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I'm a literature student and I'd like to be able to annotate literary texts (originally stored in HTML or as text files) on a word-by-word or line-by-line basis. I hear databases like mySQL or SQLite would be good ways to do this sort of thing, but I don't really know where to start.

I'm comfortable with the linux command-line, and have done some HTML/CSS work in the past, so I feel unintimidated by databases and things...I just don't know what to start doing.

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Consider a personal wiki instead of a database (which might be overkill for your needs). –  Renan Jul 12 '12 at 20:02

2 Answers 2

There are a lot of MySQL tutorials on the web, e.g. this one.

Once you learn the basics of SQL, if you want to make a database for annotating lines, you could read each line of a text file separately into a table called LINES_OF_TEXT using the LOAD DATA INFILE command in MySQL. You can then have another table called ANNOTATIONS that refers to entries in the LINES_OF_TEXT table; that way you can have multiple annotations for each line of text. E.g.:

LINES_OF_TEXT_TABLE
ID    | line
---------------------------------    
1     | This is a line, 
2     | and another one follows.


ANNOTATIONS_TABLE
lines_of_text_ID | annotation
-----------------------------------------------
1                | has a comma
1                | starts with a capital letter
2                | ends with a period
2                | dependent clause
1                | passive voice

You can relate the tables to each other using JOIN queries.

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I'm not sure a SQL database is your best solution here. They're not really meant as end-user tools more as back-end storage for applications.

You might be better off with just a spreadsheet ... OR ... why not come up with your own annotation scheme, e.g. <!-- MYNOTE: This is a note !-->, and add it to the file directly. Then using an indexed search program (e.g. lucene) you'd be able to find your annotations quickly.

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