Megabit Macros

Megabit Macros

Macros for indexers who work in Windows®

  • Do you do a lot of copying from PDFs when you index? Would you like to do it many times faster?
  • Would you like to increase your data entry speed in your indexing program?
  • Would you like to minimize the "hand" work and maximize the "brain" work of indexing?
  • Do you frequently create extensive name indexes?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you are in the right place!

User Recommendations

Megabit Macros are a phenomenal tool for indexers. I am able to work faster and with less strain on my wrists by using these macros to invert names, format titles of works, and change page ranges. The learning curve is short and the support is incredible. Margaret even created macros specific to my needs!
— Rachel Dadusc,, indexer of scholarly, academic, and trade books

Even though I'm a fast typist, Megabit Macros sped up the process for a names index I recently had to create from strings of names in bibliographic material. I was able to enter over 100 more names per hour with the macros than I normally would if I had typed them one by one. They also saved me the time and effort I would ordinarily spend proofreading the accuracy of the spelling of the names. I use them now in all of my indexing projects.
— Mary Harper, Access Points Indexing,

A time saver? Yes. These macros are also an ergonomic boon for any indexer with a history of wrist problems.
— Judi Gibbs,, indexer of scholarly, technical, and trade books

Megabit Macros are third-party macros for indexers who work in Windows, to speed up copying text from Adobe PDF files into an indexing program. They were created in an independent program called Macro Express.

How do the macros work?

First you install the trial version of the third-party program, Macro Express, and load my macro library file into it. Then, with your PDF open in Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat, and your indexing program waiting, you select the text you want to copy, press a keyboard shortcut to run the macro, and in a few seconds, the macro

  • copies the currently selected text from Adobe Reader or Acrobat
  • removes extraneous items in the copied text
  • switches into your indexing program
  • pastes in the cleaned-up copied text
  • inverts names if you're copying a name
  • automatically returns you into your Adobe program

Yes, you read that right—it does all of that in a few seconds. Some macros stop after the macro pastes in your text, wait until you've added a page number or a subentry or an author name, and continue when you press a certain key.

The macros work with the three major indexing programs: SKY Index , Cindex for Windows, and Macrex. (Note: They do not work with Cindex for Mac, but some people have been able to get them to work on a Mac under a program called Parallels, using Cindex for PC. One person is using the macros with Macrex on a Mac with a program called VMWare Fusion. There is a macro program for Macs called "Quickeys", available at Quickeys website (Startly Technologies). I don't know Macs and I don't know Quickeys, so I can't help you with this, but indexers using Cindex for Mac report good success using Quickeys.)

What's so good about that?

You'll save time and stress on your hands and wrists. If you're indexing a PDF with a lot of complex terminology, foreign terms in the Latin alphabet, proper names, or just a large number of words of any kind, you will save a lot of typing and/or clicking. If you were planning to copy your terms by hand from the PDF, it will increase the speed of the copying process at least six times because you'll be pressing one keyboard shortcut instead of doing at least six clicks, double-clicks, or keypresses:

  • Copying manually:
    1. Select desired word(s) in your PDF (double-click, or click and drag, or use Ctrl+Shift+arrow keys to select text).
    2. Copy word (press Ctrl+C, or double-click, or choose Edit, Copy from the menu).
    3. Switch over into indexing program (press Alt+Tab or click over).
    4. Paste copied term in (press Ctrl+V or use menus in your indexing program).
    5. ... and even more keystrokes if you need to edit the copied text in your indexing program...
    6. Complete the entry (press Enter or other key depending on program).
    7. Switch back into Adobe Reader or Acrobat (press Alt+Tab or click over).
    8. Unselect word (press Escape key or click elsewhere).

  • Copying with Megabit Macros:
    1. Select desired word(s) in your PDF.
    2. Press one keyboard shortcut!

You will also save time because of the clean-up the macros do to the text before pasting it in...

  • Delete paragraph returns and superfluous spaces: The macros eliminate the "/nl" codes that appear when you copy text of more than one line out of columns in a PDF. They also eliminate any double spaces within the selection, and/or spaces at the beginning or end of your selection.

  • Delete surrounding punctuation: The macros eliminate a colon, semicolon, comma, period, exclamation point, or question mark at the end of the copied text. Thus you don't have to select with pinpoint accuracy.

Beyond the cleanup, this is what the macros can do, in addition to copying:

  • Remove font formatting: The macros remove any font formatting from copied entries so that the entries appear in the default font you are using in your indexing program.

