Creating an Index

An index is an alphabetical listing of keywords of topics found within the help system. A well-developed index can provided readers with many ways to find topics, in contrast to a table of contents, which usually provides only one way to find each topic. As the help system is developed, the writer specifies the keywords needed to create the index. You need to put particular care into creating an online help index and can use the same general principals for creating index entries, or keywords, for online help as for printed documents.

Some online help software provides a built-in indexing function. You may use tools, such as HTML Indexer, if this function is not available to you in a particular project.

Tips for Creating an Index

An index is designed to help users locate the information that is needed.
  • Use keyword from topic headings.
  • Add synonyms and competitor's terms.
  • Use phrases as well as single words. The additional words in a phrase may provide the extra information users need.
  • Use detailed primary entries rather than secondary and tertiary entries.
  • Reference only one topic.
  • Link to meaningful occurrences of a subject.
  • Index non-textual elements; your index should include graphics, animation, video, and sound.
  • Provide a browsing tool.
  • Be readily accessible.
  • Ensure accuracy.
  • Avoid indexing pop-up and definition windows.
  • Be consistent.

Reviewing an Index

When reviewing an index:
  1. Take some sample questions from your task list and try to find the answers using the index.
  2. Do some random look-ups in the help, to see whether the term or topic is in the index. If several random look-ups are not in the index, consider revising.

To test your index use the following example task list questions:
Is the first work of each index entry meaningful?
Do any main entries have only one Sub-entry?
Combine the Sub-entry into the main entry.

Using RoboHelp to Generate an Index

You can create an index by adding keywords and associating them with topics. Spell check can check your indexes, and you can use topic To Do lists to track your work while indexing. You can change the capitalization of keywords in the Index pod. To start creating an index, you must add your keywords to an index file or topic. To do so, just follow these step-by- step instructions.
  1. Select file, and scroll to Project Settings
  2. Click the General tab
  3. In Add New Keywords To, specify the keyword type.
    • To add index file keywords, select Index File (HHK)
    • To add topic keywords, select Topics
  4. Click OK.
RoboHelp adds your keywords to an index, which you can edit and print.

Using RoboHelp to Specify Keyword Types for a Project

A project can include index file keywords, topic keywords, or both. To specify the type to work with, change the project settings.
  1. Select File > Project Settings.
  2. Click the General tab.
  3. In Add New Keywords To, specify the keyword type.
    • To add index file keywords, select Index File (HHK).
    • To add topic keywords, select Topics.
  4. Click OK.

New keywords use the type specified until you change the setting.

  • When you add a keyword to an index, it is automatically added to the index (HHK) or topic (HTM) files.

Using RoboHelp to Print Indexes

  1. Click the Index pod.
  2. From the pop-up menu, select the items to print.
  3. In the toolbar, click Print.
  4. Click Properties and Page Setup to specify print options.


Hackos, Jo Ann T., and Dawn M. Stevens. Standards for Online Communication. New York: Wiley, 1997. Print.
Weber, Jean Hollis (2004). Is the Help Helpful?. Frazier (Ed.), Chapter 6: Producing the Table of Contents and Index. Whitefish Bay WI: Hentzenwerke


Original Author: Luis F. Regalado
Contributors: Wendy Anderson, Inez Funchess, Larita Clow
Editors: Inez Funchess, Sandra Ramirez, Tammy Fitzpatrick