Voyant Tools Tutorial Extension

As the class has learned in this term, Voyant Tools is a text analysis tool that has the ability to analyze any number of texts, including some samples in its own database. In this tutorial, I’ll do an extension of what was learned — the initial tutorial covered multi- and single-text analyses (and conversion between the two) and how to remove words from the analysis and customize the stop word list. For a deeper analysis and more customization, I’ll walk through how you can insert your own texts and what other aspects of Voyant Tools can be useful to the graphing and exportation of your text analysis. These customization tools can help you more clearly visualize your text analysis and can highlight trends in multiple or single texts with ease.

Voyant Tools homepage
  1. SELECT TEXTS. Select your text(s) from the Voyant Tools page. If you are using a public database like Project Gutenberg, you can simply insert the links to the .txt files that they provide. If, on the other hand, you have a Google Docs file or some other private file, Voyant Tools will be unable to analyze it in that form. Instead, you can download the file(s) as a .txt file and then upload them with the button below the text box on the home page (next to the ‘Open’ button above). To select multiple texts that are adjacent, use Shift-click (hold the Shift key and select the first and last files); to select non-adjacent files, you can use CTRL-click (as above; on Macs, I believe the equivalent is Command-click). I would generally not recommending pasting a set of texts into the textbox, even if you want to analyze them as a single text; in that case, combine the texts elsewhere and then upload a single file. Voyant recommends a zip archive for large sets of texts. When you’re done, click the ‘Reveal’ button and see the automatic results.
A graph of several varieties of the word "time" for demonstration, from Jane Austen's texts, the sample from Voyant Tools.

2. TERM SEARCH. In some text analysis tools, you’ll see a blank textbox for you to type things into. In the above image, you’ll see that this text is occupied by a number of differently-formatted terms, shown across a full trends graph. These are specialized customization tools, so I’ll explain what they each are doing. The asterisk (*) combines all terms that begin with the term provided (so, in the case of time*, timer/timed/times, etc.). On the other hand, the pipe (|) combines two specific terms in the analysis. A term without an asterisk denotes a specific term or phrase; multi-word phrases can be denoted using quotation marks (“). Last, the use of a phrase with the tilde (~) requests that Voyant find the specified words within the integer’s proximity (that is, in this case, within the distance of 5 words) of one another. If you were to write “this time”~0, though, you would be indicating that order does not matter — this is the difference between using that tilde and simply using the quoted phrase on its own.

The same graph as above, with a stacked bars visual style.

3. SELECT DISPLAY OPTIONS. Select how you’d like to display your graph. If you are analyzing multiple unrelated texts, for instance, it may not be sensible to use a line graph, which indicates correlation. On these stacked graphs, you can see the relationship between terms more easily, perhaps. You can also deselect specific terms (temporarily remove them from the graph) by clicking on the word in the key at the top, or reselect them by clicking once again; you can permanently remove the term with the X next to the term in the text box.

A view of the options bar.

4. FURTHER CUSTOMIZE THROUGH SETTINGS. You can pick your color palette and other things by opening the options menu (the blue bar at the top right of the graph) and then selecting one. If you’d like to fully personalize the color list, you can even click the “Edit List” button and pick the individual colors you’d like your graph to use. As for Categories (since Stopwords were already examined), these are larger terms you can specify that encompass any number of other terms. For instance, a category “Yes” might include “Yes”, “Yeah”, “Sure”, and any other number of “Yes”-meaning terms. Obviously this could be used for much more complex analyses, as well — it also means that if you want to combine a number of terms, you don’t have to continue to write them all out, and you can use the @ symbol to specify that you are using that category, or ^@ to signify that you would like to separate all of the terms in a category for graphing.

The export window for Voyant Tools.

5. EXPORT GRAPHS. Once you’re done preparing your graph(s), you’ll want to export them. If you want an interactive visualization, you should use “Export View” and take an HTML snippet. Be sure that your exported site supports iframes from Voyant — WordPress does not automatically allow this, so you will likely need an extension of some kind for some sites (for my midterm, I used “iframe”, a plugin for WordPress). It may be easier to export a visualization, but this will simply be a PNG, so it will not allow your reader to modify or highlight your graph’s focuses. The export will require a “Shortcode” block (NOT an Embed block; WordPress only enables that simplified embedding for certain whitelisted sites) if you use the same plugin I did.

If you need more information or just want to see everything Voyant is capable of, my recommendation might be to look at this tutorial, from Voyant themselves, although it is very extensive. Also helpful is the slightly shorter tutorial available here, which glosses the terms provided by Voyant and the graph types offered. I hope that my addition to the original tutorial has been helpful, and good luck with Voyant!



  1. I liked how your tutorial included keyboard shortcuts and focused on the customization features of Voyant as it does help narrow down the amount of data being analyzed as well as make it more specified

  2. Very interesting to learn that Voyant also uses those regular expression for text matching. This tutorial would have made my midterm project a lot easier!

  3. I found it helpful that you specified what types of formats that tool can accept or be better at reading. Additionally, I found your explanation of the customization tools to be nicely detailed.

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