Can book indexing programs replace human expertise?

Indexing programs serve as invaluable tools in expediting the initial stages of the indexing process, significantly boosting efficiency. Programs such as Macrex, Cindex, SKY or TExtract employ algorithms to sift through content swiftly, identify potential keywords and generate preliminary indexes. However, their role is to aid rather than replace human expertise. While they excel in automating tasks and providing a foundational structure for an index, the nuanced understanding, contextual insight and subjective judgement of a human indexer remain indispensable.

Human indexers possess the ability to discern subtle nuances, understand context and make informed decisions that software cannot replicate. Therefore, the synergy between indexing programs and human expertise creates a harmonious balance. It allows you to utilise the speed and automation of software while capitalising on the cognitive skills and contextual understanding unique to human indexers. Ultimately, this leads to an index of superior quality and accuracy. This post will explore this synergy at length by discussing some of these indexing programs’ efficiency and their correlation with professional editors.

Which indexing programs complement human expertise?

Shifting focus from the symbiotic relationship between indexing programs and human expertise, let’s discuss the specific tools that complement rather than replace the pivotal role of human indexers.


Cindex is a unique and capable indexing program that creates indexes for books, newspapers and other periodical publications. Moreover, Cindex can be used to prepare glossaries and subject authority lists based on the existing indexes. It streamlines the initial stages by swiftly generating a structured index framework, identifying potential keywords and organising them systematically. However, Cindex functions as a supportive mechanism rather than a replacement for human indexers. While it expedites the groundwork, a professional editor’s role remains pivotal in ensuring the index’s accuracy, coherence and relevance.

Professional editors surpass the Cindex’s limitations by leveraging their expertise in refining and contextualising the index. They add the human touch, discerning subtle nuances, rectifying ambiguous terms and structuring the index to align with the book’s essence. Moreover, they bridge the gap between the automated suggestions provided by Cindex and the comprehensive understanding required for an index that reflects the content’s depth.

Cindex comes in three packages:

  • Standard edition is accessible on Windows and Mac systems. A one-time purchase of standard edition Cindex costs $549.
  • Publishers’ edition is tailored for Windows; it includes all standard edition features and more. Additionally, it introduces functionalities designed to streamline the administration of intricate indexing projects within a networked environment. Publishers’ edition Cindex costs $799.
  • Student edition behaves identically to the standard edition. However, it lacks the spell-checking feature. Moreover, it can only support files limited to 500 records each. Student edition Cindex costs $79, and it can be converted to the standard edition for $470.

Unique features of Cindex indexing programs

  • Application Programming Interface (API) enables the execution of Cindex commands by other programs, facilitating data retrieval from Cindex.
  • Ability to print distinctive markers adjacent to labelled records.
  • Encodes non-printable characters within markup tags for effective handling.
  • Unique encoding method for font names within markup tags.
  • Offers user-selectable default folders for different types of Cindex documents, enhancing organisation.
  • Streamlined management of style sheets and index templates with specialised options.
  • Allows for the concurrent operation of multiple instances of Cindex.

SKY Index Professional

SKY Index Professional program streamlines the indexing process by automating the initial indexing tasks. It identifies keywords and concepts, allowing indexers to work more efficiently. However, its true value lies in its integration with human expertise. SKY Index Professional provides a foundation that indexers build upon, ensuring the final index reflects the nuances and context of the content.

SKY Index Professional is compatible only with Windows; it offers a free demo version (that has the full functionality). The full version costs $579, and there is a student discount of $80. The student discount is available for indexers training with recognised indexing associations, such as the American Society for Indexing or the Society of Indexers.

SKY Index Professional 8.0. Source:

Unique features of SKY Index Professional

  • Automated keyword identification: The software employs advanced algorithms to identify keywords and potential index entries, expediting the indexing process.
  • Enhanced navigation: Its intuitive interface enables seamless navigation through large volumes of text, simplifying identifying relevant content for indexing.
  • Cross-referencing capabilities: SKY Index Professional facilitates the creation of comprehensive cross-references, aiding in the organisation and accessibility of indexed content.
  • Integration with human expertise: It serves as a tool for human indexers, offering a framework that allows them to refine, contextualise and add depth to the index, ensuring accuracy and relevance.


