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Consider this clever alternative to traditional Index Tabs

Pages of a Book with Colorful Identifiers for each Section

Index Tabs offer a practical way to organize the sections of a book. The tabs are printed with brief descriptions that help categorize and divide the content into manageable parts. Index tabs are popular because they help the readers of a book pinpoint the exact information they are seeking.

Of course, certain books are a better fit for index tabs than others. For example, books that contain specific categories of content are perfect candidates for Index tabs. This is why index tabs are frequently used in conjunction with printed manuals, such as training manuals, operation manuals, and repair manuals. Index tabs provide a quick way to guide the user to the proper section within the manual.

Colorful index tabs for flight manual
Traditional Index Tabs bound within the pages of a manual

Other books that benefit from the use of index tabs include instructional and how-to books, employee handbooks, first aid guides, cookbooks, directories, and product catalogs. Index tabs also work well for organizing the bound programs of a multi-day convention, trade expo, or other event with ongoing activities.

A word about Traditional Index Tabs

When most people think of index tabs, they think of cardstock section dividers that have a die-cut tab extension. These extensions are printed with words or brief phrases that identify each section within the book.

When these section dividers are bound among the book's pages, the printed tabs extend beyond the pages somewhat. This allows the content printed on the tabs to be easily read, even when the book is closed.

Traditional index tabs have been in use for over a century. This is because they work very well. However, because the tabs overhang beyond the book's main pages, they are vulnerable to becoming bent and distorted. Unless there is a protective cover, tab extensions rarely stay crisp for long, which can negatively affect the appearance of the book.

A set of colorful index tabs
Indexing sidebars are printed directly on a book's pages prior to assembling the book. Every page within a specific section of the book shares the same color for its sidebar.

Is there a better alternative to traditional Index Tabs?

If you want to identify the sections of your book with index tabs but aren't crazy about the fact your custom-printed tabs might become bent or contorted during day-to-day use, there is an alternate indexing method to consider.

The proven alternative is to forgo the tabbed cardstock dividers altogether and just print colorful section identifiers right on the book's pages. By using different colors for each section in the book, it is easy to distinguish them from each other…especially when you incorporate a corresponding color code in the table of contents.

In addition to using sidebars of different colors, you can add words or phrases along the bars to clearly label each section accordingly. Though you won't be able to read this verbiage until the book is opened, you will always be able to see the different color bars by looking at the edge of the book.

Edge view of a book with printed color bars on its pages
The colorful sidebars representing each section, as seen from the edge of a closed book

In most cases, printing color bars directly on the pages of each section will be less expensive than adding a set of cardstock dividers and printing on the tab extensions. Also, printing the color bar directly on the page provides a cleaner look than traditional tabs, and many people prefer that. This method also works well with all bookbinding styles, which isn't the case with traditional index tabs.

Also, one thing to be mindful of is that the artwork will need to be set up with a bleed. Because the colored sidebars run along the very edge of the page, the artwork should extend 1/8" beyond the page's trim line. This ensures the color of the indexing sidebars will extend to the very edge of the page after the books are trimmed to size.

Section identifiers can make a substantial difference in how your audience engages with the content of your book. So whether you choose traditional die-cut index tabs or the printed color bar idea, the content within your book will be better organized and easier to navigate.

Are you looking for affordable Book Printing?

Color Vision has been a printer of affordable books and booklets for four decades. We offer a wide variety of printing, binding, and finishing options to fit virtually any project and budget.

If you have an upcoming project and would like to receive a quote, please complete our Quote Request form and we will be happy to email a quote to you. Or, if you prefer to discuss your project by phone, we can be reached at 800-543-6299.

As always, we look forward to assisting with your printing and binding needs!

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