  • Invert names: Several macros for copying names automatically invert the last name, or treat the last two words as the last name, before they place the name into the receiving file (so Mary Ann Dewey becomes "Dewey, Mary Ann", or "Jean-Paul van Gogh" becomes "van Gogh, Jean Paul", or "John James Preston" becomes "Preston, J.J."), depending on which macro you choose).

  • Format titles: One macro will italicize what it pastes in, add parentheses, and wait for you to enter an author's name between the parentheses, then continue when you press a key (which key depends on which program you're using). Similarly, another macro adds quotes around what it pastes in, adds parentheses, and waits for you to enter an author's name between the parentheses, then continues when you press the appropriate key.

  • Wait for subentry: Some of the macros enter your copied word into the sub or main field as appropriate and then stop for you to add another word/words as the main entry or the subentry, and return you to your PDF when you press the appropriate to end the macro. You decide which macro to invoke based on whether you want the copied word to be the subentry or the main entry.

  • Pluralize word: One macro just adds an "s" to the end of the copied word before pasting it in.

  • Change page numbers: You can use your indexing program's features to automatically increment the page number and enter it for you as entries are made. The first time you copy an entry in, you can use a macro that stops to ask you for the page number after it copies in your text. You can use that macro again whenever you want to change the page number for the next set of entries.

  • Integrate shortcuts from your indexing program: If you frequently use a certain keyboard shortcut within your indexing program when editing entries, I can make a macro that will issue that shortcut for you after it copies the text into your program. Or if you have a custom macro within your indexing program, I may be able to create a macro that performs the same functions.

  • Custom macros: If you need a macro to do something that the current macros don't do, I may be able to create a macro that does what you want.

  • "Name-Splitting" macros: (This is now a second group of macros.) I've created macros to copy lists of author names from bibliographic formats and automatically invert and punctuate them and enter them as individual entries (and there are some that just format the list so that the SKY version 7 Split command can be used). Note: I'm not attempting to do every possible pattern, only the ones people have asked me for so far. You can download a PDF with examples below.

Examples of What Can Be Copied

Click the following links to download PDF files that show specific examples of what the macros can do.

Examples of Basic Macros

Examples of "Name-Splitting" Macros

Could I accomplish the same thing with SKY or Cindex or Macrex macros?

No, because a SKY macro will only work within SKY, and a Cindex macro will only work within Cindex, and a Macrex macro will only work within Macrex. It would not be able to take you back and forth between your indexing program and another application and perform actions within the other application. Macro Express, the program in which my macros are written, is an independent program that uses standard Windows functions. (You could easily have SKY or Cindex or Macrex macros that do certain things my macros do, like inverting a name, but not that perform the entire operation of copying the text in the Adobe program, switching into the indexing program, cleaning up the text, pasting it in, and returning to the PDF in one swoop.)

I can't quite picture how this works...

This is what your screen might look like before you use the macro. Your focus is in your PDF on the left side of the screen, the text you want to copy is highlighted, and SKY is ready and waiting on the right side of your screen:

Now you press Ctrl+F7, the keyboard shortcut for copying and inverting a name with one last name... and a few seconds later, your text has been copied into SKY, the focus is back in Adobe, and you are ready to select the next text to copy in your Adobe program, and SKY is ready to receive your next entry, so your screen looks like this:

But I don't use the Adobe software. I use some other program.

The only other program that seems to work well with the macros is PDF-XChange Viewer and PDF-XChange Editor from Tracker Software. I have created versions of the macros for SKY and for Cindex with this reader, because this program can be set to automatically highlight what it copies, so that you can have a record of what you have and have not copied.

I've tried a couple of other free PDF reader programs but they didn't work as well, so they didn't seem worth pursuing.

Will the keyboard shortcuts interfere with my existing shortcuts in SKY or Cindex or Macrex?

Not at all. The keyboard shortcuts for Macro Express will not affect or interfere with whatever shortcuts you use in your indexing program. The macros can only be started from within Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat.

What about page numbers?

The SKY and Cindex macros were initially designed to work with the indexing software features that automatically repeat the page number, but there are some macros in which you can change the page number during the macro; the macro pauses for you to enter or edit the page number and returns to the PDF when you press a certain key. The Macrex macros are a little different; because there are so many more options in Macrex for entering the page number, the Macrex macros stop for you to take care of the page number, and you press one key if you want to return to the PDF, or another key if you want to remain in Macrex. (I also have a version of the Cindex macros that all stop when it's time to enter the page number, for those who never use autorepeat.)

