Indexing in Adobe InDesign Creative Cloud—Judy Dunlop (ISC conference 2014)

Thanks to the advocacy efforts of the American Society for Indexing’s Digital Trends Task Force and the International Digital Publishing Forum’s Indexes Working Group, Adobe has heard the pleas of indexers to allow embedded indexing in InDesign to output linked indexes. In the Creative Cloud version, launched June 2013, InDesign can generate a linked index in multiple digital formats, including PDF, EPUB, and HTML.

The Indexing Society of Canada’s Judy Dunlop has done one project using the new Creative Cloud workflow, and she gave us an overview of what she learned through that experience. Dunlop had almost exclusively done back-of-the-book indexing for scholarly clients but decided to venture into digital index a couple of years ago. She took InDesign indexing workshops offered by Jan Wright and Lucie Haskins, and trained herself on InDesign through tutorials on

For indexers and publishers to work together on an embedded index in InDesign, said Dunlop, they need to use the same version. The Creative Cloud version is the only one that produces linked indexes from the embedded tags, and it is available by subscription only, so an indexer who doesn’t ordinarily have to use InDesign can easily subscribe to the program for a month, then cancel the subscription once the project is over.

In a typical workflow, the publisher would supply the indexer with the live InDesign files that have been edited and proofread. The indexer may embed tags directly in the InDesign file or create an index first in dedicated indexing software (such as CINDEX, SKY Index, or Macrex) then convert the locators into markers using a script available through Kerntiff Publishing Systems. InDesign’s index entries don’t include italics, bold, or decorations such as n for “note,” so the designer has to apply those styles manually. Every time the indexer revises the live file, the publisher has to regenerate the index and reapply special styles. Good communication—directly between designer and indexer—is key, said Dunlop. Designers who have traditionally been given a static index to typeset won’t be used to the process of regenerating and reformatting the index.

Many publishers will not have tried this workflow. Some haven’t yet moved to Create Cloud because of subscription costs. Further, many of them will be reluctant to relinquish control of their live files. As the indexer, if you are allowed to work with the live files, you have to be particularly careful not to make any inadvertent changes to them. (It’s theoretically possible to tag in Word and import into InDesign, but, Dunlop said, that feature is buggy and is generally not recommended.)

Allegedly, said Dunlop, you don’t need the publisher’s fonts to do the index, but on her project she found that the font mismatch caused problems. If the publisher offers you fonts, take them.

So far, Dunlop has found that force sort, indented vs. run-in style, and multiple levels of headings are features that work well in InDesign. However, the program doesn’t seem to handle cross-references well: not only are they not linked, but multiple cross-references are not rendered in the usual style (e.g., “See also Vancouver, BC. See also Kelowna, BC” rather than the preferred “See also Kelowna, BC; Vancouver, BC”), and generic cross-references have to be manually italicized. As mentioned, the designer also needs to apply special formatting, such as italics, bold, and decorated page numbers.

Because cross-references aren’t linked, Dunlop suggests double-posting instead. She also advocates being as succinct as possible, because long entries create unsightly breaks in EPUBs.

The linked-index functionality in InDesign Creative Cloud is so new that “everyone is learning,” said Dunlop. Publishers, editors, designers, and indexers will need to work together to figure out a system that works well for them. “Experiment—you’re not going to know what you’re going to get until you try it—then learn from your mistakes,” said Dunlop. Once you’ve got one project under your belt, you’re already in a better position than most and can share what you’ve learned with others.

If you have a client who is reluctant to try the workflow, Dunlop suggested that you offer to create an embedded index for a backlist title that still sells well and is available as an ebook. The risk to the publisher is lower than for a frontlist title with a tight deadline, and you can help them become familiar with the new indexing process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: