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Microsoft Word – Creating an Index Automatically Using a Concordance

[ Technology ]


Regarding the creation of indexes, the built-in help and support provided with Microsoft Word is limited. This document provides information about creating an index for a document using a concordance.

Manual or Automatic Index Creation

There are two methods of creating an index, either manually or automatically. If desired, both of these methods can be used together.

Create a Document Backup Copy

Consider creating a duplicate backup of your document before continuing and then follow these simple instructions below for indexing. The reason you should create a backup copy is because, particularly with the automated indexing, your document will have hidden codes applied to it for all the occurrences of the indexed words. Having a backup copy will allow you to go back to the clean version of your document if needed.

Alternatively, if you need to remove all of the hidden index codes from a document, you can do so using the Find and Replace option. Below you can see the find and replace dialog window. You will type in ^d as the item being searched for and replace it with nothing. Always be careful using the Replace option because it could inadvertently remove something you wish to keep.

Manual Selection of Words for Index

Read through your entire document and, as you find them, highlight any words or text you’d like included in the index.

  1. Once the word, name, or phrase is selected (highlighted), go to the Insert menu and choose Reference and then Index. If you are using Microsoft Word 2007, go to the Reference tab.
  2. Indicate that you want to mark the highlighted text for inclusion in the index. Do this for all words, names, or phrases you want indexed.
  3. When all words have been marked for inclusion in the index, then create the index as described below. You can skip the section “Automatic Selection of Words to be Indexed.”

Automatic Selection of Words to be Indexed

Follow these instructions to automatically prepare your document for indexing.

  1. For automatic indexing, it is necessary to create a new document separate from the one you are generating the index for. This new document will be the concordance file.
  2. Create a two column table.
  3. In the left column write the words you would like marked for inclusion in the index and across from each word (In the right column) write the text you’d like used in the index (if it is different than the word or text). For example, enter the word “run” in the left column and “exercise” in the right column if you would like to have every occurrence of “run” listed under the heading “exercise” in your index. Other words such as “swim,” “swimming,” “bike,” “biking,” can be entered individually in the left column with exercise for each of these entered in the right column. Note that quotes are not used, only the words themselves are used. The page numbers only, and not the words, will be listed under the heading of “exercise.” In this way, the index can be a topical index and not just an index of specific words.
  4. If you would like sub-entries in the index, then enter something like exercise:running in the right column. The : separator designates that the following word is a subcategory. So, it would be “exercise:run” in the right column to show the word(s) in the left column are a sub category.
  5. Save the concordance file and then close it.
  6. Open the document to be indexed. Go to the Insert menu and choose Reference and then Index. If you are using Microsoft Word 2007, go to the Reference tab.
  7. Specify that you would like to use Auto Mark and then when prompted for the concordance file, provide the name of the file created in step #1 above. This will automatically mark the words to be included in the index.
  8. Continue with the instructions below to create the index.

Creating the Index

After using the manual and/or automatic methods of marking words to be included in the index, follow these steps to generate the index.
  1. Open the document to be indexed (if it isn’t open already) and place the cursor in the location where you’d like the index to appear.
  2. Go to the Insert menu and choose Reference and then Index. If you are using Microsoft Word 2007, go to the Reference tab.
  3. Choose to generate / create the index.

Index Formatting

If you have a lengthy index, and if you are using the indent feature for sub-topics below a broader category of entries, then you may want to customize the formatting of your index. For further information on index formatting options, read “Microsoft Word Index Formats.”

Multiple Indexes

If your document contains many place names, events, people, and topics, you may wish to create separate indexes for those categories. To do so, create multiple clean non-indexed copies of your document. Then follow the steps above to generate the different indexes — this is easiest if using the automated feature. You’ll end up with different generated indexes. Copy and paste those at the end of your final document. Alternatively, you can just use the sub-category option described above.


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By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com