Indexing Solutions

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Indexing solutions have always been at the core of any information system, for the simple reason that the index is what identifies a document. This was true in the era of dusty archives, library stacks, endless rows of file cabinets, manila folders, and index cards. It's just as true in the electronic information management systems of today.

The rapid advance of sophisticated computer technology and software applications has changed the way information is searched, used, distributed, maintained, and archived in one respect only. Physical or geographical location is incidental. Information is at your fingertips, ready to be accessed at a moment's notice, and archived afterwards just as quickly. Software search applications, whether they're local to a network infrastructure or Internet based, enable pinpoint searches based on incredibly scanty information, as little as a single metadata index field.

What's in an index then, that enables this ready access and leaves file clerks with a completely different set of responsibilities than in the days of Charles Dickens and Victorian England? Common criteria in indexing solutions include document name, creation date, author, subject matter, project, file type, keywords, and status. Some organizations, and law firms are a classic example, might use as many as 100 index fields. An index is, in fact, a file's fingerprint.

How Indexing Solutions Work

There are two basic types of electronic searches. The first is field-based, and the second is full text. A combination of these two is generally considered ideal in most indexing solutions. Field-based searches are conducted only on the indexing metadata linked to the file. Full text searches search the contents of a file for the search term, using an inverted index--a table in which the rows are document names and the columns are words.

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