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00 Word Counter logo.jpgIf you’ve been a student, you must be familiar with writing assignments. I love writing but keeping up with deadlines and trying to meet the word count was always two of the ghosts that haunted my school years. I thought that after graduation I could finally kiss those nightmares goodbye.

But I ended up being a writer and I still have to shake hands with those smiling ghosts for the rest of my life. Talk about irony. :)

Personal tale aside, writing tools are an inseparable part of any writer’s life. I’ve just come across a free Mac application that falls into this category. This writing tool is called Word Counter.

The Power That Lies Within

At first glance, this app might look insignificant. Who needs another word counter? Almost any word processor comes with this feature built in. But there is more than meets the eye because this little app can do so much more.

The basic feature of this app is the word counter. Type, paste or drag and drop some text to the box in the main window, and the app will automatically count the words, characters and instances of the text.

01a Word Counter Main Window.jpg


Click the “Count Words” icon every time you want to refresh the statistic. There’s a setting in the Preferences window to automate this process.

Instances” is a specific word or phrase from the text that you define in the instances Count window. This feature is useful for those who keep repeating a certain word or phrase in his/her writing.

01b Show Text Instances Window.jpg

You can open the Instances Count window from the “Window > Show Text Instances Window” menu or using Command + Option + I.

01c Instances Count window.jpg

But if you want to know the frequency of all words within the text, use the Word Frequency window (“Window > Show Word Frequency Window” menu or Command + Option + F). You could make the searching either case-sensitive or case-insensitive. You could also sort the results by the word, frequency, or length.

01d Word Frequency Window.jpg

If you are doing a writing project but separating the chapters into individual text files, you could do the general word count for all the files. Drag and drop those files (or Folders) to the main window and Word Counter will display the result for the individual files and also the summary.

01e Count words multiple files.jpg

Word Counter is also able to work with an external text editor. Mac OS X’s TextEdit is the default application. But you could easily change it with another editor from the Preferences window.

01f External Text Editor.jpg

To start working with an external editor, click the editor icon in the main window. A new small “Word Counter” window will appear. You could write in the editor and Word Counter will observe from the background :

01g Word Counter_ TextEdit-1.jpg

How Readable Is Your Writing?

There’s a saying which says if you want your writing to be understood easily, you have to set the difficulty level of your piece to two levels below your audience comprehension level.

While playing around with Word Counter, I discovered something that I never knew before: there are mathematical equations to estimate how readable a piece of writing is. In another word, you can actually calculate the difficulty level of your writing (a Windows equivalent is Bullfighter).

I’m still trying to understand the concept behind this science. There’s an explanation regarding this matter on the developer’s site. The process involves some heavy calculations with many variables to consider. But you don’t have to go through the numbers because Word Counter comes with this feature.

Put some text into Word Counter window and open the “Readability Statistics” window from “Window > Show Readability Statistics Window” menu or use Command + Option + R. The window will provide you with many numbers explaining how “readable” your text is.

I honestly don’t understand what most of the numbers mean. But there is an explanation using plain English that is very easy to understand.

02 Readability Statistics.jpg

Out of curiosity, I picked some random articles from MakeUseOf and tried them using The Readability Test. The verdict is that, in general, our articles fall into the area between easy and standard.

You could also try this feature and figure out why some sites felt difficult while others are easy.

Do you know any other alternatives to Word Counter?  Please share using the comments below.

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  1. Harry Nguyen
    March 7, 2015 at 4:14 am

    I suggest a word count extension that might help your writing if you use Chrome
    or this add-on if you use Firefox

    if you want a quick & reliable solution, you can go to its web version: