[scribus] As if you’re not already sick of indexing

John Culleton john at wexfordpress.com
Thu Nov 18 03:48:23 CET 2010

On Wednesday 17 November 2010 18:49:43 John Jason Jordan wrote:
> First, let me say that I agree fully with everything that John
> Culleton has written about what constitutes a good index. For me,
> the secret to success has always been to try to place myself in the
> shoes of the reader who is trying to find something. Even if I am
> the author of the book it is hard to think of all the terms that a
> reader will use to look something up. Yet I must do so, lest the
> reader become frustrated. And therefore, occasionally I need a term
> in the index that doesn’t even appear in the book.
> My first efforts at indexing were for books that I had written
> myself and laid out in an old version of PageMaker – too old to
> have an indexing feature. Much as John does with tyro.tcl, I
> created the index with a paper copy of the book next to me, leafing
> through page by page. Except that instead of a separate program
> like tyro.tcl I just used Word. I even remember having figured out
> that for sub-items I needed to do Shift-Enter to create a new line,
> so that when I alphabetized the index on the “paragraph” Word would
> keep the sub-items with the head item.
> Much later I created a series of books using Adobe InDesign CS. By
> the time of the CS version InDesign had a built-in indexing
> utility. Although the user interface needed some work, I found it
> delightful to be able to page through the document with InDesign
> and add index entries electronically.
> Now I am using Scribus, and sooner or later I am going to have to
> index a book. I could always go back to the word processor
> approach, or I could use John’s tyro.tcl utility, but I think I
> have a different approach that I like better. Mind you, tyro.tcl is
> a wonderful tool, but it still requires working with a paper copy
> of the book. I’d like to be able to select a term on a page on
> screen and add it to the index.
> While reading all the recent comments about indexing I was struck
> by one fact that John mentioned, that is, if you open a PDF of your
> book in Adobe Reader and export as text, Reader will put a page
> marker at the end of each page of the PDF. I was unaware of this.
> In fact, I just tried it with each of the eight PDF viewers that I
> have installed, and Adobe Reader is the only one that will put page
> markers in the text. Okular and PDFEdit will export as text, but do
> not put page markers in the file. GSView will also export as text,
> but when I opened the file I discovered that the encoding was so
> messed up that the text was unreadable. The rest of them – Cabaret,
> Foxit, Evince, jPDF-Tweak – couldn’t even export as text, although
> perhaps you could select the text and copy and paste.
> For the above experiments I used tyro.pdf, just because it was
> handy, small, yet its 11 pages was enough to see if things worked.
> Now, after exporting the PDF to text from Adobe Reader is where I
> diverged from John’s workflow. He opens the text file in Gvim and
> replaces the page markers with code so TeX will understand the page
> break. I wanted to avoid TeX. I also wanted a GUI that was as good
> as I could get. And it turns out I have a GUI text editor right
> here at my fingertips – OOo Writer. Not only that, but it has a
> fairly usable index utility. All that remained was to see if Writer
> would recognize the page breaks in the text file exported from
> Reader. And sure enough, it does recognize the page breaks. The
> only difficulty was that sometimes a page in the PDF became longer
> than one page in Writer. When I opened the text file that I created
> by exporting tyro.pdf to text from Adobe Reader, the Writer
> document became 14 pages. Pages 1, 3 and 6 slopped over and Writer
> created an extra page. I solved this problem by changing the page
> size in Writer from the US letter default (8.5 x 11 inches) to
> “User size” where I specified 8.5 by 16 inches.
> Now I can create an index all on the screen without needing a paper
> copy.* When all the entries have been marked I can generate the
> index. Then I can copy and paste into Scribus, or save as a Writer
> file and import into Scribus (which saves styles). I haven’t fully
> tested the Writer indexing utility but it appears to be able to
> index one word under multiple terms in the index. E.g., suppose I
> want to index the word “flier” as “flier” in the index, but also as
> “brochure.” It can also create “See” and “See also” entries.
> *There is one flaw in my method. What if there is a graphic on a
> page in the PDF, and you want an index entry that points to that
> graphic? Exporting as text from the PDF will strip the graphic.
> Ditto for anytext in the Scribus document that has been converted
> to outlines. You can still create an index entry on the page; you
> just have to apply it to a word on the page. I figured I’d just
> type in “graphic” on the page and apply the entry to that word. The
> problem is knowing that there is a graphic or outlined text on the
> page. Using a paper copy would solve the problem. But I can do it
> by paging through the PDF in Reader and make note of the location
> of any graphics that I want to reference in my index. Outlined text
> would be harder to spot, but I hardly ever do that.
> Until Scribus gets its own built-in indexing tool I have a
> workaround that works for me.
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Let me also note that you don't really need a paper copy to use Tyro. 
If you can copy and paste from the screen then you can paste the word 
or  phrase into Tyro. Or you can just read the item on screen and key 
it in.  Of course I work in a flavor of Linux, specifically Slackware 
13.0, where it is possible to have a virtual screen twice the width of 
the physical screen, so working from two windows simultaneously is not 
that big a deal. 

Tyro will also allow you to key in the title of an image, the start 
and end of a page range and so on. I am not touting Tyro. It is a very 
simple front end to makeindex and it lacks most of the sophistication 
of e.g., Sky Index or the other well known commercial products. But it 
does work. 
John Culleton, Wexford Press
"Create Book Covers with Scribus" $5.95 at

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