Getting Started in Embedded Indexing for Indexers

Embedded indexing describes the concept of embedding index entries into the book content. In traditional back-of-the book indexing, the indexing process is completely separate from the book’s content. The indexer never receives the actual files containing the book’s content, but rather a PDF file or a hard copy, and the final deliverable index is transmitted to the client as a standalone RTF or DOC file. In embedded indexing, the client sends the indexer the LIVE unindexed files containing the book’s content. Depending on the embedding indexing program/mechanism required, the indexer uses that program/mechanism to modify the client files while building the build the index and embedding the index entries directly into the file. The indexer returns the modified files, which now contain the index entries, to the client.

The embedded indexing process can have two variations:

  • Software dependent embedded indexing requires the indexer to use the same desktop publishing (DTP) program as the client. InDesign is currently the most common DTP software.
  • Software independent embedded indexing (such as HTML and XML formats) allows indexers to use XML editors or HTML editors of their choice.

DTP programs have indexing modules, but they lack many features of our dedicated indexing software. Various third-party developers have correctly evaluated the need for tools to enhance DTP indexing module inadequacies, and have provided solutions for select DTPs. Some of the third-party utilities include IXgen for FrameMaker, DEXembed, IXMLembedder, and WordEmbed for MS Word, Kerntiff Publishing System (KPS) plugins, IXMLembedder and Index-Manager for InDesign, and IXMLembedder for XML files.

Practices and issues specific to embedded indexing:

  • The indexer has the live, most recent files of the book, and thus
    • should not make inadvertent changes to the files.
    • needs to use some kind of version control system established by the client when working on the live files. Cheat sheets for each client’s processes are a good idea.
    • must adhere to deadlines, as no one else in the editorial process can work on the live files while the indexer has them.
    • can expect more errors in the texts, as proofreading may be done concurrently, not prior to indexing.
  • Separate files are better than a combined file for the entire book, in case files become corrupted.
  • It’s best to use the same version of the DTP software, InDesign or FrameMaker, that the client uses, to eliminate additional process steps necessary when versions don’t match.
  • DTP files tend to be too large for email attachments, so file-sharing solutions are used to download and upload the files.
  • Clients might have guidelines to handle the location of embedded index entry placement, page range, markup for bold/italics in entries (not handled in the DTP software), and changes to the filename after the index is added.

Indexers should consider learning embedded indexing if they have clients who are mentioning the possibility or asking questions about it. Learning embedded indexing without the definite prospect of clients is not recommended, because it’s difficult to retain skills without immediate and repeated practice. Many publishers are hesitant to adopt embedded indexing because it involves changes in the editorial and indexing process and in the delivery system.  Furthermore, there are considerable startup costs for indexers, including the time needed to learn the new software and processes and the costs of purchasing both the DTP software and third-party plugins and their upgrades, along with possible equipment upgrades.

The market for embedded indexing continues to evolve and the potential is unlimited. Computer book publishers have occupied this arena for decades, but there are publishers in other specialties who already produce books in InDesign or FrameMaker or Word. However, they have been content with standalone BOB indexes and have not seen the need to switch to embedded indexes. These clients would be the easiest starting point to find opportunities to expand in embedded indexing arenas.

Learn more about embedded indexing from Embedded Indexing Resources page.


The content on this page is condensed from an article published by Lucie Haskins and edited with the author’s permission. The full article is available on Lucie Haskin’s website: “Jumping on the Embedded Indexing Bandwagon… or Should I?,” Lucie Haskins The Indexer, vol. 34, no. 2, 2016, pp. 54–59.