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Index Creation Software


Index Creation Software

Just as buying an accounts package does not qualify you as an accountant, using indexing software will not make you an indexing expert. The packages examined are great tools but they will not turn you into a lexicographer. They will, however, help you recognise the skills and fine judgement required to compile an effective index.

Indexing software is for the experts. This is just an overview so you can assess what is involved if you, as a writer, are tempted to prepare an index or if you fancy learning this skill.


Three packages are inspected here.

It would be unfair to use the term 'review' because a full ‘live test’ has not been carried out on each package.

These are not 'me too' products as they offer different facilities and work in different ways.

  CINDEX - screenshot

The ‘look and feel’ of the packages differ.

  • With CINDEX you put the entries on what looks like an index card. The cards can be defined in a format to suit the work.
  • For Sky Index the metaphor is that of a database. The entry sheet looks just like a spreadsheet with each row on the grid as an index entry. The latter makes your progress easily visible.
  • Macrex has a ‘no-nonsense’ blank sheet onto which items are typed within some minimal formatting



Sky Index - screenshot

Indexing software is for the experts.

This is just an overview so you can assess what is involved if you, as a writer, are tempted to prepare an index or if you fancy learning this skill.

  Macrex - screenshot

The software earns its keep by speeding up the process of compiling and amending an index.

  • You can repeat the page reference from the previous record with a single keystroke. Facilities make it easy to copy fields from the previous record, duplicate records and swap fields.
  • As you type, the program second-guesses what you are about to type, based on earlier entries and the number of times you have typed them. In Sky Index it is called "Auto entry" facility and "Auto-Completion" in Cindex.
  • Keyboard-shortcuts store common terms, allowing you to type a few letters which are expanded automatically. Cindex calls these "abbreviations" and Sky Index "acronyms". Sky Index achieves this with a simple mouse click while Cindex creates a separate file of abbreviations which requires some forethought.
  • If pages are added or deleted the programs automatically increment or decrement the range of pages.
  • With Cindex, you can drag text from outside the index but, strangely, you cannot drag it between entries within the same index, while Sky Index adopts precisely the opposite model!
  • Tasks such as sorting and repagination make it easy to reorganise the index.

Further facilities allow the indexer to concentrate on the words and the construction of the index.

  • If you are indexing periodicals or a multi-part publication, it is valuable to export the word list which saves time and achieves consistency.
  • If you are working with others, you can often import records prepared using other software and most indexing packages.
  • You can either buy or create your own supplementary dictionary for spell checking.
  • Sky Index and Cindex permits as many indexes as your computer’s memory will allow, which is handy if you are preparing an author as well as a subject index.

The end product

Most indexes will work with galley proofs that the book designer will have paginated. The index is created as a completely independent document. It is not constructed by tagging or marking up the digital text although the latest versions of CINDEX and Sky can now embed codes to documents, allowing the word-processing software to assign the page numbers to the index. You drag index entries into an RTF-compatible program such as MS Word so the index is generated within the word-processor. (If you want to match the pages on your word processor manuscript to the printed pagination see the guidelines.)

Having observed the evolution of software for over 20 years, I believe this specialist market for indexers has a way to go to achieve the convergence seen among the standard office packages. You can now move from one brand of spreadsheet or word processor to another and find 90% of the facilities familiar. It is probable that they will learn from each other over the years to provide the best range of features in one package. In the meantime, potential indexers will need to take advantage of the generous trial versions offered.

Preparing an index (and why you might need some specialist help)


  • Demonstration Copy
  • Student Edition $80 - Limited to 500 entries and no spell-checker.
  • Standard Edition $525
  • Publishers' Edition $750 - Provides some admin facilities for a multi-user environment.

Versions for Windows and Mac



Macrex Indexing Services

They have a good page of links

SKY Index™

Professional Edition V 6 $535 and 5.1 $399

SKY Index™ (Student Edition) $80



© Charles Jonesauthor; formerly nerd responsible for keeping the site running; spent over 25 years in computer business; started out dusting bugs off valves, but in time graduated to writing software and managing projects; as published author with stack of waiting-to-be-published manuscripts tucked away, WritersServices is answer to his silent prayer; his book 'Ordinary Heroes' An extraordinary true story of wartime adventure; recently published book about Battle of Fulford-'Fulford the forgotten battle of 1066', published by Tempus ISBN 0752438107 2003