© 1994-2016, Frank Stearns
Site Revision 2016-03beta
Frank Stearns Associates Makers of IXgen for FrameMaker FSA  1 435 275 8981 franks@fsatools.com
Why Index?
This question has been asked with increasing frequency in recent years, as people have become resigned to (or numbed by) the poor performance of flat search engines, both inside application help systems and on the world wide web. Poor performance there seems to cause lowered expectations for print indexes. But given the density and volume of information we wade through daily from all sources, now, more than ever, we need human- designed locators into that information. At the heart of any such system is the thought put into designing locators for the volumes of information we’ve created. Such thinking is often best done by people who know the subject matter (and how others might approach that subject when looking for information), and who know how to see the “big picture”, the “little pictures”, and all the threads running through each. This is the work done by the indexer. A well-crafted index is a huge value-addition for any volume of information. Your audience can now quickly find the information they need; or perhaps even think of new ways to apply your information based on what they might see in your good index. Enriched by using a good index, your audience has higher overall satisfaction with your information, does better work, and has good thoughts about you and your products. Contrast this to the resigned, “oh, I could never find what I needed in that [book, website, online help]; so I'll not be going back there or making endorsements...” The task of the indexer can be enormous; that’s why any mechanical aspects of index creation should intrude and distract as little as possible. In the FrameMaker world, this is where IXgen comes in. IXgen provides quick and easy methods to generate and maintain markers in FrameMaker, which means easy maintenance of indexes and other types of lists generated from markers.

Concordance vs. Index

Indexing, in its most pure form, is an art. Creating a good index takes practice, typically several iterations, and a broad knowledge of the subject matter. Most machine-derived indexes (and many human-prepared indexes) are not really indexes but concordances. A concordance is nothing more than an unedited, alphabetical list of keywords found in a document. And a search engine isn't any better, being really nothing more than an “at the moment, for this keyword” concordance builder. A human-crafted index, on the other hand, provides not only an alphabetical topic list but also synonyms, phrase permutations, threading where appropriate, and cross-referencing within the index itself. Redundant or essentially valueless occurrences of a keyword are not included in the index. Contrast this with the fully automatic concordance generation that was popular a few years back, and is still seen today in the form of dismal application “help” found with most software applications. Your audience wastes much time chasing references to a keyword where the reference is of no real value — the keyword just incidentally appeared somewhere in your information. No human judgment ranked the resulting keyword “hits” or perhaps added information to each "hit" to give the reader a contextual notion of the "hit". A streamlined concordance can have some value, but as the information being indexed become more voluminous and complex, the value of the concordance steadily goes down. A true index is of far greater value. The IXgen tools are well-suited for index creation, from the simple to the complex. In fact, because IXgen makes the mechanics of marker maintenance so much easier, creating a true index (which often requires much hard “brain work”) will be feasible where perhaps only a concordance was practical before. IXgen’s automatic marker generation features are best classified as “concordance enhancers”. But while working in this mode we hope that the ease with which IXgen handles markers will inspire more true indexing from IXgen users. IXgen makes keyword gathering and permuting extremely easy; then, editing and polishing the entries with IXgen (either in context or in a sorted list) makes the editing process simple.

How IXgen Works

While IXgen was intended for index creation and maintenance, many IXgen tools are perfectly suited for work with other types of FrameMaker markers such as subject indexes, author indexes, user-defined lists, and so on. IXgen can even help with hypertext markers. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Please understand that IXgen does not change the structure of a FrameMaker document. Documents processed by IXgen are always completely compatible with other FrameMaker documents because IXgen uses the existing FrameMaker marker system, unaltered. IXgen merely provides a convenient and powerful interface to the standard FrameMaker marker system. Documents processed with IXgen can always be opened by FrameMaker, whether IXgen is present or not. Also understand that IXgen does not replace the normal marker housekeeping functions provided by FrameMaker. These functions include generating the final index document (or marker list), formatting those marker-collection documents, and so on. Said another way, IXgen provides new ways to create and edit markers; IXgen does not duplicate the marker collection and marker list document generation facilities already provided by FrameMaker. If you are new to FrameMaker and how basic FrameMaker indexing works, we suggest reviewing the chapter on indexing provided in the FrameMaker manual. This will give you an overall idea of how markers and the marker collection process works in FrameMaker to form an index document or marker list. You will also then better understand how IXgen can be of great aid in creating and working with marker text.

Why Index?