I'm looking for software or markup/markdown based tools for organising anthologies selected from a large number of short pieces of writing. In this case it's poems, but the content of the individual pieces of text doesn't really matter. I just want a simple way of dealing with lots of chunks of text and easily generating documents from them.

So I have

  • Hundreds of text chunks, each less than a about page long
  • Metadata about each chunk (Subject, Author, Date, Age range, Star rating etc.)

What I want to be able to do is

  • Easily edit the text/metadata
  • Make selections based on the metadata (i.e. everything by Author X with more than 3 stars) and publish the results in a useful format (markdown, epub, latex, docx, whatever)
  • Ideally keep track of which chunks have already been used and when

I would prefer non-proprietary solutions, or at least solutions that allow me to export the data easily, preferably as a plain text file. I'm on Windows mostly, but would be interested in linux-based solutions too.

So far my best bet seems to be EMACS org-mode, but it doesn't seem to quite do what I want it to. Maybe there's a better way?

2 Answers 2


In a month or two I will have a book out on how to do things like this (Structured Writing: Rhetoric and Process, from XML Press).

The big question is, what are you going to use to do the selections based on the metadata and publish to the various output formats? Are you willing/able to write any code to do this? Since you are dealing with custom metadata, so degree of coding/configuration is going to be required to make this work. If so you can code you can probably pull together something workable from various open source tools.

DITA is one choice. It is horribly overweight for this kind of thing, but you can probably make it all work with a ton of configuration and maybe a little coding. Writing in DITA will not be easy in a plain text file, however.

Something like ASCII doc (a version of DocBook in lightweight syntax) might suit you for editing, but you will have to come up with a metadata solution to go with it.

My book would show you various ways to approach this, but describing them here would take far too much space.

  • I could code my own custom solution, but I don't want to go reinventing the wheel if there's something out there already. I think you're right that DITA would be overweight, but ASCIIdoc could be useful. Your book sounds interesting. Apr 25, 2018 at 15:17

This would be a technically advanced solution, but if you are comfortable coding, you might want to use a database management system (DBMS). One you probably already have is Micorsoft Access (comes with the Office suite) or OpenOffice Base (comes with OpenOffice, available on both Windows and Linux).

A database would let you select by any parameter you want (Author AND stars > 3), and with a bit of simple coding it can dump the results into a text file.

  • Using Access or OpenOffice Base would make the selecting on the basis of metadata easy, but I think it would make the overall workflow more complicated. Apr 25, 2018 at 15:35

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