TExtract employs machine learning algorithms to analyse text and create initial indexes swiftly within the domain of keyword indexing programs. Despite its automated capabilities, TExtract is used with human indexers who enhance and validate the index by adding context, cross-references and depth that the software alone cannot achieve.

TExtract. Source:

TExtract comes in two versions: Standard, which costs $225 for a one-year licence or $395 for a permanent licence, and Pro, which costs $325 for a one-year licence or $595 for a permanent licence.

Unique features of TExtract

Both Standard and Pro versions of TExtract contain the following features:

  • PDF or plain text input format,
  • Automatic initial index,
  • In-context index editing,
  • Editing multiple indexes simultaneously,
  • Application of filters,
  • Output in RTF, HTML, LaTeX or plain text,
  • Embedded indexing of Word documents.

Additionally, the Pro licence provides the following features:

  • Index revision and re-use,
  • Export into an EPUB edition,
  • Merged index of a volume series,
  • Application of authority files,
  • Multiple-user editing of large projects,
  • Table output for import in other software.


MACREX is among the indexing programs that have continuously evolved for over thirty years. This software caters to the needs of diverse users, from academic institutions, government bodies, businesses and publishing houses to freelance indexers and authors worldwide.

MACREX is Windows-compatible and free of charge. Designed to assist indexers across various mediums — printed proofs, manuscripts, or completed books — MACREX stands out for its user-friendly approach and comprehensive functionalities.

Unique features of MACREX

  • Independent index creation: The software doesn’t rely on tagging or markup within the text, fostering a standalone, easily navigable index document.
  • Efficiency automation: It automates routine tasks such as sorting, repagination and printing, allowing indexers to focus on refining index entries.
  • User-friendly entry creation: Users can swiftly start a basic index, add, flip, yank or rotate entries with dedicated keystrokes, enhancing efficiency in data input.
  • Autocomplete/Authority list: Facilitates easy reference to previous entries, allowing direct insertion into the index and enhancing consistency and accuracy.
  • Error prevention tools: Built-in features prevent errors, correct punctuation and spacing, disallow impossible page ranges and ensure accuracy in index creation.
  • Time-saving macros: Allows for using mnemonic keywords and symbolic abbreviations, saving time in indexing frequently occurring terms or phrases.
  • Unicode support: Accommodates various characters, including accented, Greek and special characters, aiding diverse language index creation.


Index-Manager is a proficient indexing software designed to facilitate indexing with unique and efficient features. This software streamlines the preliminary indexing phases by swiftly identifying potential keywords and organising them systematically. Its seamless interface and distinctive capabilities make it a valuable tool for indexers across diverse publishing domains. Yet, it remains complementary to human expertise, allowing indexers to curate, refine and tailor the index to accurately represent the content’s intricacies and contextual relevance.

Index-Manager is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux (on request) and offers a free fourteen-day trial. It has three types of licences:

  • three-month short-term licence for €102,
  • twelve-month freelancer licence for €349,
  • twelve-month business licence for €800.

Whichever licence you choose, they all come with online training tutorials and customer support via email.

Index-Manager. Source:

Unique features of Index-Manager

  • Efficient keyword identification: Utilises algorithms to automate the identification of potential index entries, expediting the initial indexing stages.
  • Intuitive interface: User-friendly interface simplifies navigation and data entry, enhancing user experience and efficiency.
  • Customisable cross-references: Offers flexibility in positioning ‘see also’ cross-references, catering to the user’s indexing preferences.
  • Varied page range formats: Provides options to present page ranges in diverse formats, accommodating different publication styles.
  • Refined sorting capabilities: Enables manipulation of sorting options, facilitating easy rearrangement and merging of similar entries.
  • Keyboard and mouse accessibility: Offers multiple options for accessing menu commands, ensuring convenience in usage.
  • Import and export functions: Facilitates easy import and export of indexes in various formats, enhancing compatibility with different publishing requirements.

