Microsoft Word: Quickly Access Global or Chapter Word Count

Writing in Ulysses, under macOS, it was easy not only to set a global goal for any project (the number of words or characters one wants to reach).

More importantly to me, it was dead-simple to quickly access a live word count — for the whole book, or for any specfic chapter, section or whatever (for any sheet or any group, in Ulysses’ linguo). That was very useful.

In MS Word, I don’t think one can set a goal or a target. But it’s easy to display a live word count nonetheless, be if for the whole book/file or for a single chapter.

In Word, look at that status bar at the bottom of the window. It should display a lot of useless junk and a live word count.

Total word count displayed in teh lower left of Word's status bar.

If you don’t see it, right-click anywhere in the status bar and check the Word count entry in the list.

Btw, while you’re at it, feel free to uncheck everything in this list you don’t need or don’t want to constantly see in your status bar. The ease of customizing Word’s look is one of the its most underestimated and underpromoted feature. I only use the live word count, the language tool, plus the different view modes and the Zoom cursor and even those last two I could probably get rid of.

Word count for a single chapter

For this to work, you need to:

  • Use headings Styles for your chapter headings — you know, Heading 1, 2, 3 and so on. See below for a tip to quickly apply those styles without having to waste time and focus using menus and sub-menus.
  • Have the Navigation pane open (you’ll find it in the View tab). It displays all your headings, on the left of the screen, like this:

Don’t mind my very customized Word appearance. On the left, there is the Navigation pane and, at the bottom, the status bar with the few items I want to see, including the word count.

Now, right-click on any heading in the Navigation pane and choose Select heading and Content. That will select all your chapter’s content and instantly updates the status bar’s word count to display the actual word count for the selection, next to the global word count of the entire file.



Bonus tip: quickly apply Heading and Normal Styles in MS Word

Using menus, even the contextual menu, to apply Styles is distracting and slow — once you discover there is a better xwy to do it, you realize what a waste of time it is. And what is this better way of doing it? Keyboard shortcuts, of course.

Word comes with a bunch of predefined keyboard shortcuts for some of the more essential Styles; And if you need more, you can always add your own too.

To apply any heading Style, put you cursor on the desired line and press Shift+Maj+right arrow once to apply Heading 1. Press it again to switch to Heading 2, and so on. Shift+Maj+left arrow to cycle in the opposite direction.

To remove any heading Styles, and to get back to the Normal (default) Style, press Shift+Ctrl+N.

And keep in mind you can create your own Styles and/or create your own keyboard shortcuts too.

A True Dark Mode for Microsoft Word

Some users consider dark mode a fad. Because of my deteriorating eyesight, I don’t have such a luxury: I can’t read dark text on bright/light colored background, be it on screen or on paper.

Before dark mode was a thing, I was using a high contrast accessibility theme—which is great but also way too radical for my specific needs. Dark mode has given me the best of both worlds: a more or less ‘normal’ looking setup, only with bigger fonts, less eye candy and, well, darker colors.

So, how does Microsoft Word deal with dark mode? Very well, as long as you do not limit yourself to what the majority of guides will suggest you do, that is to use Office 365 dark mode. There is more to it, as you will see.

Illustration: the left of the screen shows Word using its dark mode plus the Immersive Reader: the text is white on a black backround, with an image that is unchanged. There is no page break or margins, the document almost feels like a basic text editor save that it shows an image too. The other half of the screen shows the wallpaper: a night view of a desert scene with many stars.
Microsoft Word in all its dark glory, once fully configured.

But let’s start with the obvious: activating Office’s dark mode.

Continue reading A True Dark Mode for Microsoft Word

10 tips to reduce clutter and to get the most out of the taskbar

Clear the Notification area

A thing that strikes me is how quickly the notification area of the taskbar can become a mess, filled with apps trying to grab our attention.

Illsutrative. A view of my desktop with a wallpaper of the earth photographed from the moon, and a taskbar filled with icons in its notifcation area.

If I don’t know any quick solution to avoid apps stuffing their icons in there—some will provide an option to turn their icon off (thanks so much, guys), many won’t (booh!)—Windows itself provides an easy way to decide which icons you want to see and which must stay hidden until you decide otherwise.

Illustration. A close-up view of the tasbar with a cleaned notification area.

This is how my notification area usually looks like on my desktop, showing only the apps I want to check on a regular basis: the status of my VPN, the status of OneDrive sync and the volume button.

