Troubleshooting/reporting bugs

Most Common Problem: Firewall/Web Content Filter

Many folks who see the red "X" or other symptoms of a missing Wordle applet are suffering from a misconfigured firewall or web content filter. Can you retrieve this file?

http://wordle.appspot.com/j/v1421/wordle.jar

If not, then you must either turn off your content filter, or configure it to permit JAR files (which are compressed Java ARchives). I've heard that some folks also need to configure their firewalls to permit resources matching the following patterns:

Firewall OK but still no success?

Wordle uses the Java web-browser plugin. You must ensure that Java applets are enabled in your browser. Here are instructions for enabling Java applets to run in your browser.

Mac users: here are instructions for installing the latest version of Java on your machine and then ensuring that Java is enabled in your browser. Note that you cannot use Google Chrome; you must use either Firefox or Safari.

Please update to the latest Java plugin and and then make sure that Java is enabled in your browser before reporting a bug. I recommend the Firefox browser for accessing Wordle and other Java applets.

If this Java test does not work for you, then neither will Wordle.

If the Java test does work, and Wordle does not, your best bet is to search the Wordle Users Google Group to see if someone has already solved a problem similar to yours, or join that group and post your question there.

Thanks, in advance, for spending your time helping me and other Wordle users.

I can't copy the word count information anymore. I used to be able to.

Unfortunately, recent releases of the Java Runtime Environment have made it impossible for Java applets (Java programs, such as Wordle, that run in your web browser) to access your computer's clipboard.

Printing doesn't work!

See this.

It was written to address a problem with printing in OS X, but may work for Windows users as well.

Why isn't there a way to search for Wordles?

Wordle is a Google App Engine application. That means that the Wordle web site depends on the capabilities provided by the GAE platform for everything it can do, including saving and retrieving the Wordles you create, storing the thumbnail images, etc. Unfortunately—and surprisingly, considering the fact that it's Google we're talking about—GAE does not provide the capability to index and search for text in saved data.

In the future, if Wordle moves to a different platform, or if GAE provides text search capabilities, Wordle will become searchable. I agree with the many people who have written to complain about this issue that it's a frustrating design flaw, and I regret it.

May I use my Wordles for...

Yes.

The images you create with Wordle are yours to use in any way you choose. You may print T-Shirts, business cards, brochures, what have you. On the other hand, when you place an image in the gallery, anyone else can use it too! So if you want to keep it to yourself, print it out without saving it.

Keep in mind that if you save a Wordle to the public Gallery, then you can't control how other people use it.

If you want to give credit to wordle.net, feel free! But it's not required.

May I make money off of Wordle images?

Yes.

You may take a Wordle, put it on your book cover, your t-shirt, your campaign poster, what have you. You may get rich off it.

Keep in mind that if you save a Wordle to the public Gallery, then you can't control how other people use it.

If you want to give credit to wordle.net, feel free! But it's not required.

Note: see a later FAQ for information about using the Wordle applet or other intellectual property from this web site.

Would you be interested in a partnership/business/licensing deal?

Due to my agreement with my former employer, I am not free to license Wordle, nor to engage in any sort of busness deal around Wordle technology. Wordle is, and will remain, non-commercial. Unfortunately, this includes not-for-profit organizations, art projects, microbusinesses, and the like.

How can I get a large Wordle image into my blog? The code you provide gives a small image.

You must first display your Wordle at the desired size, then take a "screen shot" or "screen capture". Here's a link to a web site that gives instructions for creating screen shots on various kinds of computer. By linking to this external site, I do not endorse it: take-a-screenshot.org.

To make your Wordle larger on screen, you can use the "Open in Window" that appears at the bottom of the Wordle image. You can resize the pop-up window as you like.

Once you've created your image, edited it as you like, and saved it in an appropriate format, you must upload that image to your web host, blog engine, image hosting site, what have you. You may then use that image in your blog post by using an img tag whose src attribute contains the URL of the image you made.

Unfortunately, I can't provide personal assistance for this task. You'll have to seek help from whatever service you use for blogging. You could also try the Wordle Users group.

May I see the source code?

Unfortunately, no.

As mentioned on the credits page, I wrote the core layout algorithms on company time. That code belongs to IBM, so it isn't mine to share. I'm sorry that I can't share it with you.

