I do a lot of embedded indexing, working in both an XML-like setting and in Microsoft Word. I’m just finishing up a long Word project that involved not only indexing but creating a table of cases and a bibliography—all with Word’s modules. While Dave Ream’s excellent IXMLembedder made the indexing part (mostly) painless, the rest of it was pretty much as you’d expect from everybody’s favorite software program.
To make matters even more fun, one of our excellent associates prepared the table of cases while I did the indexing—and then I got to merge the two documents. It sounds simple, and it was simple in the tests, but in reality there was a lot of cleanup. I have a new appreciation for the real typesetters of a century and longer ago (can you imagine how much worse reflow would have been in the days before even movable type?).
I know I’m not the only one. Many indexers won’t even take embedded indexing jobs, and the topic is always a hot one on email lists. I have picked up a handful of resources and tricks that make the job a little bit easier.
I’ve mentioned IXMLembedder already—a good utility that allows you to work with your own indexing software and not have to use Word’s indexing function directly is almost worth my firstborn child. Learn how to get the most out of it with this ASI webinar.
If you are stuck working directly in Word, or if you have an embedding program but still run into tricky spots in the clean-up phase, check out former PI partner Seth Maislin’s excellent “Troubleshooting Those Horrible Microsoft Word Index Problems.” The cross-reference and productivity tips are especially useful (color your XE fields so you see them!).
Speaking of color, did you know you can change the background color of your Word document? That can be a lifesaver if you are working between two versions of something. No one wants to do hours of work in the wrong file.
When I’m working in two different windows, I like to snap my windows to the sides of my screen. It makes them the same size and lines them up. This cuts down on visual clutter and makes it easier to concentrate. Just drag the window to the very edge and hold for a second, and it’ll change size and stick to the side you picked.
A good keyboard shortcut can save you precious seconds and mouse-related wear and tear on your wrist. Doesn’t sound like much, but those seconds add up! Try one of these, or go wild with the master list. You can even make your own.
I know there are thousands of other little tricks—we’ve indexed entire books about them here at PI—I’d love for you to share your favorites.
PI Pick of the Week
My number one top tip is concentration. That’s why I enjoyed this episode of the Note to Self podcast this week on “Spring Cleaning for the Mind.” Close your inbox, put your phone on Do Not Disturb, get out the noise-canceling headphones, and try to single-task for an entire day. You never know what could happen—today, I surfaced from superhero-like concentration to discover my kids had made themselves a new friend!