i have been working on a problem for a week and after starting this question, the solution came to me. to not leave the question hanging. here goes:

3 tables are involved. one a url, one a user input (much larger than the url) and one bibliography.

the three are related in topic only. what i had in mind was

url | user input | bibliography

but then i got hung up on length of cols. and the question was what to do about split() commands.

the solution i will take will be to use 3 pages and then if cols are appropriate, i will use them

lots easier, cleaner.