Re: Indices and not-indices

Subject: Re: Indices and not-indices
From: "Kevin Elmore" <kelmore -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 11 Jul 2008 13:00:28 -0500

Consolidating the helpful replies to my question with comments of my
own at the end…

>>> Note a slight usage distinction: particularly in U.S. English, "indexes" seems to be the preferred plural for back-of-book indexes. "Indices", on the other hand, tends to be used more for calculated values, such as price indices. Not a hard and fast rule, but a common one.<<<

Feh, no wonder that didn't look right to me. Thanks for the
clarification. I should have known better.

>>>Are all the keywords / index entries created over the years _only_ words that appear in the topic text?<<<

Not entirely, but I would say that is about 98% accurate. Indexing is
not a skill known in my group. When I picked up a book on indexing 3
years ago and suggested that our index is inadequate, I got blank
stares. Even today, I'm still facing a wall of, "If people can type
in a word and find the topic in the index, then how can it not be an

>>> If so, how long would it take to make a quick pass through the topics, brainstorming and adding synonyms, related concepts, etc. An afternoon? A day? That won't make it a _great_ index, but it will make it a useful one that at least some readers will be thankful for.<<<

Sadly, I don't have an answer for that, as I am not experienced with
indexing. But, from what I can gather, it would be a large task for
me. The help file has nearly 2000 topics. I'm not sure how that
translates into time spent. I fear that this would take more than a
day, and I also fear that the time investment would be an obstacle.

Furthermore, I fear that the need would not be identified. As I said,
the Index consists of the heading texts of the helpfiles, as well as
the Document Control Number that we assign. So, technically, each
help file is represented more than twice in the Index: Once with its
full name, once more with its assigned number, and one or more times
with various keywords (most of which are usually just located within
the text). Considering the opposition I received when I said that the
Document Control Numbers should not need to be in the Index since
users can just use the Search tab, I would not hold out much hope on
the need for indexing to be recognized. That's why I've gone to
recommending that the Index not be used on external help files.

>>> Maybe 5% even open the index other than by accident when using search.<<<

Thank you for that insight. I am probably just projecting my own
expectations onto the users. I don't mind inflicting this Index on
our internal users—after all, they've been using it for 5 years before
I came on board. I'm just a bit worried about looking professional.
And if our own users don't notice, then the other users likely won't

I think I may compose a survey for our users and see how many really
do use the index. I may wait on this, as we had a broken search
engine for a long time that just recently became active again once we
replaced our server and upgraded RoboHelp. But that is something to
keep in mind.

I'm still worried, but I'm less so.

Kevin Elmore

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Indices and not-indices: From: Kevin Elmore
RE: Indices and not-indices: From: Combs, Richard

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