Certain parts of the code are © IBM Corporation, and all rights are reserved. You may not decompile or reverse-engineer the applet and then make a derivative work based on your knowledge of that code. You may not use the applet on your own web site or, as a library, in your own work.

Some parts of Wordle's source code are available as an open-source project at this github repository. It's the part that deals with breaking text into words, and recognizing common words.

How is Wordle licensed? May I embed your applet?

(See an earlier FAQ about using images you've created with Wordle.)

You may not copy or redistribute the Wordle applet itself under any circumstances. Certain parts of Wordle are © IBM Corporation, and all rights are reserved. You may not decompile or reverse-engineer the applet and then make a derivative work based on your knowledge of that code. You may not use the applet on your own web site or, as a library, in your own work.

The text and design of the web site itself are Copyright © 2009 Jonathan Feinberg, and all rights are reserved.

You may not use the text or design of the Wordle web site itself in any commercial or non-commercial enterprise, nor may you create a derivative work.

All of the fonts used in Wordle are copyrighted by their respective creators and owners, and are used on Wordle either by virtue of their licenses, or with explicit permission from their owners for such use.

See the credits page for individual credits. Let me know if I've failed to credit you for your work.

I'm a teacher, and I'd like to use Wordle in the classroom or send my students to use it at home. Can you filter or moderate Wordle's content?

The Wordle front page will never feature images or links that are inappropriate for classroom use. Therefore, it's possible to configure an institution's "site-blocking" software to keep Wordle safe for classroom use.

Simply have your networking administrator block the following base URLs:

and your users will not be inadvertently shown anything that's not safe for classrooms.

If your filtering software only blocks per domain, then you're out of luck. It's either no Wordle at all for your school, or Wordle avec des gros mots.

I saw an obscene Wordle. Could you take it down?

I cannot moderate or filter Wordle, as many thousands are created each week. Therefore, unless someone has exposed your personal information (such as your name and phone number), I'm not going to take it down.

If you feel that your privacy has been violated, please send me an email containing the full URL of the offending Wordle. Without the URL of the Wordle, I cannot find or remove it.

Could you remove or change the name of the “Sexsmith” font? I don't want my students to see it.

Yes, with pleasure. First, please write to the musician Ron Sexsmith, after whom the font is named, and get him to change his name. You may also want to write to Sexsmith, Alberta, Canada, and see if you can get them to change their name before any of your students inadvertently consult a map. Christian rocker Paula Sexsmith ought to be in your sights as well; don't let her feel left out. Take a slapshot at goalie Tyson Sexsmith, while you're at it.

“Sexsmith” is a common surname and placename, especially in Canada. It's analogous to “Shoemaker”, “Fletcher”, or just plain “Smith”; it's a profession. A “seax smith” was someone who made seaxes.

The place-names Middlesex, Essex, Sussex, etc., all derive their names from the seax.

If the children of Boston and its suburbs can grow up in Middlesex county, perhaps giggling occasionally at the mention of the sheriff or courthouse thereof in local news broadcasts or 5th-grade geography lessons, then I believe that the children of the world can weather the mere sight of those letters, in that context. Good luck!

You should do stemming!

"Stemming" means understanding different words as variations of some root or stem, e.g., "walking", "walked", and "walks" are understood as variations on "walk". Many people have asked whether Wordle could do this to text, and show only the roots.

Unfortunately, it would go a bit beyond the scope of Wordle to do that kind of analysis. I'd also feel bound to provide stemming for all of the supported languages. Given my limited time, and given the size of the libraries that would be required to do the stemming, Wordle will not be doing stemming in the foreseeable future.

Can you add Chinese/Japanese?

There are two things against Wordle getting ideographic language support. First, ideographic fonts are enormous, and this would cost Wordle a lot of bandwidth. Second, I don't know how to recognize word breaks in those languages. As far as I know, there's no reliable way to detect individual "words" in those languages—which can consist of one or more glyphs—without an enormous database. If anyone wants to guide me to a reliable word-break algorithm for these languages, please do.

I entered a word many times. Why does it only show up once?

Wordle uses the number of times a word appears in a text to determine its relative size. See the next question for details.

Why can't I get this particular word to show up in the Wordle?

Wordle probably thinks that the word is a “stop word” (a frequently-used, but unimportant word, such as “the”, “and”, or “but”) in some language. See the “Language” menu for a setting to turn off the removal of such common words.

