Whirlwind WordSearch
Wild Word Search Maker

Available for Macintosh
Intel or Apple Silicon, MacOS 10.14 or newer

Overview Intro Video Pricing & Download Features What's New Examples Screen Shots Testimonials/Publications Help/FAQ/More... Future Press Kit Contact

Overview: What is "Whirlwind WordSearch"?

Whirlwind WordSearch is a Macintosh software application that lets you create customized word-search puzzles from your own lists of words.

Choose different sizes and shapes, difficulty levels, colors and fonts, even different languages.

Free, Full, and Pro Versions

There is a free "Lite" version of this software that you can download for free and see how it works before you buy it. The full version has all the features you need to make easy and hard puzzles. The Pro version adds more shapes, bigger puzzles, and a Batch-Build option for making up to 100 puzzles all at once with a tap of a button.

Myriad Shapes and Sizes

You can choose from many built-in puzzle shapes, and the puzzles can range in size from as small as 4 letters across and down, all the way up to 50 by 50 letters.

Teaching Language Vocabulary/ESL

Whirlwind WordSearch creates engaging word search puzzles from your own lists of words... in many different languages!

Tough Love

It is not just a pretty puzzle though, underneath is a powerful puzzle-generator. You can instantly change the "Difficulty to Solve" setting to create easy, difficult, or diabolical puzzles. Or switch to Advanced Difficulty mode, and fine-tune the puzzle exactly the way you want.

Publish your Own!

You can export high-quality puzzle and answer images for the web, or into your own word processor for re-printing in books, newsletters, social media/blogs, or classroom handouts.

Any randomly-created "naughty words" are automatically detected and removed (in all supported languages), offering classroom-safe puzzles.

Lights Out

Dark Mode is easy on the eyes.

Features Galore

Hide secret messages within the puzzle, prompt with clues instead of the words, Instant Naughty-word elimination in all languages, and so much more...

All of this for one price... no monthly fees, no extra upgrade costs. Ever.

Your Questions are Covered

The built-in comprehensive user guide is at your fingertips, with tutorials, tips, and an explanation for every item on every screen.


Intro Video


Pricing & Download

Full Software

Lite Software

User Guide

$19.99 USD

Click below to download from the App Store:

All future updates are free.


Click below to download the free version from the App Store:

or, click the icon below to download directly from my web site:

Do you wish to try it first before you buy it? You can download and use this "Lite" version of the application for free.


Click below to download the 50+ page User Guide:

If you want to look over the full user guide that comes with the software, it is separately and freely available here too (PDF document.)

Full/Lite Differences

Here are the differences between the "Full" and "Lite" software applications:



Whirlwind WordSearch solves your puzzle-making needs with some pretty impressive features. Compare these features against ANY word-search software you are using now...

