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Online Resources

The following resources list is a guide to useful resources on all aspects of digital technology likely to affect the working indexer, from dealing with computer crashes, through choosing software aids to following latest ebook trends. The major resource for indexing worldwide of course is the international journal The Indexer, which is accessible in various ways and featured a special epublishing issue in March 2012.

'Digital publishing' is a vast and amorphous subject, changing by the minute. Terminology is unsettled and emerging trends hard to identify. As with many other technological changes it will be easier to say where we are going once we have got there. Indexers vary greatly in their understanding of the issues and how these affect them. Those publishing on ebook trends vary at least as widely in their appreciation of information retrieval fundamentals. The tsunami of popular articles by enthusiasts proclaiming the death of the book don't deserve to be reproduced here: they are not simply easy to find; they are hard to avoid.

A few indexers are IT experts, revelling in the new opportunities; others just want to understand enough, at least at this stage, to go on doing a good professional job. One problem has been that few clients began with any deep understanding of the technology involved or how indexing fits in. This makes it all the more important for indexers themselves to be clear what the issues are, what the challenges and possibilities. Every effort is made to keep the list up-to-date and relevant. The latest additions are indicated by a "new" icon [New] to help with their identification. If you have corrections or suggestions for inclusion please contact resources@ptg-indexers.org.uk.

Page Contents:

Arriving through your letterbox

The Indexer: the international journal of indexing, published by the Society of Indexers on behalf of the international indexing societies, has a long record of articles and reviews looking at technology and the indexer. Consult the index (1996-2011) at www.theindexer.org or (for a quick overview) the contents by category. The Indexer is also available online.

The March 2012 issue of The Indexer was devoted to indexing in the digital world - see abstracts of the articles. For non-subscribers, in addition to the online version, it is possible to purchase a print copy.

SIdelights: The Society of Indexers Newsletter has regular features and special articles on various aspects of technology of interest to the indexer. Society of Indexers members can check the index at:

And the newsletters of sister indexing societies participating in the international exchange scheme are available on the Society of Indexers website.

Help!

You are rushing to complete a job, and suddenly something goes wrong with your hardware or software. Forget your resentment that hardcopy manuals are a thing of the past - there are now so many other ways to sort out problems:

  1. Hardware manuals are often available for downloading, to print out or not as you please.
  2. There is a wealth of independently produced user manuals, the Dummies series being very reliable (but before buying check out customer reviews on Amazon).
  3. The 'help' feature built into almost all of today's software is often excellent. Key in 'smart quotes' for example, and Word help will explain precisely how to do whatever you want with them.
  4. Google your problem - the chances are that you will find dozens of websites discussing exactly how to resolve it. And this at least brings the reassurance that you are not alone.
  5. It can be well worthwhile using the 'contact us' option to discuss your problem. This often works well, whether you do it by a simple email, by signing up to an online 'chat with our technical adviser', or by telephone (though sadly too many of the big companies still work office hours - Monday to Friday, 9-5).
  6. If you are having problems with your emails, take a look at your server's website. They can be slow to spot there is a problem (and by definition you may have problems accessing this), but again it is reassuring once they do, to know that it is nothing to do with you or your equipment.
  7. If it is specialist software, in particular indexing software, that you are having problems with, put your problem to the relevant listserv, or to the software supplier (Cindex, SKY Index and Macrex all offering excellent back-up services).
  8. Post to SIdeline or one of the other discussion groups.

And, for Googling purposes, forget your indexing habits! Natural language and word order gets you further with Google than inversions. And best of all, if you have it, is to key in the error number. (You will also need this for discussion with the supplier, and may also need to do a screen grab. Don't know how? Google 'screen grab'!)

Read also Jon Jermey, 'Misbehaving computers' (The Indexer, 25(3), 195-6 (April 2007)).

Helpful software

In addition to the standard software (word-processing, database tools, PDF readers and the dedicated indexing software packages) there is a lot of other software which is particularly useful for indexers working on digital material. Jan Wright, Glenda Browne, Michele Combs, David Ream and Pilar Wyman provide a matrix to help indexers choose tools and processes in 'The Matrix: creating an active index in all kinds of formats, from all kinds of tools', The Indexer, 31(4), 137-142 (December 2013).

The software listed below represent only a small selection and will be added to as we build up a fuller picture of what is available with reasonable confidence that a product is worth consideration. All the products listed below have received enthusiastic support from users and have had good reviews in SIdelights, The Indexer, and/or Key Words.

There have been interesting developments in German indexing software in the past year or so. Jochen Fassbender reviews SmartIndex and Index-Manager in 'Software developments in Germany', The Indexer, 32(1), 41 (March 2014).

Semi-automatic indexing

A dream come true? Hardly. The programs offering semi-automatic indexing which are most likely to be of interest to indexers include IndDoc, PDF Index Generator and TExtract.

