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Making an Index in Word - Part 2

We look at marking index entries across multiple pages, hidden text and a nifty add-on for regular indexers.

By Michael Barden

In the last issue of Office for Mere Mortals we looked at the basics of indexing in Word – setting up a document to be indexed and then generating a simple index.

In this issue we’ll look at marking index entries across multiple pages, hidden text and a nifty add-on for regular indexers.

Indexes are somewhat ‘old-fashioned’ in that they are good for longer paper documents like books. They aren’t necessarily needed for online documents like web pages, Word documents or PDF files read online because you can search for any word in the document.


After marking an index entry, Word will automatically turn on the “Show hidden text” and “Show all characters” options making your document appear full of strange characters. There is however a method in the madness.

Index Entry fields displayed within the document image from Making an Index in Word - Part 2 at

Every index entry will have an { XE “index entry” } tag next to it. The {XE} tag is a hidden text index entry field that can only be seen when the show hidden text option is selected.

With the show all characters option selected you are able to “see” whitespace formatting elements. For example, spacebar presses are represented by what looks like a slightly thicker full-stop vertically centered between two words. Paragraph symbols are also displayed where the “Enter” key was pressed. While this is not totally necessary, it does however display the exact formatting of the {XE} index entry fields.

To turn off these options, go to “Tools | Options”, select the “View” tab, and in the “Formatting Marks” section deselect the “All” and “Hidden Text” checkboxes.

Turning off the “Hidden Text” checkbox is especially important after you have completed your index. While the hidden text is displayed, the page numbering related to index elements can quickly become inaccurate (as the {XE} index entry tags themselves increase the amount of text on any given page). Only after turning off the show hidden text option and updating the index’s page numbers will the index truly reflect the document and be ready for printing or distribution.

A word of warning – if you turn off the show all characters option and/or the show hidden text option and then attempt to mark more index entries, Word will immediately switch the options back on.


So how do you create an index entry for a commonly recurring theme or topic that spans a number of sequential pages in your document? Simple – use the “Page range” option in the “Mark Index Entry” dialog box after performing some foundation work that will enable this functionality.

To begin with, select the range of text (this could be a number of pages) that you want an index entry to refer to and navigate to “Insert | Bookmark”. In the “Bookmark name” textbox, type a name that describes the section and click “Add”.

Back in the document, click at the end of the text you marked with a bookmark and use the ALT+SHIFT+X keyboard shortcut to bring up the “Mark Index Entry” dialog box. Type the index entry name in the “Main entry” textbox. Next, select the “Page range” radio button and in the “Bookmark” box select the bookmark you just created.

Clicking “Mark” will place the index entry into the index along with the page range that is associated to the bookmark selection. For example, “Microsoft Office, 7-11” refers to a range of pages referring to “Microsoft Office” that have been bookmarked.


A more efficient way to mark index entries is via the use of a concordance file. A concordance file is a list of words to be included in the indexing of another document coupled with their index entries.

To create a concordance file, open up a new document and navigate to “Tools | Insert | Table”. Create a two-column table in the dialog and click the “OK” button.

In the left column, enter the text you want to search for and index in your document. In the right column, enter the text you would normally type into the “Main entry” textbox of the “Mark Index Entry” dialog box.

Entering “Microsoft Word” into the left column and “Microsoft Word” into the right column on the same row will find all instances of the phrase “Microsoft Word” in the document text and create a corresponding index entry for them.

Entering “Lorikeet” into the left column and “Bird:Lorikeet” into the right column will find all instances of the word “Lorikeet” in the document text and create an index entry with a “Main entry” of “Bird and a “Subentry” of “Lorikeet” within the index.

Save the document when you have exhausted your list of possible search terms and related index entries.

To run the concordance file, open the document you wish to index. Navigate to “Insert | Reference | Index and Tables” and click on the “Index” tab. Next click the “AutoMark” button. Select the concordance file you have previously created and saved (the one with the table) and click “Open”. Word will then generate the index automatically from your concordance file directives.

One useful tip in the Microsoft Online Help is to list all forms of the text you want to search for to ensure that Word indexes everything you would expect. For example: type “erupt”, “erupting”, and “eruption” in three separate cells in the left column, and then type “volcanoes” in each of the matching cells in the right column. This is because if Word does not find an exact match, it will not mark it as an index entry.


After the first part of this feature, we heard from several readers about a nifty little shareware utility called ‘IndexAssistant’

We haven’t had a chance to fully review IndexAssistant but it seems to deal with many of the issues in Word’s indexing system. There’s a faster way to index a block of text (bookmarks are created automatically) and auto-complete to help keep your indexing consistent.

The manual is good and aside from helping you use IndexAssistant will reveal some of the inner-workings of Word’s indexing system.

IndexAssistant can be registered for just $10 after downloading a free trial and works for Word 97 through Word 2003 (no word on Word 2007 but it’s worth trying).

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