  • Easily customize your puzzles, choosing different colors, fonts, and sizes for the puzzle letters and titles. Choose to draw cell grid lines or not, or just draw an outline around the puzzle.
  • Choose from many built-in puzzle shapes: Square, Circle, Bow-tie, Rectangle Tall/Wide, Heart, Diamond, Pinwheel, X, UL-Wedge, LL-Wedge, UR-Wedge, LR-Wedge, Square-hole, Donut, Checkers, Crescent, Plus-sign, Right-Arrow, Left-Arrow, Up-Arrow, Down-Arrow, Up-Triangle, Down-Triangle, Cross, Onion Dome, 4-Clover, Square-Peg, Round-Hole, Mushroom, Oval-Easy, Oval-Up, Trapezoid, Pentagon, Hexagon, Octagon, 4-star, 5-star, 6-star, Chevron-Up, Chevron-Down, Chevron-Left, Chevron-Right, Rainbow-up, Rainbow-down.
  • Create puzzles ranging in size from 4-by-4 up to 50-by-50 letters (that's a lot of words!)
  • Create puzzles with words in English, Numbers (Arabic), Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese-Hiragana, Japanese-Katakana, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Sanskrit-Latin, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Welsh.
  • There are two difficulty modes, "Basic" and "Advanced". "Basic Difficulty Mode" lets you simply move a slider from "very easy" puzzles to "very hard" puzzles, without worrying about all the details of how it works. For more control, "Advanced Difficulty Mode" lets you control each of the fine-grained parameters yourself.
  • All created puzzles are yours to use and publish and make money with, no copyright restrictions or restrictive “commercial use” clauses!
  • Export high-quality puzzles and answer keys to a number of different file formats for web, newsletters, worksheets, books, or other publications: PDF, PNG, JPEG, SVG, TEXT, ipuz
  • Show "word clue" phrases instead of the words themselves, to make puzzles even more challenging.
  • Add a "secret message" into your puzzle, which will be inserted between your words as a secondary puzzle to solve.
  • Add "hidden words" into your puzzle that are not shown in the word list or answer key (for adding copyrights or extra credit words.)
  • You can use compound-words (Blue Jay), words with apostrophes (O'Hara), or use entire phrases (May The Force Be With You).
  • Extend the built-in naughty word list with your own extra words, which will be removed from any puzzles if found in the random letters.
  • Add your own "permanent hidden words", which will always be added to any word search puzzles you make. Perfect for adding your name or company name as a "watermark" to all your puzzles.
  • Pour lots of words into your word list. Whirlwind WordSearch will automatically figure out how to make a puzzle from as many words as it can and tell you which ones it left out.
  • Automatically finds and removes randomly-generated "naughty" words in any of your chosen languages.
  • Supports Dark Mode and Full-Screen mode.
  • Work without a net... you never need an internet connection to create, save, and print your puzzles.
  • Save your puzzle files, and open them again later to instantly create whole new puzzles, or share them with other Whirlwind WordSearch users.
  • Comprehensive User Guide contains 50+ pages of tutorials and tips and describes every option, getting you up-to-speed right away. Advanced features are explained, helping you create high-quality and personalized puzzles.


What's New

4.6.6 - July 2023

  • BugFix: PNG exported files are now transparent outside the puzzle again.

4.6.5 - July 2023

  • This update will run on any Macintosh (Intel or Apple Silicon) running 10.14 or newer.
  • Added Rainbow-Up and Rainbow-down shapes (for Elli)
  • New option to display the word list as comma-delimited, instead of as columns (See Page Details, "Print as list of".) Works better for long words. (Thanks Thomas)
  • You can now choose to print the Answer key with the non-answer letters as a dim gray color (See PageDetails: Print Puzzle Letters: Dimmed) (Thanks Eliza!)
  • Export menu items are now condensed into a single export comand, and you can choose puzzle and/or answer once, and it will remember and export both all at once for you, instead of choosing each one separately.
  • Changed 1" margins to 1/2" margins for printed pages. (Thanks Diana)
  • Copying the word list via "Edit:Copy Formatted Word List as text" now will mark hidden words with their "*" prefix, if you have "Print Hidden Words in Answer" turned on. It will also format the word list as you have requested in the Page Details tab, as comma delimited, numbered, alphabetized, etc.
  • iPuz command removed from export menu, never got used.
  • Changed the wording of the Help menu item "Report a problem" to "Contact Author".
  • LITE version now can EXPORT files, but only with PNG files.
  • LITE version now has square, circle, up-triangle and down-triangle shapes.
  • The Start/Stop menu items have moved to a new separate Actions menu.
  • MOVED all the Export settings from the Preferences/Settings window tab to the Export window itself. The export settings are still persistently remembered there as you change them, but are in a more accessible spot. (Thanks Diana & Thomas.)
  • The "Preferences" menu item is now permanently renamed to "Settings" to match Apple's changing it in MacOS 13 (Ventura). Updated the user guide and Intro screen shots to refer to this new name. (Thanks Diana!)
  • SVG Export correctly exports SANS-serif letters, and is now more tidy internally.
  • Opening an older version document now displays which older version the document was saved as with the more standard "x.y.z" version display.
  • LITE version now can EXPORT PNG files directly.
  • LITE version now has square, circle, up-triangle and down-triangle shapes.
  • BugFix: Changing language now correctly marks the puzzle as un-built, so that print/export menus are dimmed until you re-build the puzzle.
  • BugFix: Whenever you use the Edit:Copy... menu items to copy puzzle, image, text, or word list, you will now always see the little temporary "Copied" image flash on the window to let you know it did something.
  • BugFix: Settings dialog, the "Extra Hidden Words" and "Excluded Words" tabs now have their own popup menus for choosing the language to use, independent of which language you currently chose in your document.

