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Free tips and tricks for using Microsoft Office and Windows

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Free tips and tricks for using Microsoft Office and Windows

How to create an Index in Word

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Being able to create an index in Word is an invaluable skill for organising and navigating long documents. The Index feature in Word allows you to automatically generate a list of page numbers corresponding to a word or phrase within the document.

Once the index is created, it serves as a roadmap for readers, allowing them to quickly locate specific topics or sections of interest. Additionally, it enhances the document’s professionalism and accessibility, making it an essential component for academic papers, technical manuals, and other complex texts.

Mark an Item

Part of the steps to add an Index to a document, is the process of marking the keywords or phrases that you want included in the Index. You can choose to mark keywords or phrases manually, as you create the document, or use an AutoMark file to have Word mark the entries for you.

In this exercise we will look at how to mark entries within a document manually:

  1. Open Microsoft Word.
  2. Open the document you wish to add an Index to. I have a sample file open.
How to create an Index in Word
  1. Now you will use the search feature in Word to locate the first word or phrase you want to include in the Index.
  2. Press Ctrl + F on the keyboard.
  3. The Navigation pane will appear on the left side of the screen:
Press Ctrl + F on the keyboard to open the Navigation pane.
  1. Type in the word or phrase you wish to search for and press Enter.
  2. Word will display the search result which shows the number of instances in the document along with some of the surrounding sentence that each word is contained within:
  1. Select the first instance of the word in the results.
  2. You will see the word highlighted in yellow in the document.
  3. Highlight the word with the cursor.
  4. Select the References tab and choose Mark Entry:
  1. The Mark Index Entry dialog box will appear:
  1. The word is already displayed as the Main entry to be marked.
  2. If you just want to mark an individual entry, click Mark.
  3. If you would like to mark all instances of the word, click Mark All.
  4. Repeat this process for the next word or phrase.

Use an AutoMark File

If you are working with a long document, you may find the task of having to manually create all index entries, too labour intensive. An easier method is to use an AutoMark file. An AutoMark file includes a list of the phrases you want to be automatically marked. You can then upload the file into your document and Word will do the rest.

An AutoMark file consists of a simple table which contains each phrase or keyword in an individual table cell. The file is then saved as a separate file to the long document and uploaded when needed. An example is shown below:


To create an AutoMark file:

  1. Create a new blank document in Word – Ctrl + N.
  2. Go to the Insert tab and choose Table.
  3. Insert a table with 3-5 columns and as many rows as you think you’ll need to begin.
  4. Type the words or phrases into separate table cells that you want marked in the file.
  5. Save the file to your computer for easy access.
  6. Close the file.

If you have not used Tables in Microsoft Word before, check out my post to get you started.

To use an AutoMark file:

  1. Return to the Word document which will contain the Index.
  2. Select the References tab from the Ribbon.
  3. Click the Insert Index button:
  1. The Index dialog box will appear:
  1. Click the AutoMark button.
  2. The Open Index AutoMark File dialog box will appear:
  1. Locate and select the AutoMark file you created.
  2. Click Open.
  3. Word will automatically mark all entries from the AutoMark file.
  4. You will be able to see where the entries have been marked as Word will automatically enable the Show/Hide feature.

Insert an Index

Now that there are numerous entries marked within the document, we are ready to create an index at the end of the document.

  1. Scroll to the end of the document or use Ctrl + End on the keyboard.
  2. Add in a few empty lines.
  3. Select the References tab from the ribbon.
  4. Click Insert Index.
  5. The Index dialog box will appear:
  1. Use the Formats drop-down menu to preview the different Index formats to choose from.
  2. From the right side you can customise the number of Columns that will be displayed within the Index. Increase or decrease this as needed.
  3. Click OK.
  4. The Index will be displayed with paragraph markers automatically shown:
  1. You can see each of the entries that were marked along with the corresponding page numbers.

Refresh an Index

If new entries are marked within the document, you will need to refresh the Index to include the new entries.

To refresh the Index:

  1. Navigate to any page within the document and mark a new entry.
  2. Navigate back to the Index and click within the Index area.
  3. Press F9 on the keyboard.
  4. The Index will automatically refresh, and any new entries will be displayed.

I hope this has helped you learn how to create an Index in Word. Comment below with any questions or browse more great Word tips and tricks.


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