What is Wordle?
Wordle is a popular online tool that allows you to input a web page, block of text or list of keywords, and have it spit out a graphic known as a word cloud. Wordle does this job pretty well, but something that gets asked at work quite a lot is if there are any Wordle alternatives out there. In addition, Wordle is a little awkward if all you want is an image file at the end of it that you can paste into a presentation for example, without taking screenshots.
Here’s a list of a few sites that do a similar job (being sites they are of course compatible with Windows and Mac) and a few other alternatives to Wordle that you might want to consider.
Here’s an example of a Wordle word cloud for comparison with the alternatives listed below:
Wordle Alternative #1: ABCya! Word Clouds for Kids
ABCya! Word Clouds is pretty basic, but it can be forgiven since it’s aimed at kids. It also has a handy randomise feature, so if you need a quick result, this is a great choice. It accepts a body of text as its input.
It also allows you to quickly adjust the number of words that contribute to the word cloud, which is also handy and allows you to eliminate truly infrequent words (the aim of the word cloud is to illustrate quickly what is popular rather than give the whole picture).
It occasionally seems to place a word too far out, and the random colour schemes can be garish at times, but that’s the whole point of random and it might be what you want!
Head over to http://www.abcya.com/word_clouds.htm to check it out. It relies on Flash which may be a pain point for some.
Wordle Alternative #2: Tagxedo
Second up is Tagxedo. Tagxedo has way more options as it’s not ‘dumbed down’ for children, so straight away you can use it to make a word cloud out of your blog, tweets, other RSS feed and more.
It also allows great control over the shape of the cloud including using words and graphics. As you can see above, I have chosen to create my word cloud in the shape of a rubber duck.
Something that wasn’t immediatiely obvious is that you have to let it load a preset word cloud and then click on “Load” to be able to add your own text for transformation.
A great feature of Tagxedo is that you can add a list of keywords of the form keyword:frequency (e.g. rubberducky:7) and it will act as if the word has been used that many times. For people with PPC or other quantified data (e.g. a keyword list from Adwords with impressions or clicks) it’s only a few concatenations away from providing a nice quick way to represent keyword themes to a client.
Tagxedo can be found at http://www.tagxedo.com/ and is built on Silverlight.
Wordle Alternative #3: WordItOut
WordItOut requires you to submit your email address before you can easily download your word cloud (although you could just screengrab it). This is a big turn-off, but its reason for asking is apparently so that you can share the tag cloud and edit it again in the future, amongst other things. This seems fair enough. The site is ad-supported which I would hope means they aren’t selling the email addresses on!
It’s neither here nor there in terms of features, sort of not as advanced as Tagxedo but cleverer than ABCya!. On the other hand it has a nice summary of all the word clouds that have been created by the community, which may be inspirational or a bit too sharey for you, but it’s interesting either way.
Also it appears to be written without Flash or Silverlight which is nice if you’re on an unsupported device or OS (but could explain the slightly less ‘tidy’ arrangement of words).
Link to Word It Out: http://worditout.com/
Wordle Alternative #4: Tagul
Tagul requires a full sign up before you can get cracking. It’s worth it though, because like WordItOut it means you can keep working on a tag cloud in case it’s not right first time. This is handy because Tagul has a decent number of features.
You will want to filter common words which isn’t a feature as standard (the other Wordle alternatives reviewed here seem to do it by default).
One cool feature is that you can embed your cloud with a default link for each individual tag, for example to click through to a Google search for the tag text itself.
Visit http://tagul.com/ for more, it uses Flash.
Other alternatives to Wordle
There is an interesting approach to getting a more dynamic Wordle cloud out of Excel here. Whilst this isn’t strictly a Wordle alternative, if your reason for seeking one was avoiding the process rather than the end result of Wordle, then this may help.
There are plenty of other types of visualisation out there to be used, but word clouds are simple to read and a great way to illustrate the prominence of themes within a text or body of work.
If you have found any other Wordle alternatives then please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to this list