November 29, 2005 / Book Organization / Coverage / Winter 2005

The Index: More than just a list

Written by Susan Smith

It is a cruel irony: the one section of the yearbook that gets the most use is also the one that is the most tedious to produce. But the work that goes into it will be easier to bear if you think of the index as a necessary tool for both your readers and you. If you want to produce a reader-friendly book, a complete and correct index is one of the best services you can offer.

The index is a good means of spot-checking your coverage during the year as the list is compiled. Seeing student names in print with the number of times they have been featured in the yearbook can assist in making sure coverage is fair across the student body.

Indexing has become easier throughout the years. Fortunately, both InDesign and PageMaker have indexing systems built into the software. See the Proofing section of your Desktop Yearbook Guide, or the Indexing At A Glance card in the Submitting box of your Tech Kit, for complete indexing instructions. While the process of marking your names and then creating the index is simple enough in both programs, there are a handful of tasks to consider when planning and working on your index.

First, decide how you will divide the indexing responsibilities. Some larger staffs assign one person as the index editor, giving that person the task of marking all names on page files and then compiling the index for the final deadline submission. Other staff s may not have the luxury of assigning one person full-time to indexing, and may need to tie indexing into the list of tasks that a staff member must perform for each spread they create.

The first step is to mark all names on your yearbook pages. It is best to wait until proof corrections have been made to mark names in your file, to ensure all corrections are reflected in the final index. Obviously, this cannot be done with your final shipment of pages, but it is much easier to catch up and correct any problems on the final page shipment than it would be to go back and change names on all previous pages.

To help with this, store all files with marked names in the Indexed Pages folder in the current year’s yearbook folder, called the 05YB folder this year. Proof files are named with the page numbers of the document, so all files will stay in order within the folder. Make sure names are consistent in the book. For example, if the portrait photographer sends you Andrew Jones’ senior portrait, but the student is known around school as Andy Jones, you run the risk of having more than one entry for the same person. A list of all student names from the office or district should be kept handy in the yearbook room to check for situations like this.

In fact, it would be helpful if your office is willing to send you a text file with all student and staff names. If the file is placed in a PageMaker or InDesign document, spell check can be used to add student names to the program’s dictionary. That way, when spell check is run on your pages, misspelled names might be caught before they turn into errors in the index. While it is easiest to add the names to one computer, make sure all pages are run through spell check on this computer, or errors will not be caught.

One way to keep the index as compact as possible is to create a dummy book file that contains all of the text in your book, but nothing else. To do this, first set up a PageMaker or InDesign document with as many pages as your yearbook. Then, open your proof files after corrections have been made and copy any text from the proof files, pasting it on the appropriate page in the dummy book. Mark the names, and continue to update and save the dummy book throughout the year. When it is time to create the index, all marked names will be in one file, making it easier to generate the index.

Your index can be more than a list of names at the back of the book. As stated previously, use it to make sure that coverage includes as many students as possible. And, make the index work for you by placing ads or club/activity photos on those pages to break up the list of names. Just remember to mark those names as well.

Finally, if you are using InDesign, there is a whole set of issues that can cause indexing headaches. First is the inability to mark more than one name at a time. There is no way around this one; just remember to budget plenty of time for marking names.

Second, InDesign is a more complex, and therefore, more memory intensive program than PageMaker. For that reason, the dummy book mentioned earlier with only text on the pages is more than a suggestion: it is almost a requirement. Many staff s have spent a lot of time compiling an index in InDesign, only to have the program crash when it is time to generate the actual text file.

And the dummy book comes in handy for large yearbooks. InDesign only allows 100 documents to be added to the book file that generates the index. That means if your book is split into doublepage spreads and you have more than 200 pages, you are going to be needing a solution anyway.

Remember, the most important part of the yearbook to any student is the pages where he or she is featured. An index that makes it easy for students to find themselves will be worth all of the work involved.

  • Theresa

    give me some ideas on how to make a perfect index for a SHE Rep File

Susan Smith