ISC conference attendees were treated to a tour of four of the most popular indexing programs.
Harry Bego, developer of TExtract, came from the Netherlands to give us a presentation and demo of his “semi-automatic” indexing software. Having been a researcher in natural language processing at Tilburg University, Bego incorporated linguistic and statistical analysis algorithms into TExtract; these identify important terms and compile them all into an initial draft index, taking out a lot of grunt work of data entry. Bego was quick to emphasize that the user is always completely in control. Although TExtract puts together the initial index automatically, the indexer can review each entry and choose whether to accept or discard it. For each entry, the program shows its frequency and “significance score.” Users can adjust the significance threshold of a text to control what kinds of terms are picked out in the initial index, and they can add filters to determine which terms the program should exclude or include.
TExtract also has a “document replacement” feature that allows the indexer to compare a new version of the text with an old one and update the index accordingly. The entries are linked to the text—a feature that supports in-context navigation and editing.
Although TExtract is in itself a complete indexing program, Bego told us that TExtract outputs can then be fed into any of the other major indexing programs (such as the ones below), if an indexer is more comfortable editing on different software.
SKY Index’s developer, Kamm Schreiner, was unable to join us in person, but he sent a video that showed off some of this program’s features.
SKY has a spreadsheet-like interface and allows you to do data entry on the right-hand pane while a preview pane on the left shows you the index as it’s being built. Schreiner has built in several functions that in other programs might require a macro: SKY Index can easily consume subheadings, swap acronyms, and so on. The program also flags common errors for the indexer (e.g., adding a locator to an entry that already has a See cross-reference).
SKY Index has an edit view, which allows for quick and efficient editing. You can open up a browse pane that allows you to see and compare two separate sections of the index side by side. The browse pane can be used in data entry view as well, and the program bookmarks where you left off before opening the browse pane.
More information and videos are available on the SKY Software website.
Frances Lennie, a freelance indexer since 1977, established Indexing Research in 1986 to develop CINDEX, which is available on both Windows and Mac. The company also features a publishers’ edition of CINDEX, available only on Windows, which accommodates multi-user production environments, such as legal publishing houses or government publishing houses.
CINDEX uses an index card metaphor and allows up to 15 levels of subheadings. The indexer enters data in the record entry window while the index builds in the background. All records are date and time stamped.
CINDEX is fully Unicode compliant and supports different sorting conventions and spell checking in a variety of languages. Lennie gave us a demonstration of an index created in Hebrew, which reads right to left and so has entries in inverted order (locator on the left, entry on the right).
Lennie showed how CINDEX supports searching specific entries based on a character string, page range, or style attributes. Editing is also easy: CINDEX offers both global and individual editing options, and it also uses a variety of techniques to check the integrity of the index. Finally, the index may be exported in many different formats and file types.
Gale Rhoades, the North American publisher of Macrex, gave us a demo of Macrex’s just-released ninth version. Macrex is a Windows-based program that was first developed in 1981. It boasts a seemingly overwhelming list of features, but the secret to using it, explained Rhoades, is to focus only on your current project and not worry about what may seem like overhead. She has worked with many indexers over the years, she explained, and she has always managed to help them configure Macrex to do what they need it to do.
Macrex is big about giving the user control. Entries are written directly in the index; different components (e.g., cross-references, locators, etc.) are colour coded, and you can change the colour palette to suit your tastes. Further, you can create a folder with a particular client’s specifications (e.g., sort order, layout, cross-reference format, output format, etc.) and use it essentially as a template for all of the work you do for that client.
Rhoades emphasized the client support that you get with Macrex. She hosts a weekly chat session for North American Macrex users to talk about indexing and software issues; she can also connect directly to your computer to troubleshoot Macrex problems.