Monday, November 7, 2011

Indexing with Word - What to do when it all goes wrong

I've been writing the index for Justification and the Truth-Connection. (Coming soon from Cambridge University Press!) This is a really arduous process, so I thought I'd offer an important tip for those working on macs with Microsoft Word.

Before you start your index, it would be a good idea to create a copy of your file and set it aside so if your index goes bad, you can junk your file and start over.

One of the annoying things about indexing in Word is that it's a pain to get your entries removed if something goes wrong. There's nothing in the program (that I've found) designed to remove your index entries without going through and removing them manually from the text. I had about 4500 entries to delete, so this gets a bit tedious. You can do a find and replace and substitute a space for XE which will prevent entries from being compiled, but code corpses will litter your document after that. If you had to get rid of an old index and enter a new one, it's going to be a nightmare going back through the document with its eviscerated indexing entries to enter new ones. (Basically, for every entry you create, you'll have something like this: {XE "blah blah blah"} in the text. If you do the find and replace, you'll be left with this: { "blah blah blah}. It keeps you from having an entry in your index that reads "blah blah blah", but the garbage is left in your text unless you manually delete it.)

If you must delete all of your index entries, I discovered a better trick that you might use. (If you have a better trick than this, do let me know.) For various reasons, I had to buy a copy of Pages before I could get my hands on Microsoft Office. I had to buy Microsoft Office (regrettably) to do the index to the book. In the states, you can get a copy of Office for about $10 if you have a campus discount. Here, Office costs about eight times that on Amazon. (Ten times that if you try to use the education discount through the Apple store!) If you copy your document and paste into a Pages file and save that file as a .doc file, the index will be completely removed. You can then make a fresh start. I'm posting this because none of the other tricks I found online for removing or deleting an index in Word on Mac were all that great.

You can get a copy of Pages for about $20 from the app store. If you don't want to do that, you can also email me a copy of your file and I'll send you back a .doc file with the index stripped away. (cmlittlejohn AT google DOT com)


Degenerate & Close Personal Friend said...

Does Google Docs have the same effect as Pages?

Clayton said...

I don't know, but it's a good question. I had to try this without internet access, but now that I have a little bit of access I can try that, too.

Corey said...

Hi Clayton,

I'm sure I'm not the first to have suggested this, but have you thought about switching to LaTeX? There's a bit of a learning curve, but there are lots of things (like indexing and citing) that it does really well.

I switched a few years ago, and I'd highly recommend it. The only thing better about Word is the ability to comment on others' drafts if you're working on a joint manuscript. It can still be done in LaTeX, but Word does it better.