What are the advantages of hiring a human indexer over indexing programs?

Hiring a human indexer over relying solely on indexing programs offers several advantages that significantly contribute to the accuracy, depth and quality of the index:

  1. Contextual understanding: Human indexers bring a nuanced understanding of the material they index, considering the context, nuances and subject matter comprehensively. This contextual awareness ensures the index accurately reflects the content’s essence, which automated software often struggles to capture.
  2. Critical thinking and judgment: Professional indexers apply critical thinking to decide which terms deserve inclusion. They do not merely rely on frequency but also evaluate the significance of terms within the content, ensuring the index is comprehensive and relevant.
  3. Adaptability: Human indexers can tailor the index to the specific requirements of the content. Whether it is a technical manual, academic text or literary work, a human indexer can adapt the index to suit the material, ensuring it complements the content effectively.
  4. Complexity handling: While indexing programs are efficient, they might need help with complex content. Human indexers can navigate ambiguities, discern context-specific keywords and handle intricate subject matter, resulting in a more refined and accurate index.
  5. Subject matter expertise: Professional indexers often specialise in specific subjects or fields, providing an added advantage in understanding specialised terminology and concepts within the content. This expertise contributes to a more precise and relevant index.
  6. Quality assurance: Human indexers can perform quality checks and corrections that software might miss. They ensure accuracy, eliminate false positives and rectify any inconsistencies or errors in the index, leading to a more reliable and usable index.

How do you find and evaluate expert human indexers?

When seeking proficient human indexers, it is vital to understand where to find and assess these professionals. Reputable publishers often engage professional indexers or recommend their books to authors. Identifying these indexers involves recognising their membership in renowned trade organisations, such as:

Membership in these esteemed organisations signifies a commitment to professional growth, offering access to peer networks and training for continual development. Adherence to a code of conduct within these bodies ensures ethical and qualitative standards in the indexers’ work, guaranteeing reliable and proficient services.

How much should you pay for human indexers’ services?

The Society of Indexers (UK & Ireland)

The Society of Indexers in the UK and Ireland stands as a paramount independent professional body for indexers within the region. This association is dedicated to accrediting proficient indexers and aiding aspiring members in achieving accreditation. Regarding the pricing structure for book indexing services, the Society recommends rates commencing at £31.60 per hour, £3.55 per page, or £9.55 per thousand words for indexing non-academic texts.

OrganisationRate per hourRate per pageRate per 1,000 words
The Society of Indexers£31.60£3.55£9.55

The Indexing Society of Canada

As per findings by the Indexing Society of Canada, their survey showcased a diverse range of pricing among members. Hourly rates quoted by professionals ranged from C$20 to C$65, while fees for typeset pages spanned between C$1.85 and C$10. The rates for manuscript pages varied from C$3 to C$8. This broad pricing spectrum reflects the varied tasks undertaken by indexers, encompassing diverse platforms such as books, journals, websites and databases. Moreover, it underscores the diversity of clients, including trade publishers, university presses, governmental bodies, legal services and web-based platforms.

OrganisationRate per hourRate per typeset pageRate per manuscript page
The Indexing Society of CanadaC$20–65C$1.85–10.00C$3–8

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers advocates an A$70 per hour baseline rate for skilled indexers. Conversely, the current standard in New Zealand is NZ$55 per hour. These established rates serve as benchmarks for project fee estimations, usually conveyed as client quotations rather than direct hourly charges. A higher hourly rate or an additional fee might be warranted for intricate or time-sensitive tasks.

