How to create an index with descriptions/definitions

I’m trying to create an alphabetical index formatted more or less like the following…


Surname, Name, birth/death dates, a brief bio, page no., an incident page no, another incident page no. another incident page no.

Location, a brief description pp nos.

Surname, Name, birth/death dates, a brief bio, page nos.

…etc. etc. Unfortunately, after considerable effort, I am still unable to create such an index. I tried unchecking “Protected against manual changes” and entering the information where needed, but every time I update the index, I lose any changes made. The help manual regarding indexes is far too superficial and a cursory search here didn’t really provide any matches. Any pointers?

I’m afraid you can’t do that with an index. As the name implies, an index is a set of “pointers” mapping a key sorted in alphabetical order and pages where you can find the “concept” alluded by the key.

Technically, it is implemented as very short sequences of words for the key marking the concept in the text. When the index is built, all keys are merged and the page number added at he end.

In your two last first cases, “Surname, Name”, you could record “birth/death, a brief bio” as the Entry and "Surname, Name* as the 1st key. “Location” may be easier because there is only one level of keys/entry. But there are many inconveniences:

  • you must repeat the exact same Entry and 1st key on every occurrence (not user-friendly)
  • you are severely limited on the size of what can be entered as Entry or 1st key
  • the index entry paragraphs can only be styled (=formatted) as a whole and cannot be customised with the addition of character styles on part of it (this is wiped out on next update)
  • it is not easy to edit

The first case is closer to the common use of an index if you remove the dates and brief bio. The two-level entry then references “spot” events with a short title (again “Surname, Name” goes into 1st key and “incident” into “Entry”. The full description of the incident is in the text, not in the index (and not even a summary of it).

To make a bio summary of the persons mentioned in your document, have you thought of a bibliography? This might not be an orthodox use of the feature but a bibliography is nothing more than a database you access with Tools>Bibliography Database. You could redefine the fields to fit your needs and enter the short bios, dates et al. into them.

You insert bibliography entries in your text where needed and build the “bibliography” in the end the same way you build an index. You can also tune which fields are displayed and in which order.

CAUTION! If you wish to experiment on this idea, pay special attention to the fact that there is a single bibliography database stored in your user profile. Any modification you make to it is available in all your documents (this means that when you delete an entry, it is deleted for all documents). Consequently, it would be better for you to create a separate user on a computer so that your trials (and errors) are isolated from your valuable “production” work.

Another possibility is to backup your user profile but you need to know where it is hidden and this is nevertheless less reliable than the new user method.

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Thanks, @ajlittoz. I had suspected as much. My proposed index was based on the index format of Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov and was wondering if a similar format could be automated in LO. Your suggestion of using a bibliography had also crossed my mind but I’m glad you responded as I had no idea about the details and your advisory.

I’m not going to mark this “answered” yet, in hope of some “outside-the-box” bright idea!