This year, with major political campaigns in the US (the Presidential primaries and election) and the UK (the infamous referendum on EU membership), more of us have been poring over the words and language of politicians, or rather their speech-writers.
One of the most fundamental tools for analysing text is the concordancer, which analyses the frequency of single words and phrases. It is a good couple of years since I last surveyed the concordancers available for OS X, and I was pleased to discover that AntConc and CasualConc, the long-standing free apps for the Mac, have been joined by two new free products, WordStatix and TXM. Sadly, searching the App Store for concordancers drew a blank (again), so this article summarises the state of those four standalone apps.
Basic concordancing is also a feature supported by some of the best word processors: Nisus Writer Pro has long included a macro for word frequency counts which is readily extended to related tasks. If you don’t need the sophisticated features of a standalone tool, then Nisus is well worth assessing. It is also outstanding in its handling of multiple and non-Roman languages.
AntConc is one of Laurence Anthony’s many free text analysis tools available here. It’s a full-featured concordancer which will show you the classic in-context concordance, an unusual plot which marks occurrences in each file in the corpus, clusters and N-grams, collocates, and more.
Although the current version 3.4.3 of 2014 may seem a little long in the tooth, it still seems to work flawlessly on El Capitan. If you ever do any word frequency analysis or concordancing, then you should have the latest version to hand.
CasualConc now stands at version 2.0.5, dated May 2016, and is free from here. Although it lacks AntConc’s plot view of ‘hits’ across files, it seems to offer much the same range of tools, centred on its main concordance window. It also gives you greater control over its handling of US and British English spelling differences, and has other natty features such as stop word lists for 29 different languages. These are kept in text files, so are easily customised.
CasualConc has a better-integrated interface, and it too works flawlessly under El Capitan. I am torn between it and AntConc, so usually end up using both apps, to begin with at least. They are both blisteringly quick at working with large corpora of text. CasualConc now includes parallel processing to enhance performance, but there seems little difference between it and AntConc in terms of speed.
WordStatix is the new kid on the block, from Massimo Nardello in Modena, and is available free from here. It has been written using an unusual development system, Free Pascal and Lazarus, primarily I suspect for Windows, then ported to OS X.
It is at present so painfully slow and kludgy on OS X as not to be worth trying to use. Hopefully this will be addressed in future versions. It handles text and Open Document (.odt) files, but takes many minutes to even generate a concordance.
I was looking forward to trying out TXM, which is based on extensions to the statistical programming environment and language R. TXM is available free from here, but is currently incompatible with El Capitan. This is because it tries to install an old version (3.1.2) of R in a folder which is protected by SIP (/usr/bin).
If you are still running Yosemite, that is not an issue, so you may still find it usable. This is a pity, as TXM comes from the University of Lyon and several other academic collaborators, and is designed for use with corpora.
So for the moment, the concordancers of choice on OS X remain AntConc and CasualConc. Hopefully WordStatix and TXM will fix their current problems and we will have an even wider choice.