Word clouds offer a striking way to visualize text, which is why one will find a handful of free word cloud generators online. The word cloud craze first picked up in 2009 and peaked sometime after 2015 (Temple, 2019). Now that their popularity has waned, it can be hard to know which ones are worth using, especially when they are not constantly updated anymore.
In this article, we evaluate the usability and features of popular word cloud generators and see which ones help you make the best designs. To come up with this list, we employed a simple test of generating word clouds from famous poems and speeches. Word cloud generator tools were evaluated primarily on ease of use. Secondary considerations revolved around features that include input options for the source text, word manipulation options, download file formats supported, and sharing options.
A popular visual representation tool for textual data, a word cloud is commonly used for visualizing free form text or for depicting keyword data on webpages (Ahuja & Shakeel, 2017). Word clouds can be used for a variety of purposes. In business, one can make word clouds out of client or employee surveys like performance review comments as an aid for analytics. In politics, it can be used to analyze recurring themes in a speech (Boost Labs, 2014). In the academe, it is commonly used as a teaching tool for helping develop students’ vocabulary (Peachey, 2020).
Originally, word cloud generating software apps were meant to help enhance the visual quality of websites, slide show presentations, online posters, etc. (Filatova, 2016). Later on, they became known for providing users with a quick and intuitive appreciation of textual content, especially with the emergence of Big Data. Thus, word clouds have become one of the most widely-used statistical tools for conducting visual analysis (Silva e Silva & Assunção, 2018). Thus, there have been studies conducted that delved into the impact of word clouds on student skills and their effectiveness as a research tool.
To find out if word clouds impact critical thinking and engagement, researchers from the University of Central Florida conducted a survey of undergraduate students in a large public university in the United States. One group of students was asked to analyze two famous speeches using word clouds, while another used linear analysis. The findings showed that students using the word cloud had higher scores in engagement and critical thinking than those using linear analysis. A significant number of students from the word cloud group (71%) said that the speech activity promoted classmate interaction. In contrast, only 52% of students from the linear analysis group had the same response (deNoyelles & Reyes-Foster, 2015).
Source: deNoyelles & Reyes-FosterDesigned by
Another study explored the viability of word clouds as a research tool. A group of students from The Chinese University of Hong Kong was asked whether or not they would use ebooks for learning. The researchers used a variety of instruments, such as questionnaires, interviews, focus-group meetings, and more to gather student comments. A smaller group of students then used ebooks for 12 weeks and kept an online diary of their experience. Word clouds of their journal entries were then generated via Wordle. The researchers found that the word clouds roughly validated the survey results they had done earlier.
In addition, it gave them insights into the underlying reasons why students like or do not like ebooks. They concluded by saying that word clouds are helpful tools for conducting preliminary analysis and validating previous findings. However, they cautioned that it has limitations, including the simplistic treatment of word forms and insufficient information about the context in which the words were used (McNaught & Lam, 2010).
Wordart is an online word art generator that promises to help you make wonderful designs even without graphic design knowledge. It features an interface with collapsible formatting and design options and a workspace for your word cloud. Aside from copy and pasting text, you can input them in CSV format or pull words from a URL. You can make the font size of any word you choose bigger or smaller.
There are also a wide variety of shapes and fonts to choose from. It has filtering options to make searching for your preferred font or shape much quicker. You can also add your own shape and font. It’s even possible to add icons and emojis to your word cloud. Once done, you can share your design on Facebook, Twitter, or email. You can also embed it on a webpage. Word clouds can be downloaded as a PNG, JPEG, SVG, PDF, HTML, or CSV file.
WordClouds is a free word cloud generator with a variety of customization options to make your word cloud one of a kind. It can pull words from a PDF file aside from text files, CSV files, URLs, or from the site’s copy and paste text box. You can control how the words appear by setting the gap size between words and their direction.
Meanwhile, you can make font sizes bigger or smaller with an easy-to-use slider that applies changes in real-time. It’s also possible to add links to the words. Word clouds can be formed into fun shapes, letters, or from an uploaded image. A color picker lets you apply a solid or gradient image to your background.
You can also make your own background out of a custom image. Choose from pre-set dimensions for your word cloud or set your own custom size. Once you’re done, you can download it as a JPG, PNG, or PDF file with an option to save it in high-definition (HD). In just a few clicks, you can share your word cloud art on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
You can also print your word cloud on a poster, framed print, or canvas. WordClouds has a partnership with CanvasPop, which allows you to order word cloud prints online. While it has a robust set of features, the user experience is not as smooth as other tools. With the way the workspace is laid out, you will have to scroll up and down to view the controls and your word cloud. This can be inconvenient when making lots of changes to your design.
