skip to navigation
skip to content

topicexplorer 1.0b183

InPhO Topic Explorer

Latest Version: 1.0b196

This interactive visualization displays information from the LDA topic models generated using the InPhO VSM module. Live demos trained on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a selection of books from the HathiTrust Digital Library, and the original LDA training set of Associated Press articles are available at

The color bands within each article’s row show the topic distribution within that article, and the relative sizes of each band indicates the weight of that topic in the article. The total width of each row indicates similarity to the focal topic or document, measured by the quantity sim(doc) = 1 – JSD(doc, focus entity), where JSD is the Jensen-Shannon distance between the word probability distributions of each item. Each topic’s label and color is arbitrarily assigned, but is consistent across articles in the browser.

Display options include topic normalization, alphabetical sort and topic sort. By normalizing topics, the combined width of each bar expands so that topic weights per document can be compared. By clicking a topic, the documents will reorder acoording to that topic’s weight and topic bars will reorder according to the topic weights in the highest weighted document. When a topic is selected, clicking “Top Documents for [Topic]” will take you to a new page showing the most similar documents to that topic’s word distribution. The original sort order can be restored with the “Reset Topic Sort” button.


There are two types of install: Default and Developer. Currently we are debugging the Windows Default installation. Before installing, Mac users should install XCode from Apple and Windows users should install a Python compiler such as Microsoft Visual C__ Compiler

Default Install (Windows users should use Developer Install until further notice)

  1. Go to the Anaconda website and choose the Python 2.7 Distribution. (Windows users: during installation, during “Advanced Options” choose “Add Anaconda to my PATH environment variable” and don’t worry about the warning.)

  2. Open a Terminal (Mac and Linux) or PowerShell (Windows).

  3. Run pip install --pre topicexplorer -i

    Note: --pre has two - characters. When the 1.0 release happens, --pre will no longer be necessary.

  4. Test installation by typing topicexplorer -h to print usage instructions.

Developer Install

  1. Set up Git
  2. Install the Anaconda Python 2.7 Distribution.
  3. Open a terminal and run pip install --src . -e git+
  4. Test installation by typing topicexplorer -h to print usage instructions.



  1. Initialize the Topic Explorer on a file, folder of text files, or folder of folders:

    topicexplorer init PATH

    This will generate a configuration file called CONFIG.

  2. Train LDA models using the on-screen instructions:

    topicexplorer train CONFIG
  3. Launch the topic explorer:

    topicexplorer launch CONFIG
  4. Press Ctrl+C to quit all servers.

See the sample configuration files in the config directory for examples of how to extend the topic explorer.

Bug Reports

Please report issues on the issue tracker or contact Jaimie directly (contact info at bottom of README).

In your report, please include the error message, the command you ran, your operating system, and the output of the command topicexplorer version. This will ensure that we can quickly diagnose your issue.

Note: When using a developer install topicexplorer version will print in the following format: 1.0b39-1-g7c834bf-dirty. * The first part is the most recent release tag. (1.0b39) * The second part is the number of commits since the tag. (1) * The next is the hash of the most recent commit. (g7c834bf) * The optional -dirty flag indicates that the local repository has uncommitted changes.

Alternate Installs

We highly recommend using the Anaconda Python 2.7 Distribution. Straightforward instructions are provided above for Anaconda Python 2.7 for both end users and developers. Both of these installs are officially supported.

Below we offer guidance for installing side-by-side with an Anaconda Python 3.5 install or for installing it without Anaconda, with notes on dependencies.

Python 3 Install

The InPhO Topic Explorer is only compatible with Python 2.7. However, Anaconda for Python 3.5 makes it easy to set up a side-by-side install of Python 2.7 so you can use both Python 3.5 and Python 2.7.

  1. Install the Anaconda Python 3.5 Distribution.
  2. Open a terminal and run conda create -n py27 python=2.7 anaconda. This will create a Python 2.7 Anaconda environment.
  3. Run source activate py27 to activate the Python 2.7 bindings. You should see (py27) before your prompt.
  4. Use either the Default or Developer install instructions, skipping the step to install Anaconda Python 2.7.
  5. Run source deactivate to deactivate Python 2.7 bindings and reactivate Python 3.5 bindings. Note that the topicexplorer command will only work when the Python 2.7 bindings are activated.

