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A beautifully structured Index along those lines would actually eliminate the need for the Search function at all.
Here's something to feel good about: customizing your search is definitely do-able.
If it were up to me, I would continue with the method I detailed in a previous post, where we examine the filenames before displaying them in the search results. I even left in a bit of script for developing context, based on the path, for just this kind of problem.
In this scenario, the Webhelp search continues unmolested, but you filter the results based on either the filename prefix (useful if you've added the state name to the beginning of each topic) or on the containing WebHelp folder (say you've created your output with topics in folders based on the state name, such as webhelp\ak\dress_code.htm, and webhelp\fl\dress_code.htm). Then, if the search phrase specifies a state, test for the prefix or folder, and display only those that match. Otherwise, display them all.
Provide the script to your in-house developers, and they can run with it.
I can't imagine a category scheme where the same words would not be in the appropriate topics. So, for example, any topic dealing with tax codes in Florida would contain those words in the title and/or text.
While the Index wizard works on that assumption, you can modify index terms manually and add new ones, pointing to any topic -- regardless of its content. This may not be relevant to your task.
But a search term such as
Florida and tax and code
will yield very specific results.
The antequated RH search function, though nothing like google, does behave well when given a proper Boolean string without "multi-word phrases" .
Sure, it happens all the time, Harvey - imagine software documentation, what with all its tables, fields, functions, variables, and properties in short, cryptic topics... context is everything. And sometimes, very little context is provided with that kind of thing.
And, in a lot of cases, the projects are just too large and too far along to deal with indexes, either hand-made or Smart Indexified. People have their reasons for the things they do, believe me...
The logical extension of all this would be to create a full-page search results, sorted by relevance, with a column (or icon) for context, and perhaps the first couple of sentences of the content beneath each return.
A number of hits indicating degree of relevancy could be done too. Its all context, and its all good.