Overview: What is "Whirlwind WordSearch"?
Whirlwind WordSearch is a powerful and easy-to-use word search puzzle maker. It creates uniquely engaging word search puzzles from your own lists of words... in many different languages! You will be building and printing professional-looking puzzles right away.
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.
Make your puzzles stand out by choosing your own fonts and colors for the title, puzzle-letters and grids.
It is not just a pretty puzzle though, there is a powerful puzzle-generator under the hood. Quickly change the "Difficulty to Solve" setting to create easy, difficult, or diabolical puzzles.
You can export high-quality puzzle and answer images into your own word processor for re-printing in books, newsletters, social media/blogs, or classroom handouts.
Any randomly-created "naughty words" are detected and removed (in all supported languages), offering classroom-safe puzzles.
All of this for one price... no monthly fees, no extra upgrade costs. Ever.
Here's a list of features that present Whirlwind WordSearch as an outstanding puzzle-generator. Compare these features against ANY word-search software you are using now...
- Create puzzles in any font, upper or lower case.
- Choose from a wide variety of unique built-in puzzle shapes: Square, Rectangle, Circle, Heart, Diamond, Bow-tie, Pinwheel, X, UL-Wedge, LL-Wedge, UR-Wedge, LR-Wedge, Checkers, Square-hole, Donut, Right-Arrow, Left-Arrow, Up-Arrow, Down-Arrow, Plus Sign, Up-Triangle, Down-Triangle, Crescent, Cross, Onion Dome, 4-Clover, Square-Peg, Round-Hole, Mushroom, Pentagon, Hexagon, Octagon, Star-4, Star-5, Star-6.
- Need puzzles in something other than English? You can create puzzles with words in French, Spanish, Swedish, German, Russian, Japanese (Hiragana and Katakana), Danish, Hungarian, Romanian, Turkish, Greek, Sanskrit, Dutch, Ukrainian, Catalan, Portuguese, Czech, Welsh, and numbers too.
- Show "word clue" phrases instead of the words themselves, to make puzzles even more challenging.
- Create puzzles ranging in size from 4-by-4 up to 50-by-50 letters (that's a lot of words!)
- Quickly export high-quality images of your puzzles and answer keys for printing or publishing in your own books, newsletters, social media/blog, or classroom handouts... supports PDF, PNG, JPEG, SVG, IPUZ, and Text file formats.
- Supports Dark mode and Full-Screen mode.
- Pour lots of words into your word list, and let Whirlwind WordSearch automatically figure out how to make a puzzle from as many as it can, by marking some of your words as "optional".
- There are two difficulty modes, "Basic" and "Advanced". You can use the "Basic Difficulty Mode", which lets you simply move a slider from "very easy" puzzles to "very hard" puzzles, without worrying about all the details of how it works. If you want more control, you can switch to the "Advanced Difficulty Mode" which lets you control each of the fine-grained parameters yourself.
- Easily enter your word lists, even import them from your word processor or the web.
- Add an optional "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 in the word list or answer key (for adding copyrights or extra credit words.)
- Work without a net... you never need an internet connection to create, save, and print your puzzles.
- Save your puzzle word list files, and open them again later to instantly create whole new puzzles, or share them with other Whirlwind WordSearch users.
- Tailor the display and printing options to suit a variety of audiences and needs.
- Comprehensive User Guide contains 40+ 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.
- A built-in spell-checker alerts you to any misspelled words in your word-list before you print.
- Whirlwind WordSearch thoroughly checks the final puzzle and removes any randomly-generated duplicates of your words.
- Whirlwind WordSearch also removes randomly-generated "naughty" words in your chosen language!
Pricing & Download
The full-featured version of Whirlwind WordSearch is priced at $19.99 (USD). All future updates are free. Want to try it first before you buy it? There is a "Lite" version of the application (with fewer features), which you can download and use for free. Although the Lite version of the software does not have all the sizes and shapes and difficulty levels of the full version, it DOES let you create complete perfect puzzles without any watermarks, and (unlike those annoying friends) it will never nag you or time out on you. If you want to preview the full user guide that comes with the software, it is separately and freely available here too (PDF document.)
Click the icon below to buy & download from the App Store:
FREE Lite version...
Click the icon below to download from the App Store:
or click the link below to download the software directly.
FREE PDF user guide (40 pages)...
Click the icon below to download:
Here are the differences between the "Full" and "Lite" versions:
What's New in This Version
4.3.3 - April, 2021
- Added Welsh alphabet support (Thanks DavidG!)
- Added an "Advanced Difficulty" option to force any overlapping words to always be in different angle directions, i.e., not along same line. (Thanks Clare!)
- Hidden words are NO LONGER used to create decoy words! This helps them stay more hidden.
- Added space-remaining display for secret message area, helping you calculate exact-fit scenarios.
