Number of index items per page?

Subject: Number of index items per page?
From: Geoff Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 08:14:56 -0400

Darren Barefoot is <<... wondering if anyone can give me a decent
benchmark on how many index entries one ought to have per
manual page.>>

The same rule applies online and in print: create one index entry
(plus associated synonyms and cross-references) for each main
concept. One problem with current online help systems is that they
treat a topic as equivalent to a single concept, when in fact most
topics contain multiple concepts, thereby making it difficult for
users to find the single concept they're seeking: in effect, they
click the keyword, arrive at the top of the topic, then have to skim
the entire topic to find the one small part they're seeking. (In effect,
this is the equivalent of saying that a concept in a printed manual
can be found on pages 10-20, when in fact that page range spans a
general discussion, and the specific concept only occurs on page
15.) This may just be because we're in an evolutionary phase
during which help authors are still learning to break down sections
into small enough chunks that each chunk really does merit only a
single keyword. It's also an artefact of the poor indexing tools we
currently have available in WinHelp and HTML. (There are some
promising trends, though; check out HTMLIndexer, at )

Rather than seeking a hard and fast rule, take a step back and
reconsider the purpose of an index: to provide precise access to
individual concepts. How many keywords you'll need depends on
how many individual topics you have and how good a job of
providing access to them you want to do (or can afford) to do.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Though the editor is the author's ally, she should never forget that
she is also the reader's first line of defense."--Shoshanna Green

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