Troubleshooting/reporting bugs

Is Java installed and working properly?

Wordle uses the Java browser plugin. Your first troubleshooting step is to verify that Java is installed properly and that your web browser is configured to permit its use.


If that site determines that your system isn’t configured to run Java “applets” like Wordle, it will lead you to the right place to install it.

Most Common Problem: Firewall/Web Content Filter

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


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

  • http://wordle.appspot.com/*
  • http://www.google.com/jsapi/*
  • http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/*

What next?

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 similar problem, or join that group and post your question there.

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

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 it may also work for Windows users.

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

When Wordle was created, the Google App Engine platform did not provide a way for developers to add search capabilities to their websites. They have since added that capability, but I haven’t had a block of time to add the feature. Maybe someday!

May I use my Wordles for…


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.

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

May I make money off of Wordle images?


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.

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 website.

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 or engage in any sort of business 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 display your Wordle at the desired size, then take a “screenshot” or “screen capture.” Here’s a link to a website that gives instructions for creating screenshots on various computers. 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” 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 website or, as a library, in your 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.

I wrote a book chapter about Wordle and described the algorithm in enough detail to permit a reasonably accomplished programmer to recreate the word cloud layout. It’s available on my home page.

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 website or, as a library, in your work.

The text and design of the website itself are Copyright © 2008 Jonathan Feinberg, and all rights are reserved.

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

You may use screenshots of the Wordle website in articles, blog posts, and books.

All the fonts used in Wordle are copyrighted by their respective creators and owners and are used on Wordle either under their licenses or with explicit permission from their owners.

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

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 should also be in your sights; 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., 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. I believe the world’s children 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 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 supported languages. Given my limited time and the size of the libraries that would be required to do the steaming, 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 appear 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 languages. 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 in any particular shape. The programs that do that 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 must return to the “create” form and re-paste your text.

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 it as a JPEG/GIF/PNG/etc.?

Wordle is a Java applet; 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?


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 “Always permit” checkbox, and accept the dialog.

You’ll have to press the “Print…” button on the Mac again. Boo.

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

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

The free PDFCreator allows you to “print” directly to PDF or SVG.

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

How about SVG?


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

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?

I’d be happy to add a field on the “create” page if you know of an interesting text source that exposes a JSON interface. Unfortunately, a website 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 tens of milliseconds to do its work. Creating a Wordle requires multiple seconds in a Java runtime. (That pretty animation is not for show; it’s 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.

Is Wordle safe to use on confidential or private text?

No information leaves your workstation at any time. You may compose a Wordle, mess around with fonts, layouts, and colors, take a screenshot, or print it out without ever sending any information over the network.