- Bugfix: You can now move the scroll bar on the word list when you have many lines of words.
4.3.2 - January, 2021
- Direction arrows in BASIC Difficulty mode are now brighter, and match the look of the ADVANCED arrows.
- The text output of menu item "Edit:Copy as text" is more legible, added the document name into the text, moved puzzle info to END of text blob.
- Updated user guide to better explain techniques for fancy exporting to Newsletters.
- Intro Screen looks better in dark mode.
4.3.1 - November, 2020
- The images of the puzzle and word list (copied via "Edit:Copy Image of" menu command) are now the same size as they are on the page, so the word list spacing is much nicer. (Thanks Stephanie)
- Added "Approx. space remaining" display back above the "Word List" box. (Thanks Ronald)
- Gave more display space for long wrapping secret message text. (Thanks Stephanie)
- Minor User guide updates.
4.3.0 - November, 2020
- You can now specify "Word Clues" along with your word list, and print just the word clues (instead of words) with the puzzle.
- Several new "Star" shapes added.
- There is now an "Intro Window" that appears each time you run the app, that gives a quick tutorial on how to use this software.
- "Export Image size" has been moved to the App Preferences window, and now is set once for ALL your documents... you no longer set it for each document.
- Added a new ability to leave apostrophes in words (much like dashes), and they will remain, letting you add names like O'Hara.
- Removed the old word list progress bar below the word list, and instead added a help-text heading above to explain the formatting options.
- Several changes to the Error Dialog display which give more useful and detailed information about why the puzzle could not be created, and how to fix it.
- BugFix: The About box now displays correctly under 10.11 and 10.12
- BugFix: The Secret Message phrase no longer complains if you have spaces or punctuation between words, it quietly strips them all out behind the scenes. This matches what is written in the user guide.
- BugFix: Quotes, dashes, and apostrophes will no longer be "smart"-converted while you type, they remain as you typed them.
4.2.1 - July, 2020
- BugFix: The Preview now displays correctly under macOS 10.11. (Thanks John!)
- BugFix: There is a little more page margin on the printed pages, reducing the chance of truncated titles.
- Under "Difficulty", the Advanced mode's popup menu "Word Overlap" has a new super-hard setting: "All", which will cause every word to overlap another word (or display an error if it is not possible.)
4.2.0 - May, 2020
- New: Added an "Arabic Numbers" alphabet for number-sequence word searches.
- New: The BASIC mode difficulty slider now locks to discrete values, and displays a number for each setting, and sports a visual arrow-indication of the word layout directions.
- New: Size of the printed title/subtitle text can be fine-tuned with the "Puzzle title letter font size adjustment" slider.
- New: Renamed the ADVANCED tab to PAGE DETAILS, which also avoids confusion with the ADVANCED difficulty mode.
- New: Added a new "vertical adjustment" slider for the vertical positioning of letters in the grid, in case you have a strange font that isn't centering correctly in the puzzle. This is in the Layout tab, under Puzzle-Letters.
- New: Added ability to choose different letter-fill options in Advanced-Difficulty mode.
- BugFix: When bringing up the Print dialog, the dialog now correctly previews the properly laid out pages.
- Bugfix: Any of your word-list words that would be identical if reversed (e.g. "BAT" and "TAB") are now detected in error as "duplicates", since they would look the same in the puzzle if laid out right to left.
- Bugfix: The word list on the puzzle page will now print the words with the same number of columns as the word list on the answer page.
- BugFix: Big change to how the "fill empty puzzle" logic works in "ADVANCED" difficulty mode. Now you can choose specifically to add decoy words in for almost all styles. You still cannot add decoys to the "fill with letters NOT in your words" style, since adding the decoy wordlets would then scatter letters that are IN your words too, which is not what you chose.
- BugFix: if the secret message has any alphabetic letters that are not in your chosen alphaset, it will now give an error and highlight the bad letter, as described in the user guide section 3.11.
- BugFix: Title and subtitle text on printed pages once again show only a single line each, and will truncate if too long (although note that you can now shrink the font size to accommodate longer titles.)
- BugFix: If you choose a higher difficulty level where the puzzle is only supposed to be filled with letters from your words, it will 100 percent respect that now. Some letters outside your words were sometimes slipping in when Whirwind was stamping out "naughty words", this is now corrected.
4.1.8 - April, 2020
- BugFix: The "Show User Guide" button on the opening Welcome Screen now shows the User Guide
- Size of puzzle grid letters can be fine-tuned with the "Grid letter font size adjustment" slider.
- "font size adjustment" sliders are only available in Full version, not LITE version.
- Added a little more space between puzzle and word list below it.
4.1.7 - April, 2020
- BugFix: Changed the "Help:User Guide" feature to open the user guide in its own window, instead of trying to launch Apple's Preview. This will better work through future OS changes.
