See the article for some select examples.

Brown, Fred. Allegro Time! (2001). Articles>Indexing>Assessment



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