4.6.4 - January, 2023

  • Added "Report a Problem" item to the Help menu, to easily send e-mail with software information attached.
  • BugFix: When opening older saved Whirlwind documents that used the "Numbers (Arabic)" alphaset, they would give an error about the word list being incorrect. This is now fixed. You will need to open the document (which will open to the ENGLISH alphaset, and then re-choose the NUMBERS alphaset, and it can then build a word search without errors. (Thanks Jen!)

4.6.3 - January, 2023

  • New Language supported, Norwegian! (thanks Anna!)
  • New feature: You can now set "Extra Hidden Words" which will be added to all your puzzles, like a permanent watermark.
  • New feature: You can now set "Excluded Words" which lets you extend the list of already-known "naughty words", and will remove them if found in the random puzzle letters.
  • Sorted the list of alphabets in the Word List Alphabet popup menu, so they are easier to find... "English" is always first, and "Numbers" is always last though.
  • Some clarifying and distilling of the Intro screens, both user interface and the content (thanks Kat!)
  • Improved wording of Secret Message Prompting in the SECRET MESSAGE pane.
  • Moved the checkboxes "Print Separator Lines" and "Print SchwanSongs logo" from Answer Page to Puzzle Page area.
  • The direction arrows that are displayed under the DIFFICULTY tab (both BASIC and ADVANCED) are now more readable in Dark Mode, and the ADVANCED arrow buttons look like buttons! (Thanks Anna!)
  • When changing the Title "Font Size Adjustment" you now see it change "live" on the Preview area.
  • BugFix: If you paste title and/or subtitle text that is multiple lines tall (with newlines in them) they no longer squish down the checkboxes at the bottom of the preview window, the text will truncate instead. (Thanks Chris!)
  • BugFix: Copying the image of the current Answer from the Edit menu now properly reflects your printed solution settings, including whether to highlight the Secret message and hidden words, and also reflects your cell background color choice. (Thank you Clare!)

4.6.2 - October, 2022

  • BugFix: Copy/Pasting a text word list from Adobe InDesign into Whirlwind's word list would run all the words together, now fixed (thanks Brad!) BTW, why is Adobe still using carriage-return line endings on Macs? Apple changed that over a DECADE ago... perhaps it is a difficult bug for Adobe to fix. ;-)

4.6.1 - September, 2022

  • Modest re-arranging of the main window tabs, breaking the controls for the page titles out into a separate "Titles" tab now. This leaves some room for a BIG feature coming soon.
  • Updated final screen of Intro Window with new "full product software list"
  • Newly revised User Guide, increased font size a bit for easier reading.
  • Your word list is automatically "cleaned up" and updated in-place when you click "Create"... commas are turned into newlines and any empty lines between words are removed.
  • Added the ability to enter a specific font point size for the grid letters, instead of the auto-font-resizing style. You can still use the vertical centering controls with fixed font size. (thanks Jen!)
  • INCREASED font size a bit for easier reading of Word List text and of Secret Message text.
  • Added a "PRIOR" button to the intro screen
  • When you "lock in" your own SPIN (which forces the puzzle to be built with the same word layout each time you hit CREATE), there is now a warning text that displays just above the tabs that lets you know that you have turned this option on.
  • BugFix: Pasting a text word list from Microsoft Word was adding extra invisible (CR) characters and causing Whirlwind to issue a "Selected letter not allowed" error, now fixed (thanks Jen!)
  • BugFix: The "Draw only outline" feature now works correctly with square or rectangle shapes.
  • BugFix: SVG Export of Answer now correctly hides the "Secret Message" squares if you turn off "Highlight Secret Message on Answer" (Thanks Simon!)
  • BugFix: SVG Export of Answer now displays Hidden words with a light gray strikethrough, and now always shows hidden words correctly.

