Text annotation

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By text annotation we refer to the process of annotating a text in various ways.

“Annotations are usually small text documents attached to a published article. Ideally an annotation is attached to a fragment of an article. Thereby additional information about this specific part of the content is added. An annotation is a kind of electronic post-it and may start a discussion about the annotated part.” (Krottmaier, 2003).

“Ovsiannikov, Arbib, & Mcneill (1999) suggested that online annotations involve four major functions: remembering, thinking, clarifying, and sharing.” (Yeh et al, 2006).

See also annotation system and note taking.


See also: List of web 2.0 applications

Text fragment annotation systems

Word processors
  • Most word processors allow annotation, however most of these don't allow on-line collaboration.
  • Somme e-book standards (e.g. ePub) allow for annotations by the individual reader (e.g. they remain on the local machine and are not shared).
Online web-based word processors
Internet capable word processors and editors
  • Goby, a free collaborative editor supporting multiple documents in one session and a multi-user chat. It runs on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and other Unix-like platforms.
  • Microsoft Office (web discussion)

Online journals


Shared web page separate annotation systems

Shared web page separate annotations systems allow to annotate a web page without modifying the original. Many of these systems now also include or even require convenient web browser extensions.

Web 2.0 services (mostly commercial)

Most of these services are commercial, i.e. the free version may be limited or it's a free service with advertisements. More systems can be found through ReadWriteWeb or via web 2.0 indexes such as Mashable or MakeUseOf.

  • Webnotes - WebNotes (Wikipedia) - WebNotes... (Mashable)
  • A.nnotate, to upload, annotate, share. online document review and collaboration of PDF, Word and HTML.
  • Annotea (Kahan), comments, notes and explanations
  • Diigo. This popular social bookmarking tool also allows to annotate web pages.
  • Fleck, to post public or private text notes on a page. Similar to Diigo.
  • ReframeIt, a social web annotation tool (integrated with twitter and facebook). Also includes a FF extension. Similar to Diigo.
  • ShiftSpace (Firefox plugin)
  • Stickis, web page annotation system that let's you connect to content "channels" of other people, Channels may include text, images, RSS feeds.
  • Trailfire, IE and Firefox plugin that lets you post notes (called marks) right on top of a webpage and string them together with hyperlinks (making "trails").
  • http://www.gibeo.net (dead ?)
  • Ubervu (an easy way to track, start and respond to conversations, even if they take place across multiple sites and services...)
Open source code to build your own web annotation system
  • Marginalia Web Annotation. “Marginalia is an open source Javascript web annotation system that allows users of web applications to highlight text and write margin notes. The Moodle version adds annotation to Moodle discussion forums; a stand-alone version provides sample source code and instructions for how to integrate this with other web applications. The annotation feature works in Internet Explorer and Firefox” ( retrieved 17:04, 6 July 2009 (UTC)). The open journal systems plubing allows readers to annotate an article.
  • AnnotatEd (Farzan & Brusilovsky)
Research systems

There are many many research systems (since the early days of the web):

  • ComMentor (1994)
  • CoNote (1994)
  • Annotator (1998)
  • Xlibris An early attempt to create an annotatable e-book (Schilit et al., 1998)

Some of the more recent systems may be still and/or really be operational and give away code (needs additions below).

Personal web page annotation systems

Use cases in education

In education, we may distinguish two kinds of text annotations

  • Notes a reader makes to himself/herself when studying texts or when noting references they plan to further investigate (Wolfe, 2002).
  • Comments a reader makes for someone else.

Annotations can by typed, e.g. marked as questions or answers.

  • “Bargeron, et al, (2001) claimed, tools for manipulating and rearranging annotations can scaffold different note-taking and information strategies that help students learn to move from reading to writing. Specifically, annotations can provide in-context personal notes and can enable asynchronous collaboration among groups of user”. (cited by Yeh et al, 2006).

Standards and interoperability

  • Open Annotation Collaboration A more recent initiative “to facilitate the emergence of a Web and Resource-centric interoperable annotation environment that allows leveraging annotations across the boundaries of annotation clients, annotation servers, and content collections. To this end, interoperability specifications will be devised.” ([1], retrieved 17:04, 6 July 2009 (UTC)).



  • Brush, Alice Jane Bernheim, Annotating Digital Documents for Asynchronous Collaboration, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington. (Tech Report version of a PhD Thesis) PDF
  • Cerratto, Tessy (2002). Studies of Computer Supported Collaborative Writing. Implications for System Design, Interaction and Presentation Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). TechReport, PDF
  • Ellis, Sean E. and Dennis P. Groth (2004). A Collaborative Annotation System for Data Visualization, ACM Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces, Gallipoli, Italy, May, 2004.
  • Farzan, R. & Brusilovsky, P. (2006). AnnotatEd: A Social Navigation and Annotation Service for Web-based Educational Resources. In T. Reeves & S. Yamashita (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2006 (pp. 2794-2802). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Abstract/PDF
  • Heck, R.M.; M. Luebke, and C. H. Obermark, (2005). "A Survey of Web Annotation Systems". HTML.
  • Kahan, J., Koivunen, M.-R., Prud’Hommeaux, E., and Swick, R. R. (2001). Annotea: An open rdf infrastructure for shared web annotations. In Proceedings of the WWW10 International Conference.
  • Khan, Imran; Ronald Schroeter and Jane Hunter (2006). Implementing a Secure Annotation Service, IPAW06, Chicago. PDF
  • Kunimune, H., Yokoyama, K., Niimura, M. & Fuwa, Y. (2007). An Annotation Sharing System for Web-based e-Learning Materials. In C. Montgomerie & J. Seale (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2007 (pp. 3366-3371). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Abstract/PDF
  • Krottmaier, H. (2003). Enhanced Annotations. In C. Crawford et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference 2003 (pp. 991-993). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Abstract/PDF
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  • Ovsiannikov, I.A., Arbib, M.A., and Mcneill, T. H. (1999). Annotation Technology. International Journal, Human-Computer Studies, 50, 329-362.
  • Reeve, Lawrence and Hyoil Han (2005). Survey of semantic annotation platforms (2005), Proceedings of the 2005 ACM Symposium on Applied Computing, PDF
  • Rosta, Scott Bateman; Scott Bateman, Rosta Farzan, Peter Brusilovsky, Gord Mccalla (unknown). OATS: The Open Annotation and Tagging System, [incomplete(?) cached PDF
  • Schilit Bill, Gene Golovchinsky, and Morgan Price (1998). CHI 98 Conference Proceedings, ACM Press, 1998, pp. 249-256., April 18, 1998. PDF
  • Yeh, S., Lo, J. & Huang, J. (2006). The Development of an Online Annotation System for EFL Writing with Error Feedback and Error Analysis. In E. Pearson & P. Bohman (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2006 (pp. 2480-2485). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Abstract/PDF
  • Wojahn, P.G., Neuwirth, C. M. and Bullock, B.: Effects of Interfaces for Annotation on Communication in a Collaborative Task. In Proc. of ACM CHI'98, Los Angeles, CA, pp. 456-463, 1998.
  • Wolfe, J. (2002). Annotation technologies: A software and research review. Computers and Composition, 19, 471-497.
  • Xin, C. & Glass, G. (2005). Enhancing Online Discussion through Web Annotation. In G. Richards (Ed.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education, pp. 3212-3217.