Does every indexer need this?

If you only copy from PDF files occasionally, it's probably not worth it. If you are copying material in non-Latin alphabets, it's not going to work. Additionally, there are some situations where you would be able to use column selection to copy chunks of text at a time from a PDF, which might end up being faster depending on the specific situation. However, if you spend a lot of time copying from PDF files, you'll find it time-saving. It's especially useful with proper names or complex vocabulary.

What's involved?

Email me: Send Message and I'll email them to you. Let me know which indexing program you are using.

First you would download Macro Express, the independent macro utility program that my macros are written in; this program is shareware, free to try for 30 days ($39.95 to purchase after the trial). You can download the program from the Macro Express web site. (Do not download "Macro Express Pro," which is a different program.)

After you get Macro Express installed, then you'll open my macro file in Macro Express (similar to opening a file in any other application). Once you've opened the macro file, Macro Express will automatically open it whenever it starts, so you only have to do this once.

Before you start using the macros, you'll make a few changes to the settings in the Macro Express program, and then you won't need to do any more setup with Macro Express; all you have to do is have the program running whenever you want to use the macros. Yes, it does take a little work to get it all set up, but you're going to spend maybe one hour or so in order to save many hours in the long run. In addition to my macro file, you will get a PDF of instructions, a "practice sheet" PDF with examples to try, and a list of the macros and shortcuts.

My macro files are not time-limited, but if you end up registering Macro Express and using the macros regularly, you can also purchase my macro file for $65. Macro file upgrades, support beyond installation, and custom macros are only available to those who have purchased the macros. I also require that you agree not to give away or sell copies of my macro file to others, reverse-engineer it, or use the Megabit Macros name. Unfortunately there is no practical way for me to make the macros stop working after 30 days, like most shareware, so I cannot force people to pay me for them. These macros and the associated materials took me many hundreds of hours to create. In fact, I cannot actually charge enough for them to ever recuperate the value of all the time I spent on them, so what I am asking for them is actually nominal rather than profit-making. If I had simply developed these macros in the course of my own work, I would share them freely with colleagues, as I have done with Microsoft Word macros. However, I developed these macros based on specific requests from various indexers, and many were far more time-consuming to write than Word macros.

The "name-splitting" macros (for breaking up strings of names from a bibliography) are a separate group of macros and I no longer give out the instructions for them until/unless the macros have been paid for.

What? I have to buy a separate program and also pay for your macro files?

Yes, because there would be no way to create these macros without the Macro Express program (or something similar). And it took me many hours and a lot of perseverance to get all the macros to work. But you'll earn the cost of the macros in saved time very quickly. After all, saving time is the point of the whole thing!

What are the system requirements?

They're simple — you just need a Windows computer powerful enough to run your Adobe program and your indexing program at the same time. If you can already do that, you shouldn't have a problem adding Macro Express. The system requirements for Macro Express are comparatively low.

My macros were originally created in Windows XP SP2, using Macro Express version 3.7, Adobe Acrobat Professional 8, and SKY 6. Since then, they have been used on systems running

  • Windows XP (SP2 & SP3), Windows Vista, Windows 7 (but see below about Cindex v2 with Windows 7), Windows 8, and Windows 10.

  • Adobe Reader versions 6, 7, 8, 9, X, XI, and DC (but be sure to see below about disabling a problematic security setting in Adobe Reader X, XI, and DC).

  • Adobe Acrobat Professional versions 8, 9, X, XI, and DC (but be sure to see below about disabling a problematic security setting in Adobe Acrobat X, XI, and DC).

  • SKY Index versions 6 and 7 and 8

  • Cindex for Windows versions 1.5, 2, and 3 (but see below about Windows 7 and Cindex v2)

  • Macrex versions 8 and 9 (the Macrex macros are not designed to work with earlier versions)

  • Macro Express versions 3.8, 3.9, and 3.10 (but note that the current macros for Cindex require at least, not 3.8.0)

Problems in Adobe Reader X, XI, and DC: Protected Mode

In Adobe Reader X, XI, and DC, there is a new feature called protected mode, which is on by default. This mode prevents you from copying from the file with the macros. In order to be able to copy from a PDF with the macros, you must turn off this option:

  1. Open Adobe Reader.
  2. On the Edit menu, select Preferences.
  3. The Preferences dialog box will appear.
    • ....In Version X, select the General category from the left pane.
    • ....In Version XI or DC, select Security (enhanced).
  4. Untick the "Enable Protected Mode at Startup" check box to disable the feature.