4.6.0 - July 14, 2022

  • Compound words can now be entered as-is with spaces instead of the underscore place-holder character! This means that your original word-lists will work as-is and will *not* need to be modified with underscores when adding to Whirlwind (one less step for you!)
  • Added a new "draw only shape outline" mode that draws the outer shape wall lines, but not inner grid-lines.
  • Added 4 new shapes: Chevron-Up, Chevron-Down, Chevron-Left, Chevron-Right.
  • Added some diacriticals to the English allowed letters, so you can now use many loan words, like façade and jalapeño. (Thanks Brad!)
  • The Secret Message printed hint at the bottom of the puzzle page now can be anything you want. There is a free-form text field to enter your own hint about what to find.
  • Exported file names can now automatically include the SPIN number that generated the puzzle in them, for easy differentiation.
  • Bumped minimum supported OS to 10.12.
  • Preview display now has two new checkboxes, "Show secret message" and "show hidden words", which let you visually show/hide these items on the PREVIEW display, without affecting your settings for the final printed answer key.
  • Added a "Copy Formatted Word List as Text" option (as a menu item and button under the word list) to export a clean text word list for easy page layout insertion. (Brad & Simon & others)
  • Many more "dirty words" are detected and removed from the random fill area, in English and several other languages. (Thanks Brad!)
  • BugFix: Checkboxes under the Word List are now consistent sizes. (Thanks Brad!)
  • BugFix: When exporting a puzzle or answer to PDF/PNG by using the keyboard shortcut instead of the File menu item via mouse, the highlighted preview extras (bad words/decoy words) no longer get accidentally added to the exported image. (Thanks Brad!)
  • BugFix: If you add a list of words with NO word clues, and you choose to print "word clues", it now simply prints your list of words (instead of an empty list.)

4.5.0 - May, 2022

  • Builds puzzles much faster and better than before.
  • Title/Subtitle text is now displayed in the Preview Area and auto-updates as you change it. [Thanks Debbie]
  • New menu item to quickly set puzzle to black-and-white color scheme for printing. [Thanks Duncan]
  • New Upright-Oval Shape. [Thanks Jen]
  • Optional "Allow Duplicates" checkbox allows you to make a word search puzzle that contains the same word multiple times. [Thanks Matt]
  • Preview can now toggle between PUZZLE view and ANSWER view.
  • Better error message explanations when the puzzle cannot be built.
  • Non-English puzzles made in the "easier" difficulty modes no longer fill the puzzles with letters containing diacriticals.
  • The "Too Many Words" error message now displays about how many extra letters there are, so you know how many to remove.
  • SVG Export now supports the font size/vertical-positioning adjustments.
  • Better Italian support [Thanks Riccardo]
  • New feature to strip all diacriticals from puzzle letters, for supporting non-English language puzzle styles. [Thanks Riccardo]
  • Better arrangement of Secret Message controls.
  • SPIN text field handles non-digit text entry more nicely.
  • The Preview puzzle now floats in the center of the Preview area.
  • The Preview "extras" (Naughty Words, Dupe Words, Decoys) now display their lines on the Preview display slightly offset from each other, so they are easier to see when they overlap.


xxx - Many updates over the years...


1.0 - Feb 1, 2013

Available at the App Store!

0.2 - Sept, 2012

Idea formed - Wrote notes and started designing a powerful Mac word search application in C++.

