How Word Indexes Work

A quality index is an invaluable tool for helping your readers quickly access the specific information they're looking for?not just in books, but in any document that's long enough to make browsing for specific information inefficient. Word's indexing features are intended to automate those aspects of indexing that a computer is smart enough to do on its own and streamline those for which there's no substitute for your human judgment.

Building an index with Word is a three-step process:

  1. Mark your index entries? either one by one or a batch at a time.

  2. Tell Word how to format the index.

  3. Compile the index. (That's the easy part.)

In general, compiling your index should be one of the last things you do with your document. Indexing last reduces the number of times you have to rebuild your index. It also tends to increase the quality of your index because you have access to the entire, final document while you're making decisions about how individual entries should be handled.


If you are indexing multiple documents?such as chapters in a book?you may want to build a mini-index to view all your index entries for one chapter, before you start to work on the next. By doing so, you can improve the consistency of the index entries you create and minimize the amount of index editing you'll have to do later.

To create an index for a single chapter, open the file containing that chapter and insert the index using the procedure described later in this chapter, in the "Compiling Your Index" section. Select the index; press Ctrl+Shift+F9 to unlink the index field and convert it into ordinary text. Then cut it from the document and paste it into a blank document that you can print or view for reference while working on other chapters.

    Part I: Word Basics: Get Productive Fast
    Part II: Building Slicker Documents Faster
    Part III: The Visual Word: Making Documents Look Great
    Part IV: Industrial-Strength Document Production Techniques
    Part VI: The Corporate Word