Note: Some PDF files have restrictions on copying that were set when the files were created, and these files cannot be copied from unless the file's originator changes those settings.

Cindex v2 and Windows 7: Compatibility Mode

In Windows 7, Cindex version 2 needs to be run in compatibility mode. Because Cindex is running in compatibility mode, in order to run the Cindex macros, Macro Express must also be run in compatibility mode. This is not the same thing as the "XP mode" that's only available in the more expensive editions of Windows 7. (This only applies to Cindex 2. The new Cindex version 3 does not need to be run in compatibility mode, so Macro Express doesn't either.)

How do I get the macros, or ask you a question about them?

Email me: Send Message. Let me know which indexing program you're using, and I'll email the macro files and instructions to you. The macros currently exist in several separate files: one for SKY, one for Cindex, and one for Macrex. (Only one macro file can be running at a time.)

Note: The keyboard shortcuts have been set up so that they will not interfere with the default shortcuts in Adobe Acrobat Professional. However, since preferences for specific keyboard shortcuts are individual, I can customize the keyboard shortcuts for you if you like, or you can customize them yourself.

Newsletter Article

Here's an article I wrote in 2012 for the newsletter of the Pacific Northwest Chapter. On the page that comes up, click on page 11 in the table of contents on the left. (It's no longer up to date in terms of the list of software versions, though.)

Newsletter Article

Other Questions

Will these macros eliminate every possible thing in the copied text that might need editing?

No, because that's simply not always possible. Depending on how the PDF was originally created, there may be extra spaces where there was a ligature (so you'd get "shi eld" instead of "shield" or "ses sion" instead of "session"). The name-inversion and name-splitting macros are able to eliminate these because such spaces would have lowercase letters on both sides, but for general copying, some but not all of these spaces are eliminated, because the macro cannot always "know" whether the extra space is correct. Also, you may have to delete a superfluous space after a hyphen occasionally. (See the next question for more on irregularities in PDF files.) But even with looking through the entries that you've copied to find these problems, you're still saving a great deal of time compared to copying by hand. (If you find something consistent that the macros might be able to eliminate, please let me know.)


Using these macros does NOT mean that you can just copy whatever you like and never inspect the results. The macros cannot eliminate every possible anomaly that may appear in the pasted material. (The Appendix in my practice sheet/demo file or the basic example file will show you what they can eliminate.) The problem is that a PDF can be created using an extremely wide variety of programs and technologies: everything from a simple text editor, such as Notepad; to web pages, in many different formats; to a complex graphic design program, such as InDesign. As a result, text can look the same in various PDFs but produce different results when copied. You must proofread your results at some point in order to catch anything unexpected.

What about copying diacritics?

The macros cannot copy every possible diacritic. Macro Express is not Unicode-compliant. It can only copy diacritics that are part of the Windows 1252 character set (sometimes referred to as "ANSI" or "ISO-8859-1," although they're not exactly the same). This character set includes many but not all diacritics for Western European languages. (Also, some characters may not be the same in different fonts.) Basically, you won't be able to copy non-Latin characters.

Here are some more pages about the Windows 1252 character set (there are a lot of charts about this on the Net, but many are hard to read and not all of them display the characters correctly):

For more information on Unicode, see the extensive articles on and these pages from the Unicode Consortium: The Unicode Consortium FAQ and What Is Unicode?.

I don't want to bother with macros. Can you copy 2,545 names for me?

Yes, I could use the macros to enter the names for you as a subcontractor. I can create a Cindex .CDX file or archive file; a SKY (SK7) file; a file that is importable into Macrex (a .MBK file); or a delimited text file.

Isn't there a program that will index PDFs automatically or
create a concordance from a PDF?

