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Sorry to hear you have Index woes. I'm a bit confused as to how or why localizing your project would affect topic level keywords, unless the translators are also munging the code surrounding the keywords.
I think there is a slight misunderstanding with the merged index. You qouted: This statement in RoboHelp Help also seems to be incorrect: "The master project must contain at least one index keyword that is associated with a topic or the index will be empty." We have merged helps with not a single keyword saved in a topic, and the index works great.
What you didn't seem to clarify is if the Master of your merged helps was configured this way. You can certainly get away with a child or slave .CHM having no keywords. But it's always been my understanding that this is indeed a requirement for the Index to correctly function for merged .CHM files. It's not a RoboHelp thing either. It's designed behavior of the Microsoft HTML Help format.
I couldn't find any error that translators may have made in the HTML tags containing the keywords. Of course, certain keywords (such as synonyms) became superfluous in the other languages and were deleted. Others were added. Indexes are not translated word for word. If they had been translated word for word, perhaps it wouldn't have been a problem. But that's not possible.
What you didn't seem to clarify is if the Master of your merged helps was configured this way. You can certainly get away with a child or slave .CHM having no keywords.
I'm not very experienced with merged helps, but I don't know what you mean by a Master being configured this way. The way we "merge" help projects is simply by adding them to the TOC of the main project, as described in RoboHelp Help:
Since the actual merging takes place at run time, you are simply placing references to other projects inside a master project (the master project does not actually contain the sub-project). Where are these references placed? You insert each reference in the master project's table of contents, placing it where you want the sub-project's TOC to appear.
Alternatively, it works to simply add the "child" help file as a Baggage File.
An any case, I searched through our help projects once again and could not find a single keyword that is saved in a help topic. They are ALL defined in HHK files. On the other hand, there are thousands of keywords, so I guess I could have missed one....
But whatever -- as long as the merge is working...
What doesn't work is saving keywords in topics that are then imported to another project or translated to another language. I sincerely hope that MM will do something about these problems in the upcoming release. At the very least, they need to correct the Help so that others aren't led down this road in vain.