TextArc, created by interaction designer W. Bradford Paley, is described on the TextArc “Applications” page as “a Structuralist text analysis tool to show distribution of words in texts that have no ‘meta-data’ descriptions, such as a table of content or an index.” This text visualization tool draws the text line-by-line (and then again word by word) in a minute font around the outside of the screen. The arc provides a sense of global text structure. Words that appear more than once are drawn within the arc in their average position, and mousing over these words displays a series of lines radiating out to places where the word occurs in the text. A pop-up window offers full-text or KWIC displays. There are also concordance and association features, as well as a nifty reader that traces an electronic reading of the text, looping around the screen from word to word as it does so, and at the same time displaying sequential lines of text at the bottom of the screen.


  1. Nothing is needed! Experiment with TextArc using the texts and tools provided at


  1. Visit to read about TextArc and experiment with the application.

  2. Hamlet and Alice and Wonderland are offered for the purpose of such experimentation.
  3. There is also a portal enabling access to texts at Project Gutenberg. (Note, however, that Project Gutenberg texts contain a great deal of metadata that will be reflected in your visualization.)


Advanced Tips

The text on the “Applications” page of the TextArc site gives an overview of how this visualization tool might assist you in interpreting a text.

Who has worked on creating it

TextArc is a personal project of interaction designer, W. Bradford Paley, who, beyond his independent design work is an occasional lecturer at Columbia University. Credits are listed here: <>.

Where to read about it

Emerson, Lori. "Digital Poetry as Reflexive Embodiment." Cybertext Yearbook, Markku Eskelinen and Raine Koskimaa (eds.), 88-106. Saarijärvi: University of Jyväskylä, 2003. Available:

Paley, Bradford W. "TextArc: Showing Word Frequency and Distribution in Text." Poster presented at IEEE Symposium on Information Visualization 2002 (InfoVis 2002), October 28-29, 2002. Available:

Mirapaul, Matthew. "Secrets of Digital Creativity Revealed in Miniatures." New York Times, 16 September 2002. Available:


TextArc is available here:

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