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How to Create an Index Table Like a Pro with Microsoft Word

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An index gives readers a way to find important words easily in our document, but creating an index by hand is very tedious and time consuming. Thankfully you can automatically create an index table in Word.

Image by Ifijay

The common approach to create an index table in Word is to manually mark each word that we wish to index, but the other alternative is to use a concordance document to automatically index our master document, which is what we will cover in today’s article.


Generating the Index

Let’s start by creating a two column table in our concordance file. Write the words that you would like to be marked for indexing in the left column. Write the text that you would like to use in the master document’s index table in the right column.

index_table

Close the concordance file and open your master document’s reference tab to index our master document.

index_menu

Click on the “AutoMark” button and choose the concordance document when Word prompts you to specify the AutoMark file.

index_screen

Right after you click the OK button you will see that Word creates some index entry fields in our document.

index_entry_field

We can hide these fields by clicking the “Show/Hide Paragraph” button in the home tab.

home_ribbon

Go to the end of the master document and click the “Insert Index” button one more time and click the OK button this time to create the index.

master_doc_index

That’s all we have on how to create an index table with a concordance file. Let’s take a closer look on how we can customize the index style.

Creating Cross References in the Index

Word allows us to create different type of index. Here we have an index with sub-entry that is particularly useful when we want to group a set of closely related concepts in our document.

The trick of creating a sub-entry is by separating the text in the right column of our concordance document table with a colon (:). Word will treat any words that come after the colon as a sub-entry in the index.

Another useful type of index is a cross reference index that usually comes in the form of “See also …”

Unfortunately we can’t create cross references in our index table using a concordance file, so we have to manually edit the index field by adding “\t” after the indexed word followed by the cross referenced word.

Maintaining the Index

One of the challenges with maintaining an index in Word is that Word does not give us a button or menu that we can simply click to clear the index fields if we decide to redo our concordance file.

We have to use a Visual Basic script to clear the index fields in our document. Most of you must be thinking “Visual Basic Script, I am not a programmer ! What is that ?”. Don’t worry it’s not as bad as it sounds. Just copy and paste this simple script written by the awesome guys at TechRepublic into Word’s Visual Basic editor and run it to clean your master document’s index fields.

Sub DeleteIndexEntries()
Dim doc As Document
Dim fld As Field
Set doc = ActiveDocument
For Each fld In doc.Fields
fld.Select
If fld.Type = wdFieldIndexEntry Then
fld.Delete
End If
Next
Set fld = Nothing
Set doc = Nothing
End Sub

Open the Visual Basic editor by pressing Alt+F11 and place this script into the editor. Execute the script by clicking the “run button” to clean the master document’s index fields.

Your master document should no longer have any index fields. We can now re-index the master document and recreate the index table using the “Insert Index” menu.

Applying Different Index Table Formats

Yes index is definitely useful for your reader, but most probably some of you are thinking, “Why does the index table look so boring. Can I change the way it looks to make it more appealing ?”. The answer is yes, index table does not have to look plain.

We can adjust the index table’s style by selecting the one of the available format to adjust the look and feel of the index table.

Here is an example on how the Classic index format looks like.

We can even apply our own style to the index table by choosing the “From Template” and clicking the “Modify” button.

Choose one of the available index styles and click the “Modify” button to make our own style.

We can adjust the index table’s font style.

Gives the index table some borders, or numbering;

… to give the index table a specific look and feel.

That’s all we have for creating index table with Microsoft Word. Got any more great tips for document construction? Share your expertise in the comments.

Zainul spends his time trying to make technology more productive, whether it’s Microsoft Office applications, or learning to use web applications to save time.

  • Published 11/18/10

Comments (6)

  1. Hatryst

    I didn’t know that MS Word was capable of doing it with such ease…!!

  2. Gordon

    First!
    Wow, amazing but you lost my somewhere at the beginning. LOL!
    Great article!

  3. ron

    seems like a lot of work for the potential to sve time in the future.

    i kind of need more “Why would i use indexing and when is it worth doing before I get all exited enough to actually use this.

    also how do you use it?
    how do others use it?
    How would you distribute this index and parent document to others?
    as 2 files or do they get bundled into one?
    oK I will stop asking Q’s now because I may have to index them all!

  4. Camilo Martin

    @ron personally I’d never use an index unless it is:

    – A print document. (Otherwise, you have Ctrl+F!)
    – A technical one, full of words specific to one field of science.
    – A very big and important one.

    But really as a user of a document I don’t see myself using an index. Just my 2 cents.

  5. agnieszka

    @ron,

    have you ever been a student at a university or even high school? this method is a beaut for thesis and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure) in the lab. Any discipline, any place at all where you have sections in your documents.

    every student using MS (does this also work in LibreOffice?) should be given this article.

  6. Zainul Franciscus

    @agnieszka we’re glad that you find this article relevant in your study. We are also a big fan of Linux, and we may cover similar articles for LibreOffice =)

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