0.1 - 1982

Wrote a simple word search program in AppleSoft BASIC

0.0 - 1966

First introduction to printed word search puzzles on the placemat of a Colony Kitchen restaurant.


Example Puzzles and Answer Keys

Example Exported "Answer Key" as a web "SVG" image


Screen Shots

Dark Mode is nicely supported too!

User Guide - Some Example Pages

The comprehensive user guide is over 40 pages, offering a one-page quick-start tutorial, examples of how to use its many features to get what you want, and detailed descriptions of every single setting!

You can download the complete PDF guide for free (at the PRICING & DOWNLOAD link above) and review all the software features.



People are quite excited about what they can make with this software:

  • Very happy! - The software is tremendously increasing my workflow. It is creating fantastic word search puzzle for different puzzle makers with different requirments! Love it.
  • Fantastic - Thank you. From what I've seen, it's the best on the market. I like that I can keep my creations on my computer. With other software online, you don't know if the puzzles you create are captured and resold. I'd like to pay more money to have more puzzle types, like crosswords, soduko, etc. added. The attention to detail is impeccable. Thank you again.
  • Top Software - A great Tool to create puzzles. I worked with it for some time and I like especially the easy handling and the shortcuts to export the puzzles to word. Absolute Buy-Recommendation! Viele Funktionen und sehr einfach zu bedienen. Auch die Shortcuts für den Export sind sehr praktisch. Absolute Kaufempfehlung!
  • A++ Great Program Highly Recommended - was looking for a program to write word searches and decided to check the app store and was surprised to find this program. It didn’t have many reviews, but what was there was positive and it was not expensive, so I took a chance. I couldn’t be happier with my decision. The program is very easy to use. You just enter the words that you want and it creates a word search with a list of words, and it also creates a solution. You can export that in PDF format or as text. You can adjust everything- the size of the grid, whether the words are uppercae or lower, the difficulty of the puzzle, etc. Puzzles can be anywhere from very easy with just horizontal and vertical words to the most difficult puzzles, which would have words going in all directions and diagonals, crossing each other, and having the random letters throughout the grid that are similar to the letters in the search words, making it difficult to find the real search terms. I had to contact the developer to ask how to do something and he responded promptly, and I had overlooked part of the user guide. Very easy. Great price. Great service. A++
  • Perfect - I’ve been looking for a program that would let me create my own word searches for a long time and I am so happy for this one! The app works perfectly and allows for quite a bit of customization (you can even copy the word search puzzle image and the word list separatly into a word processor.) I love the different diffulty settings which control things such as how many directions the words can go in and whether or not there are randomly generated fake-outs with partial words from your list. The different shapes the puzzles can take give them a fresh, fun look. You can even include a hidden message inside the puzzle which is fun to discover. This app also has some of the best customer support I’ve ever seen. I had a problem with something and the developer emailed me back personally and quickly with multiple ways I could fix it and now everything is perfect. There is also an extensive user guide. The word searches look professional when printed, like something I would have copied from a book. I would definietly recommend this app and this developer.


Whirlwind WordSearch is being used all over the world, for fun and profit. Here are some places that are creating products with the software:

(Please contact me if you want to have your product/site added to this list!)


Help & FAQ & More Info

FAQ: Here are some common questions/answers...

Q: Can I make my own puzzle book with these puzzles and sell the book without royalty or copyright issues?
A: Yes you can... Any puzzles you create using Whirlwind WordSearch are completely yours to give away or sell, no royalty payments or copyrights on your puzzles, you don't even need to mention this software.

Q: Is this an interactive game I play on the computer?
A: No, this is software that will generate PDF or printed puzzles and their solutions.

Q: Can I save the puzzles as PDF files instead of printing them?
A: Yes you can... Open your puzzle in Whirlwind WordSearch and click the "Print" button, and from the Print dialog, near the bottom is a popup menu. Choose "Save as PDF" from there, and it will write it as a PDF file to your computer. Or, choose the "File:Export:" menu and choose to export just the puzzle, or answer key, or both to PDF file.