- BugFix: Re-connected the "User Guide" button at the bottom of the window so it actually shows the user guide.
- Moved Subtitle up a little toward title on printed page, and now the title and subtitle will wrap to a second line if they are too long.
4.1.6 - March, 2020
- BugFix: Exporting the "Puzzle" as SVG now correctly exports without the answers highlighted.
- Added a new checkbox to turn on/off printing of the word list under the ANSWER page too (there wasn't a way to turn it off before.)
4.1.5 - January, 2020
- BugFix: Added missing page margins around printed puzzles.
- BugFix: Fixed the "Export ipuz" format. You can now enter your (author) name and copyright text in the Preferences window under Export, and it will be embedded during ipuz file export.
- Changed the "Print Secret Message Prompt" to multiple choices, none, generic hint, and full message. (Thanks Roy!)
- Adjusted the font-size calculations for the printed "Secret Message Prompt" to give bigger adjustment size range.
- Other minor bug fixes and user guide updates.
4.1.4 - January, 2020
- BugFix: Fixed the "Review App" prompting for 10.14.
- BugFix: Added the missing "Review App" menu item to the Help menu for the Mac App Store version of the LITE app.
4.1.3 - January, 2020
- BugFix: On easy puzzles, the puzzle is again correctly filled with random letters that are NOT in the word list, instead of all letters.
- BugFix: Improved the contrast/visibility of the "Secret Message" gray boxes when in Dark Mode.
4.1.2 - January, 2020
- Slightly increased the font size for the "Word List" and "Secret Message" boxes.
- "Edit:Copy Image of:Word List" menu item now adjusts font size based on the "word list font size adjustment" slider.
- BugFix: Fixed an intermittent startup problem when running under macOS 10.15 (Catalina).
- BugFix: Large word lists with long words now print better (and can shrink to smaller font sizes) with the "word list font size adjustment" slider.
- BugFix: Opening a saved document that has errors in the word list will display the error sheet correctly.
- BugFix: The secret message you type in the document is no longer changed to lower case when you save the document.
- BugFix: Removed the File:Revert menu item, again.
- BugFix: Some settings for the "Secret Message Position" were not being remembered and would always change back to "top" when you re-opened your saved document... now fixed.
4.1.1 (Lite only) - December, 2019
- BugFix: Fixed an intermittent startup problem when running under macOS 10.15 (Catalina).
4.1.0 - December, 2019
- New Feature: Now you can simply "pour lots of words" into your word list, and let Whirlwind WordSearch automatically figure out how to make a puzzle from as many as it can. Mark some of your words as "optional" and it will figure out how to fit as many as it can, automatically removing your optional words if it needs to until it can successfully make a puzzle.
- New Feature: The "Secret Message" feature has a new "exact fit" option, which will help you calculate your puzzle and words to make your secret message exactly fit into all remaining spaces.
- New Feature: The width of the answer ovals that circle the words is now adjustable, from very thin to very thick.
- New Feature: The font size of the word list words on your printed pages can now be fine-tuned, from smaller to larger than normal.
- BugFix: The Basic-Difficulty setting "Medium" accidentally got UP and LEFT added, these are now removed to behave like it used to in 3.x, user guide updated too.
- BugFix: The "Show Textured Background" option has moved to the more-apropos "Preferences" dialog.
4.0.0 - November, 2019
- Use ANY font on your computer for the word search puzzle letters, and the printed titles.
- There's a whole new "Advanced" difficulty mode where you can turn on/off individual word directions, overlapping, decoy words, etc.
- The puzzles now have a much better word-overlapping feature, so you can add more complex word-crossings with words that have shared letters.
- New "Strike-through" option for the answer key.
- Big cleanup of the user interface, better organization of all the new features.
- New "Export" menu lets you convert and save your puzzles and answer keys to many sizes and formats: PDF, PNG, JPEG, SVG, IPUZ, and Text files.
- You can optionally edit the list of letters used to randomly fill the puzzle, to your own smaller set.
- You can optionally add an opaque "cell floor" color under the letters of the puzzle.
- Added a very light woodgrain background to the window as an option.
- Czech language added
- Better display of Greek and German alphabet letters.
- Nicer word list column layout on the printed pages.
- The "Secret Message" you enter is now scanned for letters NOT in the current alphabet, and an error is now displayed if any are found. Spaces and other punctuation are automatically removed for you.
- The Secret Message, if it exists, can now be optionally printed on the puzzle page under the grid, with a new Advanced setting: "Print Secret Message too"
- Printed word List column layout is adjusted again... now there will be 3 or more columns to start with, unless there are longer words (>6 letters), in which case it will start with 2 columns to give room for longer words.
