★ Create a Printable Document Index with PDF Index Generator

Posted on September 21, 2011

Since the G2700 ISO 27001 / 27002 certification was an open book exam, I needed a way to quickly find the material I was looking for without having to go through mounds of papers during the exam. If you are interested in the exam material, refer to my article on what materials you will need to bring with you to the exam.

After trying a few different pieces of software, I settled with PDF Index Generator. It took some time to get over the initial humps, but PDF Index Generator is actually a really powerful piece of software. I ultimately ended up creating two separate indexes for reference purposes (which I will get into in a minute).

Step 1: Create the Index List

Creating the initial index was a completely grueling process. It was pure grunt work, and unfortunately, there is no way around it.

PDF Index Generator will create an index list for you, but it will index every word, minus the built in ‘excluded’ words. I thought the application would be able to automate the creation of the index terms, but I quickly found out that the software can’t determine groupings of words and phrases: e.g., ‘information security management’. The Index creator can index each word individually, but it would have no way of knowing that Index Security Management is a term that you want to specifically search for, unless you manually specify it in the ‘include list’.

To try and expedite this process, I copy and pasted the index (word list) from several ISO 27001 books, and the GIAC G2700 exam information prep guides. Finally, I used the U-Certify practice exams and copied the answer to all of the questions into the word lists. This actually accounted for most of my most valuable infuriation as the multiple choice answers covered just about ever combination of technical term needed to create a full and robust word index.

Step 2: Clean the List

The my initial index ‘include’ list was a mess, so here’s how I cleaned it:

  • I copied / pasted the list into Excel
  • Removed the duplicate entries
  • Sorted the list alphabetically
  • Copied the data back out to a flat text file.

My index word list was complete, with a staggering 3,759 words.

Step 3: Creating the printed PDF Index with PDF Index Generator

To generate the index, I used PDF Index Generator. It is a Java app, so it will run on any operating system. I scoured the web for a program that will create indexes of PDF documents, and there really weren’t many out there. Of the few I found, PDF Index Generator is definitely my choice. It’s not a very expensive app, and it gets the job done.

The user interface is very simple to use, and there are actually only a handful of steps involved. You select your file, determine how to index the PDF document (include lists, exclude lists, etc), and process. It’s pretty simple. I will say that the one thing that I didn’t like is the header/sub header creation process. The app doesn’t do a very good job of working with sub headers, so I didn’t include any in my index. Here are some additional comments on the app:

PROs

  • Professional, customizable output
  • Exports as PDF or appends index to existing PDF
  • Extremely simple to import your own Include and Exclude text lists

CONs

  • software can’t determine groupings of words and phrases (e.g., ‘information security’).
  • Java process hangs when trying to add/edit sub headers, so save often
  • Words that are plural are not automatically detected, e.g., system and systems
  • Having to manually create the Headers / Sub Header terms is painful
  • Aesthetically, since the program is written in Java, it doesn’t have the same look and feel as a native OSX app

Final Thoughts

Overall, I had a good experience with the app. Here are my ratings:

Ease of Use: 7
Look and Feel: 5
Functionality: 9

Overall Rating: 7/10

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  • Matthew Weidemann

    Do you have an example of what you created with it?

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