Why aren't numbers showing up?

By default, Wordle strips numbers from the text before drawing. See the “Language” menu to change that setting.

How do I make one word bigger than another?

The size of a word in the visualization is proportional to the number of times the word appears in the input text. So, for example, if you type

apple banana banana grape grape grape

into the create page's text field, you'll see that banana's font size is twice apple's, and grape's font size is 3/2 that of banana's.

Can I keep some words together? Can I visualize two-word phrases?

Yes! You can use either the Unicode "non-breaking space" character or the tilde character ~ between words that go together. The tilde will be converted to a space when drawing the words, and the words will be treated as a single word. See http://blog.wordle.net/2008/06/keep-words-together-with-tilde.html.

Can I make the words fill a particular shape?

No; there's no option for having the words fill up any particular shape. The programs that do that kind of thing typically choose their space-filling text from a small repertoire of words or phrases. I don't know how to do it with the large repertoire of words that a typical Wordle includes.

Is there a way to edit the word list once I have created the cloud? If I think of new words to add, or want to remove others, it seems I have to start over.

Unfortunately, no. You do indeed have to go back to the "create" form and re-paste your text.

Well, actually, you can at least remove words, by right-clicking on them and using the resulting popup menu. This will re-layout the Wordle without the selected word.

Can I save as a JPEG/GIF/PNG/etc.?

Wordle is a Java applet, and Java applets are not permitted to write anything to your disk. So, while the applet could generate a jpeg, it wouldn't be able to give it to you!

You can certainly take a screenshot of the Wordle applet.

Well then, how about a PDF?

Sure!

There's a "Print..." button below the Wordle area, on the left-hand side. Press it. You will be prompted to allow the Wordle "Java applet" to access your printer. Please check the checkbox that says "Always permit", and accept the dialog.

On the Mac, you'll have to press the "Print..." button again. Boo.

Mac users can simply "Save as PDF" from their built-in printer dialog.

Windows users will need to use third-party software to generate a PDF from the print dialog. Adobe Acrobat is fine, but I happen to use the free-as-in-beer CutePDF Writer. I have no relationship to the folks who make CutePDF, nor do I take any responsibility for anything that might happen as a result of your using it. If you do use CutePDF, you'll also need to install Ghostscript, a free-as-in-speech PostScript interpreter.

The free PDFCreator also allows you to "print" directly to PDF or SVG.

The PDFs you make in this way are fully scalable, and suitable for making posters, T-Shirts, what have you.

How about SVG?

Sure!

Get yourself a printer driver that generates SVG. I tried the proprietary SVGMaker on Windows, and was very pleased with the result. I have no relationship to the folks who make SVGMaker, nor do I take any responsibility for anything that might happen as a result of your using it.

The free PDFCreator also allows you to "print" directly to SVG.

Or, print to PDF, as described above, and import the PDF into Inkscape, a free-as-in-speech vector graphics editor, whose native format is SVG. Inkscape runs on every contemporary OS.

How about a field to enter a blog/web page/wikipedia article's URL?

If you know of an interesting text source that exposes a JSON interface, then I'd be happy to add a field for it on the "create" page. Unfortunately, a web site that doesn't expose its data via JSON is not useful to Wordle, because Wordle does all of its text processing on your computer, in the browser. A JSON URL can be dynamically retrieved without hitting the Wordle server.

Could you expose Wordle as a web service that generates images?

A scalable web service should take no more than a few tens of milliseconds to do its work. To create a Wordle requires multiple seconds in a Java runtime. (That pretty animation is not for show; it's really laying things out during the animation). Therefore, Wordle will always apportion the CPU-intensive stuff to you, the user, and your CPU.

As of this writing, Wordle is sustaining 10 hits per second. There's no way on Earth to render Wordles at that speed. Well there is a way, but it involves way more money than I've got.

Is Wordle safe to use on confidential or private text?

If you do not save your Wordle to the gallery, no information leaves your workstation at any time. You may compose a Wordle, mess around with fonts, layouts, colors, take a screenshot, print it out, without ever sending any information over the network.

If you do save your Wordle to the gallery, then only the word frequencies for the words that appear in the Wordle are sent. There's no way to reconstruct the source text from that information. You have to exercise your own judgement as to whether the Wordle you've created exposes private information. Wordles cannot be deleted from the gallery once created, as there are no authenticated users.

build #1421