COMPUTER TIPS FOR WRITERS: Creating an Index with Microsoft Word 2010 and 2007

Many clients have asked me if it is possible to create an Index using Microsoft Word. Microsoft Word logoI put the question to Los Angeles computer software wizard Jeff Davidson of PC Consultants and he explained as follows.

What Goes into an Index?

An Index is made of numerous individual Index Entries, which can be:

  • An individual word, phrase or symbol
  • A topic that spans a range of pages
  • A reference to another entry (such as “Transportation – see Bicycles”)

When you select text and mark it as an Index Entry, Microsoft Word inserts a special XE (Index Entry) field that includes the marked main entry and any cross-reference information that you choose to include. If, for example, you add the word “bicycle” to your Index, the XE entry appearing immediately after it would look like this: {XE “bicycle”}

Who Selects the Entries for the Index?

You do, either working from a list of words/phrases you created, or looking for good candidates for the Index as you work your way through your manuscript. In either case, go through your manuscript identifying the words/phrases you’d like to appear in the Index – and you only have to do it once for each word/phrase, for Microsoft Word will find all the other occurrences in the document.

Then What?

After you mark all the Index Entries, you tell Microsoft Word to create the Index. Word goes through your manuscript collecting the Index Entries, sorts them alphabetically, notes their page numbers, finds and removes duplicate entries from the same page, and displays the Index in the document.

That’s it in a nutshell. Now let’s take a look at the individual steps you must take to create a basic Index. I’ll talk about advanced techniques in subsequent blogs.

Step 1: Mark the Index Entries

Go through your manuscript, looking for words and/or phrases you’d like to be indexed. When you find one, double-click on it to highlight it, then click on the “References” tab at the top of your document, go to the “Index” area and click on “Mark Entry.”

When you click on “Mark Entry,” a new window will open. You’ll see that the word/phrase you want indexed is already in the “Main Entry” line at the top of the new window.

At the very bottom of the new window you’ll see three buttons; “Mark,” “Mark All” and “Cancel.” If you only want this one instance of the selected word/phrase to appear in the Index, click on “Mark.” If you want every instance of the selected word/phrase to appear in the Index, click on “Mark All.”

Step 2: Create the Index

You’ve worked your way through your manuscript, marking the words/phrases you’d like indexed. Now it’s time to create the Index, which is easy to do. Start by going to the end of your manuscript – the usual place for an Index to appear – and click on the place where you want your Index to begin. If you like, you can type the word “Index” and click right below that.

Once you’ve clicked where you want the Index to begin, go back to the “References” tab and in the “Index” area, just to the right of “Mark Entry,” you’ll see “Insert Index.” Click on that, and a new window will appear. Click “OK” at the bottom of this new window and your Index will pop into place. Each of the words/phrases you selected will be there, followed by the page numbers on which they appear.

That’s it – you’ve got your Index.

Getting Fancy

There’s a lot more you can do with the Index, including bolding and/or italicizing either the Index Entries or page numbers; bolding just a few page numbers in the Index to highlight them; creating sub-entries, third-level entries and cross-references within the Index; changing the look and style of the Index; and more.

To learn about advanced Indexing techniques, or if you need assistance with Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint, or other popular computer programs, contact Jeff Davidson of PC Consultants.

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