creating an index

I have carefully read the manual but I have not seen - or perhaps missed? - how to create an index in a non-fiction work. Is it possible to do so?

We do not have a way of constructing an index at this time. That may change in the future, but it will take some planning and design to do so. Some key components for making it even possible are not yet implemented, but it’s really the UI for such a thing that will be a design aspect.

Out of curiosity, and maybe for future use, how do writers create an index then? What tools are available for that purpose? :slight_smile:

I’m not the right person to ask as I’ve never had an index created for anything I’ve written, but I believe this is usually done by a service, as it is a bit of a technical job that requires an experienced eye for where it is best to lead the reader and how often they should be led to various places of the book. Some software claims to be able to do automatic or semi-automatic indexing, but I bet it’s about as high quality as automatic spam detection. It’ll work some of the time, but never all of the time.

Here is an article on the matter.

One of these days I need to figure it out, because our user manuals need indexing. Being able to use phrase searching in the PDF reader is okay, but a proper index would be nicer.

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Automatic indexers work about as well as automatic grammar checkers, in my experience: moderately useful at times, and at other times unintentionally hilarious.

Indexing is a profession verging on art. All the publishers I’ve worked with hire from a freelance pool of very busy, very dedicated indexers. For a nonfiction book, a good index isn’t an accessory, but a necessity.

Sometimes, authors wanted to save the cost of indexing (publishers typically kick the cost of indexing back to the author) and do it themselves–“how hard can it be?”–but the results were uniformly abysmal. (see the Cook’s Illustrated books, for a prime example, where page after page drifts by without one orienting usage of Bold Face. It’s not like an emphatic typeface costs more per entry.)

Occasionally, the unintentionally hilarious comes from professional indexers who may be unversed in an arcane topic. I published a boatbuilding book in the 1980s from a decidedly bohemian, aggressively informal writer and yacht designer who enjoyed calling people who didn’t know what they were doing “melon farmers.” When we got the index back, it contained five carefully paginated listings for Farmers, Melon.

Of course I left them in.

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Good article AmberV, and great insightful post Ahab, thank you both.
I feel like a little kid discovering & learning new things at every turn of this forum :slight_smile:


Loving scrivener and using it to write my first book.

That said, it’s quite disappointing that simple features like indexing are not supported. My book is a management book and it would be useful to be able to refer to an index.

I have no use of Keywords and wondered if we could not simply use the keywords as index as option in the compile settings?
I could place myself the concepts as keywords I want to express in each chapter and have an index page referring keywords and chapter/page associated. No need to redesign much, just customize the output.

Would it be easy to “hack” into the scrivener format to read keywords myself? I happen to be a developer as well.

Keywords wouldn’t really work for this because they are applied to the entire document. The best we could do is have all of the index items pointing to the nearest beginning of a section. For some authors that would mean whole chapters. We don’t want to provide a feature that is broadly useful to many authors, but then ask those authors to all use the software in a way they may not feel comfortable using it. If someone doesn’t want to break things down further than chapters, they shouldn’t have to do so to make full use of Scrivener.

This isn’t a super high-priority item for us, because in most cases the author is not involved with indexing anyway. They usually contract that work out, and by that point the book is basically done, out of Scrivener and in another format (usually Word). So given that, and the complexity of coming up with a really good indexing system in a framework that is otherwise somewhat entirely ignorant of things like page numbers, is a bit tricky. We haven’t outright said it won’t happen, it’s still on the list, we just need a good approach before even thinking about it.

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Hi AmberV,

Thanks for the super fast reply and deep explanation, I appreciate greatly and it makes a lot of sense.

I was thinking of giving it a go myself anyway since each page is roughly 100 words long. I had a quick look at the format and it shouldn’t be too complicated for me to try to generate an index page based on my keywords usage. At least I have access to all the information.

I’ll let you know in 3 months :slight_smile:

I’ve done indexes for technical documents using Adobe FrameMaker plus a third-party tool that supplements FrameMaker’s primitive Indexing dialog, IXGen.

Ahab makes some good points in his contribution, above.

As stated, there are people who work as professional indexers. They are generally highly detailed oriented and perhaps even a bit eccentric. But in pursuit of lower costs, these days a contemporary technical writer is expected to create graphics, self-edit, index, and otherwise perform tasks that were formerly done by specialist contributors to a given document.

To create an index one needs both strategy and tactics.

Strategically one needs to develop a consistent organizational framework. There are numerous strategies described in a multitude of text and How To books.

For example, I create a task oriented structure that creates top-level keywords and subordinate keywords based on the tasks described in a task-oriented document. There can be exceptions for non-task entries, but they too need to be consistently structured throughout.

Tactically one needs to master whatever indexing tool or tools are at hand. In most of the authoring tools I’ve worked with, index entries are identified by special index markers. One selects a bit of prose in the content, marks it, and defines the index entry. Depending on the authoring tool, native indexing tools can be painfully primitive to the point that it makes sense to acquire a third-party supplement. For example, the aforementioned IXGen enabled me to create, manage, and edit indexes far more efficiently than I could using FM’s native, postage-stamp-sized indexing dialog.

One then directs the authoring tool to sweep up the index markers, sort them, and place them in the Index’s pages. One typically then needs to format the Index’s pages for usability and visual appeal.

In any event, these days I’m less often asked to index a document that’s intended to be delivered in a print-friendly format such as PDF. It was a nifty skill and in its own way fun (but not too much fun) to do.

Cheers & hope this helps,

As I mentioned in a new post on another thread (and was, helpfully, referred here), I have just read the contract for the book I’m currently writing, which isn’t a good idea four months from the deadline! It says that I need to supply an index - not something I’ve ever done before and not something I want to pay for out of the pitiful advance. My best idea is to chuck some keywords on an index card as they come up then sort them into alphabetical order. Anyone have any better ideas?

You could create a file called “Index” somewhere in your Binder. Right-click on it and select “Add to Favorites”. Now, when you spot a word you want to make note of for indexing later on, just select and right-click on the word to use the Append Selection to Document sub-menu to file it to the “Index” document. That you added this file as a favourite will push it to the top of that sub-menu list so you never have to go hunting for it.

When you’re done, go into the file, select all of the words, and use the Edit/Sort Paragraphs/Ascending menu command. Done! Of course, that won’t make an index (Scrivener doesn’t have any of the tools you need for that), but it’ll make it so you can construct your effective to-do list while you write, instead of later.

Wow… 10 years (2013->2023) later… Hi everyone… I just started using Scrivener to write a textbook, and I cannot find the instructions on how to Index anywhere. Can anyone help?
Thanks! Opher

Yes, this thread is quite a bit older than the modern version of the software, which is much more flexible, and allows for one to more easily create features that they need. In this case though, we’ve already done that hard work for you and built them into some example compile settings that you can use as starting points.

Here is a more recent thread describing the process of indexing in Scrivener in detail. If you have any further questions regarding that procedure, I’d encourage posting them there.