Non-Anaconda Install

  • Miniconda
  1. If using Miniconda (a small version of Anaconda), the necessary packages are: conda install numpy scipy nltk matplotplib ipython networkx
  • Debian/Ubuntu
  1. sudo apt-get-install build-essential python-dev python-pip python-numpy python-matplotlib python-scipy python-ipython
  2. IPython Notebooks
  • Windows
  1. Install Microsoft Visual C++ Compiler for Python 2.7
  2. Install the Python packages below:


The Topic Explorer includes a simple HTTP server through the Bottle Web Framework. This simple server is what the topicexplorer launch and topicexplorer serve commands use.

If you wish to host a high-traffic version of InPhO-TE, we recommend using the Apache Web Server and the mod_wsgi module. This infrastructure powers the demos at [] and is readily available on cloud compute platforms. Details for that configuration are below.

If you have deployed InPhO-TE using another infrastructure, please submit a pull request with the documentation. The function topicexplorer.server.create_app will make a WSGI-compliant application for use with any WSGI-compliant server.


  1. Install apache2 with mod_wsgi: apt-get install apache2 libapache2-mod-wsgi

  2. Create /etc/apache2/sites-available/topicexplorer.conf:

    <VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName localhost
    ServerAdmin admin@localhost
    ErrorLog /var/www/topicexplorer/log/error.log
    CustomLog /var/www/topicexplorer/log/access.log combined
    WSGIDaemonProcess topicexplorer user=www-data group=www-data \
    WSGIScriptAlias /ap /var/www/topicexplorer/app.wsgi
    <Directory /var/www/topicexplorer>
        WSGIProcessGroup topicexplorer
        WSGIApplicationGroup %{GLOBAL}
        Options All
        AllowOverride All
        Require all granted
  3. Create the application directory: sudo mkdir -p /var/www/topicexplorer/

  4. Create the log directory: sudo mkdir -p /var/www/topicexplorer/log

  5. Create the www directory: sudo mkdir -p /var/www/topicexplorer/www

  6. Create the config directory: sudo mkdir -p /var/www/topicexplorer/config

  7. Add a symlink from /var/www/topicexplorer/ to app.wsgi. For example: ln -s /home/jaimie/workspace/topic-explorer/app.wsgi /var/www/topicexplorer/app.wsgi

  8. Add a symlink to your .ini files in the /var/www/topicexplorer/config directory. For example, if working with the AP corpus trained in my home directory: ln -s /home/jaimie/ap.ini /var/www/topicexplorer/config/ap.ini

  9. Enable the site: sudo a2ensite topicexplorer

  10. Restart apache: sudo apache2ctl restart

  11. Test the site at [http://localhost/]. If an HTTP 500 Internal Server Error is returned, check the log in /var/www/topicexplorer/log/error.log.


Credit to Digital Ocean for a very helpful guide.

To enable caching: 1. Modify /etc/apache2/sites-available/topicexplorer.conf to add Cache directives before the closing </VirtualHost> tag:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    # ...

    CacheQuickHandler off

    CacheLock on
    CacheLockPath /tmp/mod_cache-lock
    CacheLockMaxAge 5

    CacheIgnoreHeaders Set-Cookie

    <Location />
        CacheEnable disk
        CacheHeader on

        CacheDefaultExpire 600
        CacheMaxExpire 86400
        CacheLastModifiedFactor 0.5
  1. Enable caching modules: sudo a2enmod cache && sudo a2enmod cache_disk
  2. Restart apache: sudo apache2ctl restart

Server Status

The following snippet may help debug issues, enabling you to visit [http://localhost/server-status] to find more details. Remove these lines for production environments.

<VirtualHost *:80>
    # ...

    <Location /server-status>
        SetHandler server-status

        Order Deny,Allow
        Allow from all

Licensing and Attribution

The project is released under an Open-Source Initiative-approved MIT License.

The InPhO Topic Explorer may be cited as:

  • Jaimie Murdock and Colin Allen. (2015) Visualization Techniques for Topic Model Checking in Proceedings of the 29th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-15). Austin, Texas, USA, January 25-29, 2015.

A BibTeX file is included in the repository for easier attribution.

Collaboration and Maintenance

The InPhO Topic Explorer is maintained by Jaimie Murdock:

Please report issues on the issue tracker or contact Jaimie directly.

We are open to collaboration! If there’s a feature you’d like to see implemented, please contact us and we can lend advice and technical assistance.

File Type Py Version Uploaded on Size
topicexplorer-1.0b183-py3.6.egg (md5) Python Egg 3.6 2017-10-10 1MB
topicexplorer-1.0b183.tar.gz (md5) Source 2017-10-10 1MB