Has anyone indexed a book lately and can recommend a process?
June 16, 2014 2:31 PM   Subscribe

Any advice on indexing a pdf and making an index in Word?

Hi! I am faced with the task of indexing a book that will be in pdf format. I understand that there are programs that will help with tagging the terms to be included in the index and then generating an index in Word that I can send along to the publisher.

I do not have the Pro version of Adobe, so I will likely have to download a program, and I see that there are several "index generators" available.

I see that a similar question was asked in 2009, but my guess is that a lot has changed since then. Does anyone have experience with such programs and can advise on which one is the easiest to use? I already have a list of the terms to be indexed. At least that part is done!

Thank you ever so much in advance!
posted by quixotictic to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This is half an answer, so treat it accordingly: I do not think that Acrobat has the capability of generating an index. I think you need to convert the PDF to Word and do the index within Word.
posted by yclipse at 4:46 PM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is it possible to get the book pre-PDF at the layout stage? If it was an Adobe program, you can get a month's license or the trials, and then generate the index from within that program more easily than in Word. I'm doing a book in InDesign now for a client, and the index will be done at the very end when the page layout is set in stone. It's not a super-detailed index though (about 3-5 pages I'd estimate for a 300+ page book with a lot of names), so the plan currently is to have a draft index from the word files made by the editor but without page numbers, just nailing down the subjects to index, then going through the InDesign files to generate the markers and output it (Adobe InDesign guide). You could definitely do that by hand simply by noting the PDF page numbers next to your handmade index in Word.

You can't really auto-generate an index. You can search for phrases and keywords to speed it up, but it's got to be a human brain (currently, hi Google) going through and deciding what information to flag. The grunt work of assigning page numbers is a bit faster with the page layout software or Word, but it's secondary to actually designing the index.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:38 PM on June 16, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks!!
posted by quixotictic at 6:55 AM on June 17, 2014

Best answer: If you have the list of terms to index then the best solution for you is to use (PDF Index Generator) software to index your pdf file, as it allows you to define a list of phrases inside it, then it can look only for that list of phrases inside your book to index it. No need to convert your pdf file to a word file in that case. I suggest you try the (trial edition) first. There are also many (video tutorials) available that you can watch as a guide.
posted by lara_salamone at 11:38 AM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Lara_salamone, thank you for your post! I had been wondering about that particular generator. I tried one chapter, and it seemed to work just fine. Can it be that easy? It seems too good to be true!
posted by quixotictic at 4:53 PM on June 17, 2014

The American Society for Indexing maintains a list of indexing software here:


For what it's worth, professional indexers get in the range of $3 per page & up.

On the other hand, Fiverr worker bees will do the job for a lot less:


Good luck!
posted by woodman at 5:56 PM on June 17, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, woodman!! A professional would be a great idea for next time -- when I do not already have a list of terms in an excel spreadsheet ready to be searched. I appreciate the links, and I will keep them in my special linky place.
posted by quixotictic at 8:08 PM on June 17, 2014

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