- Warning: Due to big changes in how the new "version 4.0" features work, your older saved "version 3.x" documents can only be 95% upgraded when they are opened, and will not lay the words in exactly the same spot as the earlier 3.x version of the software. Therefore, when your older 3.x document is read in, most of its shape/color/size settings will be the same, but a warning dialog will tell you that if you want to preserve the old document layout exactly, you will need to use the "Save As" menu item, which will save the new 4.0 document as a new file, and leave your 3.x document alone, in case you want to still open it with an older 3.x version of the software.
3.1.1 - July, 2019
- The Word List under the printed puzzles now re-balances the words more nicely across the columns (Thanks Debbie!)
- Added accessibility tags to most UI elements to give better control the app via scripting and automation. This makes it easier to add the app into an automated workflow.
- Created a new free "Whirlwind WordSearch Lite" application, with reduced feature set, for easy trial download.
- Added a "Feature Comparison" button, menu item, and display window, to show differences between the LITE and FULL versions of product.
3.1.0 - July, 2019
- Major new feature, now you can make rectangular (non-square) puzzle shapes, under the "configuration" tab.
- Minor changes to many of the shapes to make them fit better in the square area.
- Moved "Create" button to far right so it is easier to click.
- Changed the "HELP" button to "User Guide".
- Many changes throughout the user guide.
- Fixed bug where initial splash screen did not adjust to Dark Mode.
3.0.3 - June, 2019
- Fixed a bug where the printed title string would partly cut off at the top of the page.
3.0.2 - June, 2019
- Updated the printing logic to adjust the puzzle for non-USA paper sizes.
- Added an option to fill answer key with ALL puzzle letters too.
- Added an option to show/hide the printed puzzle separator lines above and below the puzzle.
3.0.1 - May, 2019
- Added an option to turn OFF numbering on the word list.
- Added a HELP button at bottom of window for quick access to the User Guide.
3.0.0, December 2018
- Big User-Interface Update! Merged the Puzzle/Answer grids into a single larger grid display, and moved the "behind-the-scenes" options out to checkboxes underneath.
- Support for "Dark Mode" display on macOS X 10.14 (Mojave).
- Still has support back to Mac OS X 10.9.
- Puzzle grid now maintains nicer 1:1 aspect ratio as you resize the window.
- Added 4 new shapes: mushroom, pentagon, hexagon, octagon.
- Added Dutch, Ukrainian, Catalan, Portuguese languages.
- Added a new even-more-difficult level, with more decoy words sprinkled in puzzle.
- Allowed main window to get a little smaller (1100x640) for smaller screen sizes.
- Detects and removes even more dirty words in each language.
- Added "# of puzzle words" to the Puzzle Stats page.
- Smarter calculations of how long it should try different puzzle configurations before giving up.
- Now when you start generating a puzzle, the progress bar and progress text displays right away, letting you know that something is happening.
- Fancier scrolling musical about-box.
- Updated user guide throughout.
- Minor clarification to some error messages.
- Added musical easter eggs (to icons in main window).
- Squashed some bugs.
Example Puzzles and Answer Keys
Example Exported "Answer Key" as a web "SVG" image
User Guide - Some Example Pages
The comprehensive user guide is 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 it for free (at the link above) and review the features.
ooh... Dark Mode is nicely supported too!
Publications and Users
Whirlwind WordSearch is being used all over the world, for fun and profit. Here are some places that are creating products with the software:
- "The Book Next Door" is a publishing company run by Clare Harris. One aspect of her business is creating and publishing "English-as-Second-Language" (ESL) learning books, integrating word-search puzzles to teach vocabulary and spelling at different levels.
(Please contact me if you want to have your product/site added to this list!)
Help & FAQ & More Info
Help/FAQ: Here are answers to some questions people have had...
Q: Can I make my own puzzle book with these puzzles and sell the book?
A: Yes you can... Any puzzles you create using Whirlwind WordSearch are completely yours to give away or sell.
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: 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 secret message 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". This will keep using the current word layout pattern for all future puzzles, no matter how often you click "CREATE". Note that this only works if you keep the puzzle size, shape, and difficulty settings the same; If you change any of those, the word layout will have to change, of course. But you can safely change the fill phrase and its position, and cosmetic things like letter font and color, whether hidden words are shown, Title and subtitle text, etc. Then you can re-create the puzzle and your word search words will still be in the original place, based on that SPIN value.
Q: That wood-grain look is so... 1970s! Can I turn it off?
A: Yes you can! Please 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: Can you offer a free version of this software, so I can try it out first?
A: Yes. Done! Please see the links to "Whirlwind WordSearch LITE" 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 name for this software, before I renamed it, and it stood for "Word Search Sensei". 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 projects on my software page.
BLOG: If you are interested in a deeper behind-the-scenes Blog/essay on the creation of this software, please visit my blog entry here.
If you have more questions about Whirlwind WordSearch or wish to send me feedback... contact me here!