Q: Can I export the puzzles as text and import them as tables, to add my own formatting?
A: Yes you can... Open your puzzle in Whirlwind WordSearch and choose "Copy as Text" from the Edit menu, and paste into your word processor, and convert the tab-delimited puzzle and answer into a table, and format it. Or, choose the "File:Export:" menu and choose to export just the puzzle, or answer key, or both to a text file.

Q: If I save a wordsearch puzzle document, then later re-open it, will it keep the same word layout?
A: Yes, if you open a saved document, it will be laid out exactly the same way that you saved it. The only exception to this is if you open a document that was saved in an older version of the software, for example, opening a document created with version 3.0 using Whirlwind 4.0. So many features and advanced settings changed that it cannot exactly re-create the older layout.

Q: Can I use a multi-word phrase as a single "word" entry?
A: Yes. You can add phrases like "may the force be with you", or compound words like "Blue Jay" by replacing spaces with the underscore character.

Q: How do I 'lock' a puzzle I like, so that it keeps the word placement without shuffling the answer key, but also lets me change the title, fonts or colors and re-make the same puzzle?
A: Once you have generated a puzzle you like, and want to 'lock the words into place', simply go to the advanced tab, and near the bottom, click "Choose your own SPIN below". Then you can change display-things like Title/subtitle text, puzzle letter font, secret message hint style, or grid display, and then re-create the puzzle and your word search words will still be in their original place, based on that locked SPIN value. Note: If you change other aspects of the puzzle though, a whole different puzzle layout will be created from the SPIN value. For example, if you change the puzzle size, shape, difficulty, or change any of the words or secret message or secret message position, the puzzle will have to change. This is because Whirlwind WordSearch has to re-check the new words or secret message text and find new places for them to guarantee no accidentally created duplicate or naughty words snuck into the new positions.

Q: That wood-grain look is so... 1970s! Can I turn it off?
A: Yes you can! Look under the top "Whirlwind WordSearch" menu and select the "Preferences" menu item, where you can turn on/off that look! Luckily I did not add orange shag carpeting or olive-drab buttons!

Q: Can you add another language for me?
A: Yes I can. However... it does take some research and work to add each new language. If you are fluent in that language and you are willing to help me a little with it (and get credit in the next version of the published app), then please e-mail me with your proposed language. The work you will need to do will only take about an hour of your time.

Q: Where is the User Guide?
A: You can find it under the HELP menu at the top of the screen, or by clicking the "User Guide" button at the bottom of the window. You can also download the full PDF user guide right now, for off-line reading, by going back up to the "Pricing and Download" section above.

Q: Can I print the User Guide?
A: Yes you can... simply open it from the Help menu, and when it is displayed (in the Preview application), choose PRINT from the File menu.

Q: Do you offer a free version of this software, so I can try it out first?
A: Yes! Please see the link
Pricing & Download above.

Q: I was peeking inside your application and see references to "WSS". Shouldn't (W)hirlwind (W)ord(S)earch be WWS? Are you dyslexic or acronym-challenged?
A: WSS comes from the old project name for this software "Word Search Sensei", before I renamed it. Omoshiroi desune?

Q: Will you make other kinds of educational puzzle software?
A: Yes, I have recently released Lyttony (story-writing-helper), Bingo Genie (Customized Bingo-Card maker), and am working on other projects now. You can see hints for these upcoming projects on my main software page.

BLOG: If you are interested in a deeper behind-the-scenes Blog/essay on the creation of this software, please visit my word-search blog entry here.

Read the Software Privacy Policy Here


What is next?

Well, what would YOU like? If you let me know what things you would like to see next, and I will add them to my to-do list for the next update!


Press Kit

If you would like to publish a review of this software and would like more information and assets, download the free Press Kit below:

Download Press Kit (".zip" file)


Contact Me

If you have more questions or wish to send me feedback:

Contact Me

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e-mail: note@schwansongs.com or schwansongs@gmail.com
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