If you're an experienced indexer, you know this already, but as far as I and others indexers have been able to find out, there is no program to accomplish indexing in Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader automatically:

  • There are concordance programs used by linguists, but they do not work on PDF files.
  • There are embedded indexing capabilities in programs from which PDF files are often created (Microsoft Word, FrameMaker, InDesign), but that doesn't help us.
  • Adobe Acrobat has a feature called indexing, but it's not the kind of indexing we're talking about; it just marks terms internally (and invisibly) in order to speed up searches.
There are several programs that claim to be able to create an index or concordance from a PDF, but as far as I know, none of them produce an actual index that meets the standards of a professional indexer (and some of them don't work in Adobe Reader anyway, only in the more expensive Standard and Professional versions of Adobe Acrobat). Even if such a program can create a concordance, there are so many situations in which text in a PDF does not appear in a consistently searchable form that such a program might not be able to find all instances of a word. For example, searches may not be able to find
  • words created as an image
  • hyphenated words
  • words broken at the end of a line
  • words containing ligatures
  • words that look okay on the screen but appear with extra spaces when copied
  • some fonts and letter combinations
  • some diacritics
As a result, searching a PDF file can be quite frustrating at times. For more information:

Other Macros for Indexers

For working with SKY Index:

For working with Cindex:

For working with Macrex:

  • Michael Brackney, winner of the 2011 Wilson award, has created a comprehensive set of macros in Macrex version 7 and would like to hear from anyone who's interested.

For working with Microsoft Word's embedded indexing codes:

More Information on Working with PDFs

  • "Handling PDFs" Blog article from James Lamb on indexers' use of PDFs (2009)

Copyright 2009 Margaret Berson

How did you come up with this?

A few years ago, an editorial colleague who is an indexer took on a large project involving thousands of pages including many proper names and place names in a variety of European languages, and the project required separate indexes of people and places. She mentioned to me that it was going to be prohibitively time-consuming to type all these names into her indexing program (SKY). She would prefer to copy the terms from a PDF file either into SKY or into a text file for import into SKY and wished for a way to speed up the process. I'm not a programmer, but I've written macros in several different applications, each with a different macro "language," and I started thinking that it must be possible to speed up what she was doing with a macro. But a SKY macro couldn't do it — it would have to be done with a third-party macro program that could communicate between the PDF and SKY. I had heard of one called Macro Express. I downloaded it and was able to create macros to speed up the process of copying text from Adobe Reader into SKY. Later I adapted the macros for Cindex, and then for Macrex.

Copyright and Trademark Notices

Programs mentioned on this page:
  • Macro Express®, the Windows® Automation Tool, is a registered trademark of Insight Software Solutions.

  • Adobe Reader® and Adobe Acrobat® are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems, Inc.

  • SKY Index™ is a trademark of SKY Software.

  • Cindex for Windows™ is a trademark of Indexing Research.

  • Macrex is a product of Macrex Indexing Services.

  • Microsoft® is a registered trademark of Microsoft® Corporation.
  • Microsoft® Windows® is a registered trademark of Microsoft® Corporation.

  • PDF-XChange Viewer and PDF-XChange Editor are products of Tracker Software.

Any other trademarks mentioned on this page are the property of their respective owners.

Images on this page other than those I created are modified from clip art purchased from Dover Publications and Art Explosion (Nova Development), or clip art from my licensed copy of Microsoft Office 2003 Small Business Edition, plus one image from a free template available at

Megabit Macros and this document are copyright 2009 by Margaret Berson. All rights reserved.

I reserve the right not to share these macros with particular individuals at my own discretion.


Thanks to the following indexers who came up with ideas that became part of Megabit Macros:

  • Cher Paul
  • Richard Comfort
  • Lucie Haskins
  • Rachel Dadusc
  • Mary Harper
  • Marc Schaefer
  • Michael Wyatt
  • Samantha Miller
  • Erica Caridio
  • Barbara Salmon
  • Maureen MacGlashan
  • Madge Walls
  • Judith McConville
  • Ina Gravitz
  • Connie Binder
  • Caryn Sobel
  • Shana Milkie
  • Michelle Guiliano
  • Seth Moore
  • Ian Lithgow

Thanks to the following indexers who have demonstrated the macros to their local group of indexers:

  • Amy Apel
  • Shana Milkie

Thanks to Rohan Bolton, who wrote an article about the macros, published by the Society of Indexers in Sidelights in 2015.

And thanks to Connie Binder, who demonstrates the macros during her ASI workshop on working with PDF files.


Thanks to the staff and the support forum of Insight Software Solutions, the company that created and maintains Macro Express.

* * * Special thanks to Cher Paul, Rusty Gesner, the late Dr. Jean-Louis Brindamour, and Ku, Fu-Sheng, for inspiration and encouragement. * * *

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