OrganisationRate per hour
The Australian and New Zealand Society of IndexersA$70 / NZ$55

The Association of Southern African Indexers and Bibliographers

The Association of Southern African Indexers and Bibliographers bases its fee structure for book indexing services on the content type and the proficiency of an adept freelance indexer. These rates serve as reference points and may undergo variations. For primary and secondary school textbooks, charges span from R25 to R30 per page, while tertiary-level books fall within R30 to R35 per page. General non-fiction indexing typically ranges from R35 to R38 per page, academic works from R38 to R45 per page and specialised publications from R40 to R48 per page. EPUBs (eBooks) are usually priced at R40 to R45 per page. Various factors influence indexing speed, including subject knowledge, experience, text complexity and indexable elements such as footnotes, endnotes and illustrations.

The Association of Southern African Indexers and BibliographersRate per page
Primary and secondary-level school textbooksR25–30
Tertiary-level school textbooksR30–35
General non-fictionR35–38
Academic worksR38–45
Specialised publicationsR40–48

Factors affecting human indexers’ fees over indexing programs

When determining fees for indexing services, negotiating requires specific essential considerations. Unlike the indexing programs that come with various prices in different packages, human indexers price their services differently. The indexer should ideally have access to proofs or a sample of pages to gauge the project’s scope. In cases where time constraints limit this, specific details should be communicated:

  • Details on the book’s subject, length and format are crucial for the indexer to understand the complexity of the project.
  • Information about the intended readership helps gauge the required specialisation level.
  • The allocated number of pages or lines designated for the index.
  • The timeframe provided for completing the index.
  • Preferred index format (e.g., RTF, HTML, PDF).
  • Clarification on whether the fee covers incidental expenses or if these will be billed separately.
  • Any additional factors impacting the indexing time and rate should also be discussed.

Factors affecting indexing time

Various elements can extend the duration needed for indexing, consequently affecting the overall cost. This is different from indexing programs which are mostly automated. These factors encompass:

  • Reference and research texts that necessitate indexes as detailed and comprehensive as the content itself.
  • Elaborate indexing of figures and tables within the material.
  • Content presented in a foreign language requires additional consideration and translation for indexing purposes.
  • The necessity to consult diverse reference sources to ensure precise and comprehensive index entries.
  • Author consultations to clarify context or specific terms for accurate indexing.
  • Receiving proofs of poor quality or in unconventional sizes or formats may complicate the indexing process.
  • Disordered or non-sequential receipt of proofs.
  • Last-minute alterations to proofs require sudden revisions to the index.
  • Non-standard house style or presentation that demands extra attention and adjustment during indexing.
  • The inclusion of embedded tags or hyperlinks adds complexity to the indexing procedure.

Final thoughts on indexing programs

The symbiotic relationship between indexing programs and human expertise is a testament to the evolving indexing landscape in the self-publishing realm. Indexing programs are invaluable aids, significantly enhancing efficiency by swiftly organising and identifying potential keywords within textual content. Their ability to streamline the initial groundwork expedites the indexing process, saving time and effort for human indexers.

However, crucial to acknowledge is the irreplaceable role of human expertise in indexing. While programs excel in automation and organisation, they inherently lack the nuanced understanding, contextual comprehension and subjective interpretation that human indexers bring to the table. Human indexers possess a deep knowledge of the material, critical thinking and adaptability that contribute to creating a significant and accurate index.

The actual value emerges from the synergy between indexing programs and human expertise. These programs aid in the initial stages, providing a foundational structure for indexes. Still, the human indexer’s discernment, contextual understanding and subject matter expertise refine, contextualise and elevate the index to accurately represent the content’s essence.

Ultimately, indexing programs supplement efficiency without diminishing human expertise. They complement each other, creating well-crafted indexes that maintain the quality and relevance necessary. This enhances the value and usability of their published works. The future of indexing lies in this harmonious collaboration, where technology empowers you to create indexes that reflect the depth and essence of written content.

Contact me for professional indexing services to ensure your manuscript includes a practical and user-friendly index. You can also ask me for a free sample index (and remember to use my early bird discount). If you want to hear more from me, including self-editing and writing tips, follow me on MastodonTwitterFacebook and LinkedIn or join my newsletter.

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I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors.