Re: Index vs. Search

Subject: Re: Index vs. Search
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: Al Geist <al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 09 Sep 2007 17:27:45 -0700

Al Geist wrote:
> Indexes may be helpful to those who use them, but for online work, I always
> go to the search function. That's just me, but I don't think I'm that much
> different than others.

I agree, given a typical help file or electronic documentation, full
text searching (FTS) is the only tool of value. Indexes these days, and
even hyperlinked indexed, are mostly there for appearances, and are not
developed systematically or thoroughly. If they were well developed,
that would be a different fantasy, but as things exist today,
fuggedaboutit, most of them are too mickey mouse to be useful.

> To me, the index is part of the linear form of
> documentation...a holdover from the print days.

Exactly. FTS took the user's ability to look things up to a new level.

> If I don't know the term,
> the index won't help me; however, if I know the concept, the search function
> will.

Someone who makes and uses help files and indexes could do a little
science to see if FTS searches the index of a help file. I think it does
search every part of a PDF or document, but if it thumbs through the
index, then it could find any instance of a word that is found only as a
cross-reference, and THAT is better is than the user trying to find a
word that is cross-referenced only, no?

The only reason I can think of why FTS wouldn't search an index is that
the architects of Help didn't want to twist the knife after FTS plunged
it into indexes and their limitations, which were, and continue to be,
the product of weak indexing by indexers without a budget or skills
necessary to create a reliable index.

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com

Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
documentation. Boost your productivity!

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Re: Index vs. Search: From: Fred Ridder
Re: Index vs. Search: From: jmccrooks
RE: Index vs. Search: From: Al Geist

Previous by Author: Re: Technical author leading resistance to background checks
Next by Author: Re: Index vs. Search? (take III)
Previous by Thread: RE: Index vs. Search? (take III)
Next by Thread: Re: Index vs. Search

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads