Digging Deeper with Voyant

Voyant is an ongoing negotiation between simplicity and power: the design tries to simplify (relatively) the interface while still allowing more advanced operations.

A good example of this is search, which is supported in several of the tools (including Reader, Trends and Contexts in the default view). It’s possible to search for a single word, but more advanced searches are also supported with a special syntax (hovering over the question mark in the search box shows examples of the syntax). Try the search terms (in bold) in the list below (you can remove a query by hitting x in the box surrounding the query, or hitting backspace to delete it). Also notice that Voyant tries to suggest search terms as you type, you can click on a suggestion to add it to the queries.

The notion of boolean operators (AND, OR) isn’t relevant for most tools since we’re querying for any instance of any of the words (unlike when we’re wanting to find documents that contain any or all queries). Note also that Voyant doesn’t support directly notions like singular and plural forms, but that you can determine what forms are present (“^dog*”) and then decide if you want to combine forms (“**dog dogs”) or keep them separate (“dog,dogs**”). That helps for individual queries but of course doesn’t help much when you would want to see all singular and plural forms combined in a frequency list.


Another example of somewhat hidden power in the Voyant interface can be found in most grid-based tools (that look like spreadsheets, like Contexts in the default view). This is an overview of some of the functionality that may not be obvious:

Grid example from Voyant Tools
Grid example from Voyant Tools