WordIt Out is another tool for creating word cloud art not only for academic purposes but also for personal use. This word cloud generator has a minimalist interface that you can quickly learn. To start with, you can make a word cloud by copy and pasting text or a spreadsheet. You can also create a word cloud without any words filtered. Like most word cloud generators, you can set the words into any font or color you like.
WordIt Out offers options for color variation, color blending methods, and number color limits, which other free tools do not have. You can also choose layout options, however, these are limited to selecting the orientation, aspect ratio, and word placement at the center. You can then save your word cloud with private or public access but you would have to provide your email address to get the design. If you want to keep a memento of your design, you can use Zazzle to have it professionally printed on a T-shirt, mug, or other surfaces.
ABCya! is a word cloud generator for students from pre-K to sixth grade. The site features an easy to use and engaging interface that makes generating word clouds feel like play. You simply have to paste your copy in the text box and click Create to make your own word cloud. Once you input your text, you can use different buttons to add effects to your cloud. You can set word limits of 10 to 1,000 words for your cloud.
Meanwhile, the randomize button will spontaneously change your cloud to other fonts, font colors, and shapes. On the other hand, the Layout button lets you pick from 10 different shapes. You can choose colors and fonts, though these are limited to 12 options, each with the free online tool. The word cloud you generated can be saved as a PNG file or printed as a PDF file. With the free plan, you can favorite up to three word clouds. With a Premium account, you can add unlimited favorites, view your word cloud in full screen, and more. A Premium Family plan starts at $5.83 per month billed annually, while a Premium Classroom account costs $25 per month.
TagCrowd is another straightforward web app that helps you make word clouds for academic and business use. It allows students, for example, to easily generate tag clouds from any textual content through a simple copy-and-paste process (Mckee-Waddell, 2015).
The interface is rather simple if not outdated and offers a few options for text customization. Aside from pasting text or a web page URL to the site, you can also upload a plain text file within a 5 MB file size to generate a word cloud. It sets itself apart from different providers by having support for 15 languages.
It also offers some options to ensure the word cloud comes up exactly as you like. For instance, you can set a range for the number of words that will be shown or specify the minimum frequency for the least recurring words. You can also group together similar English words and exclude certain words from the cloud. The amount of text customization options are offset by the lack of options for the text layout. For instance, the only way to rearrange the text is to resize your browser window.
Monkeylearn WordCloud Generator is an easy-to-use tool with a neat and minimal user interface. Like most word cloud generators, it allows you to copy and paste text in a text box or upload a text file. However, what makes it different is that it also generates a list of the most relevant or frequently used words. You can see exactly how many times a word has been used in the cloud with a relevance score beside it.
MonkeyLearn offers a decent amount of customization tools. Dropper tools allow you to customize the text or background color to any hue you want. There are also dropdown options for themes and fonts, though the choices are rather limited. On the other hand, slider tools for changing the word quantity makes it easy to apply real-time changes to your word cloud. Once finished, you can download your word cloud as an SVG, PNG, or CSV file.
However, this is limited to commonly used fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, and the like. You can likewise control the number of words in your word cloud through a text box. On the other hand, a checkbox lets you display phrases or sentences in one line. The Jason Davis Word Cloud tool only allows for one method of generating a word cloud. You can only copy and paste text to a text box, unlike other tools that can import text from a PDF, CSV, or Word file. There are also no options to change the color or shape of the words.
Out of all the word cloud generators in this list, Wordart is the best to use with its wide range of features and intuitive platform. WordClouds offers comparable features but has a less user-friendly interface. Conversely, Word It Out, ABCYa!, and TagCrowd provide users with an interface that anyone can quickly learn. ABCYa! in particular, stands out with its brightly colored tool, which is suitable for kids.
However, these three tools have limited features, with ABCYa! even requiring access to a paid subscription for more functionality. For those interested in analyzing news content in a visual way, the Tricklar News Cloud Generator is a great tool to use. On the other hand, the Jason Davies Word Cloud combines words and a bit of math in one easy-to-use word generator tool. Whether you use it for school, business, or personal reasons, word clouds are a fun way to present text-based data. With free word cloud generators, one can make the process even more creative and fulfilling.