How to use Indexing in a Word Document – Part 1 of 3 - Photo by cottonbro from PexelsWhen you read a technical book or non-fiction, you will typically find an index at the back of that book. An index shows you where particular topics or keywords are located in that book. Sometimes the paragraph reference is shown, not just the page.

If you are creating a long document and need to have an index at the end of your document to list the topics you are writing about. Indexing a book allows the reader to quickly locate those topics of interest as the location is listed in the index.

An index is usually arranged in alphabetical order. If a word is used in several places in the book, the index also shows this.

Here is a typical example.

An index

In this index example, we can see that some entries have just a single page reference whilst others have two or a range as in 240-1, meaning the text stretches over two pages, 240 to 241.

Also, in the example, you can see that the main subject is the first in the sequence, but subsequent pages refer to items included in the main subject matter. These are indented and also in alphabetical order.

Where do we start?

Having written your text, you now have the job of locating the relevant words to enter into your index. You may therefore wish to create these as you are writing the text. The reference to the page will follow the index entries if you rearrange your text to a different location in the document.

Highlight the word or phrase you wish to index.

  • In the [References] tab, locate [Mark Entry ]in the Index section.

An index

This dialog box appears.

An index

Having highlighted the words [Calcium Supplementation]  this is what is placed in the Main entry line of the dialog box automatically.


There are three things you can choose to do here.

  • For the page number, in the Options section, you may keep the default which is current page.
  • Select cross-reference if there are more instances of this word or phrase you wish to include.
  • You can select the Page range option if this subject covers more than one page in the document. This will need bookmarks to work.

Here too, you can choose the format of the page number for this entry. You can select bold, italic or both, from the items in the page number format section.

  • Lastly, you need to select the [Mark] button to finish.

You can also have subentries in your index, these I will cover in a following tip.

Having completed all the entries in your document, we shall now need to create the index at the end of the document.

Creating the Index pages.

Go to the very end of your document [CTRL+END]. Insert a Page break so that your index is separate from the document’s last page.

From the [References] tab, select the [Insert Index] option.

An index

This dialog box appears.

Index settings

There are several tabs to this dialog box. We will only use the first. Index. You can find a tip on Table of Contents that I wrote earlier.

On the left, you can see a preview area of what your index may look like when it is finished. There are many selections to choose from here, it is up to you as to the complexity or layout you desire. I will cover these in a following tip.

The simple index is created by selecting the [OK] button without changing other settings.

example of a simple index

This index is very simple, as an example, but it shows that it is wise to type a heading for the index and shows that whatever formatting is found in the selected text when marking will be continued in the index itself. Therefore, you may wish to retype the index entry to the formatting you desire to have in the index itself.

If you require more entries, this is not a problem. Create additional index markers as before, and then highlight the entire index section and press the [F9] key to update or refresh the index. If entries have moved, then this is reflected in the new index.

How to see what has been marked

If you need to see which words or phrases have been marked, then turn on the non printing character tool, which is found on the [Paragraph] section of your [Home tab].

Paragraph mark

This is what you may see as a result.

Code result

The marked word is encased by curly brackets {} and XE is placed before the word, and the word is encased in double-quotes. You can easily see if all the correct entries have been marked, and you can adjust as need be. To locate all the entries, use the find feature.

Enjoy playing with the other options found in the index dialog box.

Look out for the next two tips on this subject. How to create Index entries quickly and more advanced settings, How to create list of items to be included in an Index.

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