As IndDoc puts it in its promotion material, "the aim is to propose to indexers (documentalists, editors, authors, etc) a rich nomenclature and a list of references that are used to generate the final index". There is a full description of IndDoc by the developers in The Indexer, 25(2), 122-5 (October 2006).

PDF Index Generator (PDFIG) says about itself: "PDF Index Generator is a powerful indexing utility for generating an index from your book and writing it to your book in four easy steps. PDF Index Generator parses your book, collects the index words and their location in the book, then writes the generated index to a PDF or a text file you specify."

Jon Jermey, reviewing PDF Index Generator in the January/February 2010 ANZSI Newsletter, concluded, "[A]ttempting to turn [PDFIG] output into a usable index would involve far more work than actually indexing the book properly in the first place".

TExtract is perhaps the program best known to indexers, having been presented at several indexing society conferences by the developer, Harry Bego. Reception (as on all 'automatic' indexing software) is, to say the least, mixed. For an enthusiastic report, see Roger Bennett's 'TExtract: a regular user's view' (The Indexer, 27(2) (June 2009)). For a more critical view see Janet Shuter's review in The Indexer, 25(4) (October 2005) and Bill Johncocks' editorial 'Be afraid, be very afraid!' in SIdelights (Winter 2010, p.1).

Jan Ross also writes about the prospects for automated indexing ('The impact of technology on indexing', The Indexer, 22(1), 25-6 (April 2000). Although Jan wrote in 2000, her arguments remain valid, the fundamental problem being that any sort of automated indexing must begin with a word search and is liable, at best, to present a concordance of variable quality. To move beyond that requires (as the IndDoc team recognize) a lot of additional input from the human indexer.

If a concordance or keyword index (see word spotting) is the aim, semi-automatic indexing software may go a long way to meeting your needs - and can be just as easily handled by an author as by a professional indexer. (Both TExtract and PDF Indexer Generator are promoted principally as tools for the author to generate his or her own index.) But for analytical indexing, for indexing concepts rather than keywords (the added-value the professional indexer offers) even semi-automatic indexing still has a long way to go.

XML indexing

For an excellent review of what true XML indexing involves (as opposed to preparing indexes in Word or PDF which are then processed for XML purposes) see Michele Combes' 'XML indexing', The Indexer, 30(1), 47-52 (March 2012).

InDesign

InDesign is an important program, better known to indexers in the United States than elsewhere, but that may change with the release with of Adobe InDesign Creative Cloud (CC) in June 2013, a key innovation being the possibility of exporting linked indexes to EPUB. EPUB changes in CC are discussed at:

The ASI-DTTF have issued a couple of press releases directed at publishers and indexers. The notes for indexers give lots of useful suggestions on where to look for further help, including the InDesign indexing discussion group.

Plug-ins are being developed to ease the professional indexer's task, one example being the suite developed by Kerntiff Publishing Systems (KPS). For a review of the plugins by Lucie Haskins see 'Working smarter, not harder, with the KPS Indexing Plugins', The Indexer, 31(4), 143-150 (December 2013).

FrameMaker, Madcap Flare, LaTeX et al.

These are all, like InDesign, specialized document production systems which a number of indexers, particularly in the US, work with regularly (and there always new systems coming along). Descriptions can be found at FrameMaker, MadCap Flare, LaTeX.

Online discussion groups and listservs

Not all of us like them and it is arguable that there are too many jostling for space in a very small world but some are essential if one is to keep in touch with what's going on in the indexing world. Possibilities include:

The Society of Indexers has a Facebook and a Twitter presence.

For other ideas take a look at 'Web resources for indexers' (Pierke Bosschieter and Jan Wright in the March 2012 Indexer) and ANZSI's list of email lists.

Some blogs

Where's it all going?

The argument rages as to whether eBooks will be the death or the salvation of the publishing industry and the book as we know it.

You might like to take a look at some surveys and discussions of ebook trends:

Background reading

Technology and indexing fundamentals

Choosing your eReader

There are useful reviews of eReaders on the ipl2 website oand the Top Ten Reviews website.

ePublishing

For an overview of the sort of thing that's going on in ePublishing and where the indexer might fit in take a look at:

The summer of 2013 saw a flurry of articles arguing that the print book is far from dead:

Topic maps

Taxonomies

Website/HTML indexing

Indexing software

A few articles to you make your decision on which software is for you. Each of the 'big three' is continually developing and offering new ways to help the indexer, but the underlying approaches (which these articles look at) remain constant. Read them, try out each system using the free demonstration packages, enough to handle your training course assignments and then complete a modest index. Then choose what you are most comfortable with.

For an exhaustive list of what's available see ANZSI's page on software.


Updated: September 2014

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