All About Xaira

Welcome to Xaira!

This is a legacy webpage with information about Xaira from 2009. The information below will be out of data one day, and some links will break.

Xaira is the name for a version of SARA, the text searching software originally developed at Oxford University Computing Services for use with the British National Corpus. Xaira was entirely re-written as a general purpose XML search engine, which will operate on any corpus of well-formed XML documents. It is however best used with TEI-conformant documents.

Xaira has full Unicode support. This means you can use it to search and display text in any language, provided you have a suitable Unicode font installed on your system.

At the heart of Xaira is the Xaira Object Model. This defines a range of objects and methods for representing and searching large amounts of linguistic data. The Xaira Server program implements this model. The Xaira Indexer program creates platform-independent indexes from collections of XML documents for use by the Server. Both these Xaira components can be deployed on any platform.

Client programs can access a Xaira server using a close-coupled API such as that used by the Windows client (which is written in C++), or via XMLRPC or SOAP. We provide a fully-featured client for Windows, and a PHP code library which makes it easy to develop applications for the web which can talk to a Xaira server.

All versions of Xaira are now distributed free of charge under the GNU General Public Licence.

Xaira has been developed with funding from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation and the British National Corpus Consortium.

1. Current Status

The current version of Xaira is release 1.25. A Windows MSI installation package and a source code package for Unix are available from the the Xaira SourceForge site. Binary releases for other platforms are not yet available, but will be distributed from the same site when they are.

There is a XAIRA forum on the Sourceforge site for general discussion of experience and advice for others using the system. On the same site there are trackers for Bug Reports and Feature Requests.

2. Documentation, exercises, tutorials, etc.

There have been a number of attempts to produce documentation for XAIRA; see overview of available documentation. A brief summary of currently useful links follows:

We are working on detailed reference documentation for system developers and also on introductory tutorials for beginners.

3. Why the silly name?

Well, SARA was so-called because it was an SGML Aware Retrieval Application. Since this is an XML aware ditto, we originally intended to call it Xara (pronounced "Zara"). Then someone unkindly drew our attention to the existence of another piece of software with the same name. For a while, we toyed with the idea of calling it X/SARA, or maybe S/XARA, in indirect homage to Roland Barthes' seminal work S/Z. Then common sense prevailed, and we decided to call it Xaira, for XML Aware Indexing and Retrieval Architecture, because that's what it is.

It's pronounced as if it was written "Sarah", but if you want to voice the sibilant a bit more than usual, that's your choice.