Nov 15, 2010

Counting text in Microsoft Word 2010 (and 2007 apparently)

A few weeks ago I had a call from a new client regarding a small job, and when I was asked about my rates, I tried to explain briefly how translators in Germany often calculate these and how he might estimate costs himself. Unfortunately, the explanation got "stuck" at the time, because we were using different versions of Microsoft Office. I was still enjoying the old Office 2003 package with a few upgrades to enable me to deal with Office 2007 files, but he had a shiny new computer with the latest MS Office 2010. When I referred to the "Tools" menu ("Extras" in German) and said to find the word count function under it, he informed me that this menu didn't exist in that version. Score another one for Microsoft in its 24-year effort to keep its users of Word teetering on the brink of frustrated insanity as the interface cards get remixed and the rules changed with every new version.

Last Friday I finally got my long-awaited new laptop to replace my utterly decrepit Toshiba with its troublesome keyboard that my local repair shop was unable or unwilling to replace. With it I got the latest MS Office version, so I too have made the Great Leap Forward into the abyss of the new interface. And although it may be a very obvious thing for many readers, I want to take this opportunity to show graphically how to find the new word count function in Microsoft Word 2010. If you are using an older version of Word and need to explain this to a client who has the latest version, perhaps this will help:

Addendum: Another alternative in Word 2007 & 2010, which was kindly pointed out by Victor Dewsbery in the comments for this post, is to use the function at the left of the bottom bar of the Word document window:
Double-clicking the count on the bar will open the word count dialog with the full statistics.

It is also interesting to note that text in text boxes is apparently counted, which was not the case in my old 2003 version of Microsoft Word. Here I created a small text file with 12 words distributed in the ordinary document body flow, a table and a text box. Then I selected three words in the table. The count shows both the selection (3 words) and the total (12 words):


  1. Well fathomed, Kevin!

    Out of idle curiosity, I checked to see whether Practicount were ahead of the game and it seems they are.

  2. btw, same interface in Word 2007 ;-)

  3. @Paolo: Thank you for confirming that it's the same in MS Word 2007. I suspected it might be similar, but given the radical interface changes that Microsoft makes between many versions, I didn't want to make any assumptions.

    @Chris: Figures that PractiCount would be on the ball. But your average customer will usually be counting in MS Word or the OO text editor (if at all).

  4. Just for kicks, I decided to see if other MS Office 2010 modules have had their word counting facilities improved. Perhaps a uniform application of the function in all modules? Not a chance! As usual, Microsoft has focused on bad form and ignored substance.

    In PowerPoint 2010, there is no count function in the Proofreading pane of the Review menu. The closest equivalent is found under File > Properties > Advanced Properties on the useless Statistics tab. There only words are given; somehow the 188 words in the file I checked were said to have zero characters. Oh, no Mr. Bill!

    Microsoft Excel 2010 is even more lame in this regard. The same path as found in PowerPoint exists, but the word count is "helpfully" omitted from the statistics tab.

    None of this matter to those of us equipped with modern CAT/TEnT technology. However, some others are understandably frustrated by having to resort to workarounds like printing to PDF, then saving the text content of the PDF out of Adobe Reader and counting that text in MS Word afterward.

  5. "I too have made the Great Leap Forward into the abyss of the new interface."

    So how are you finding it? I'd been a confirmed Word 2003 user for a long time until I bought a new PC last year with Office 2007.

    I found the new interface (if you'll pardon the pun) abyssmal. ;)

    I have the ribbon minimized most of the time as it takes up so much screen real-estate. I find the inbuilt help hard to find stuff on. It's quicker to go to google and ask questions there.

    The one redeeming thing about it is that the keystrokes still work the same as they always did (well the ones I regularly use do anyway).

    Enjoy "progress". :p)

  6. Well, Alex, perhaps a severe flu is influencing my opinion of Microsoft's accomplishments more than it should, but so far I think that under the "pretty" surface the new technology bites. But I have grown used to Microsoft's disregard of the ergonomic comfort of users. The greatest progress made in computing in the many years I have been involved with it in some way or another has been, in my opinion, the consistency of interfaces. The constant reshuffling of layouts and menu commands negates that.

  7. In Word 2007, the word/character count can also be accessed via the left of the bottom bar. The bar itself actually shows the word count, but if you click on it you get the full statistics box. Next to it is the language control. The bar itself shows the current language, but this can be edited by clicking.
    Are these functions still there in Word 2010?

  8. In Word 2007 (and presumably 2010?) you can mark text exerpts and Word will show the wordcount at bottom left, next to the total word count. On the down side, MS Word STILL has the odious habit of completely ignoring text in tables!

  9. @Mike: That's a good tip, thanks! I tried it out (and added the results to the main post). It seems that MS Word 2010 not only counts tables, it also counts text boxes. Actually, my 2003 version counted tables just fine, but text boxes were always a problem. I noticed this the first time when I customer sent me a little newsletter with most of the text (several hundred words) in boxes, and the program told me that there were something like 5 words in the document. Yea, Microsoft!

  10. Hi all, there exists free "Complete Word count" add-in for Word 2003- I use it for a long time.

    It shows as an extra icon as your Word upper toolbar, you can choose which of these to count- headers, footers, texboxes, text, all...

    Right at the moment it cannot downloaded, however, anyone wanting it, please email me at uldis at , I'll gladly email it to you. (Size- 52 Kb only).


  11. Great info, thanks Kevin! Yes, Microsoft keeps on succeeding at ensuring that users of different versions cannot talk to each other. We've had 2010 for a while, and are quite used to it, and then we forget that the previous versions look nothing like it... :)

  12. For those that are frustrated (as I am) with the ribbon interface in MS Office, there are at least a couple of companies that sell a cheap add in to have at least a good approximation of the "classic" menus:

    AddIn Tools


    Ubit Software

  13. I agree with Victor, the option with the bar at the bottom of the screen can be very helpful, providing much quicker access than via the ribbon (which I still don't really like!).

    However, the various components of the bar at the bottom of the screen (it probably has a real name ..) BLEND OUT depending on how wide your Word window is! I'm a great fan of resizing windows and placing them strategically around the screen, but if it is too narrow (I like narrow views of the draft display for quicker and easier reading) then it's impossible to access the language/spelling/word count functions this way because they disappear from the bar....


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