All other icons are kept hidden, but still quickly accessed, behind the up arrow, on the left.

Illustration. Teh same view, showing a popup window with all the hidden icons.

The selection of icons will be slightly different on my laptop, showing also the Battery status indicator, which also lets me quickly switch between the power saving or power hungry modes.

How do you change that?

Continue reading 10 tips to reduce clutter and to get the most out of the taskbar

Get Things Done with Windows 10 Timer

For years, I frowned at the idea of timing my work—“I write dude, I’m not getting paid by the hour!” I repeated myself. But I was wrong. Sure, I’m not paid by the hour, or it would be a misery if not less than that, but writing takes a lot of time and one’s time is limited. One’d better know how and where one spends it.

Timing my writing, in fact all of my work, was the best change I’ve ever made to my work routine. And it is still is, even if the way I do things, and the time I need to do them, constantly evolves.

It helps me to roughly know where I’ll be at the end of every day, no matter what. It’s also very useful to realize where I waste most of my time during any day, and to fight procrastination.

Every morning, accompanied by a big cup of coffee, I will start working around the same time (very early) for a 45’ or a 2h session, depending on what I want to do. I’ll take a short break after that first session, and have breakfast. Then I’ll start another session often, but not always, followed by another break. Rinse and repeat, until a day’s worth of work is done. After that, I’m free to do whatever I want.

During a session, I’m not allowed to go check my emails, Twitter, and so on. It’s just the work to be done, and me.

Here is another trick I use: to make sure I’m not tempted to waste my time online, I have a separated ‘work’ account on my computer, where I don’t have Twitter or email configured, no games either. Nothing but my word processor, a couple dictionaries and the notes I need in order to write (using OneDrive for storing my files, makes it really easy to share the one I need between my two accounts). During a session, I’m allowed to not write if I feel like it but the thing is that I quickly found out that looking at an empty screen, with nothing else to do but stare at it, is quite motivating to start working 😉

As you can see, beside the use of two separated accounts, there is nothing fancy in my ‘method’, that is merely a stripped-down version of the Pomodoro technique. And there is nothing complicated to it: it doesn’t require any sophisticated app, any timer should do.

To my surprise, I discovered that Windows 10 comes with its own timer. I wasn’t expecting much of it, but I thought I could give it a shot before spending money on yet another app.

You now what? It does the job.

Continue reading Get Things Done with Windows 10 Timer

Using the Traditional Save/Open Dialog Box in Microsoft Office

By default, when you hit Save or when you try to open a file, the latest versions of Word and other Microsoft Office applications will use a new kind of window called the Backstage. As Microsoft wrote, the backstage “is everything that you do to a file that you don’t do in the file.”

A view of the new Save As dialog box, aka the Backstage Continue reading Using the Traditional Save/Open Dialog Box in Microsoft Office

Convert Multiple JPG Files Into a PDF

What to do on a Saturday night?

Well, convert a bunch of Jpeg images of course. Like scans of the XXIVa 1883 issue of the “Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Nationale”. What else is there to do?

Something quite easy to do under macOS, but that I had no clue how to do under Windows… Long story short: it’s a lot easier. Continue reading Convert Multiple JPG Files Into a PDF

Quickly Create a Focused Workspace

My desk is a mess, so is my desktop.

A screenshot of my desktop filled with various windows, plus the ebook I'm reading opened on top of them all. A mess.And that is only one of my two screens. I fill the other one with Sticky Notes, OneNote, the spreadsheet where I outline my work, and a couple other stuff.

But even if I thrive in a such a mess, I often like to focus on a single task, be it reading, or writing, or whatever. At those times, I don’t like having any mess around me on my screen.

I could use virtual desktops, or I could Win+D to hide everything save the wallpaper, and then only show the app I’m working with. But there is a simpler, more focused, and much faster solution. Continue reading Quickly Create a Focused Workspace

Add a Period After Pressing the Spacebar Twice

Typing a period after each sentence is something the computer should do for me. It’s something a Mac will do: I press the spacebar twice and, bam, I get a period. No need to use the stupid “Shift+;” on my azerty keyboard.

Windows 10 can do it too, with a little help.

Continue reading Add a Period After Pressing the Spacebar Twice

Fast Audio Output Switching With Windows 10 May Update

One of the things I never liked under Windows 10—not to say I hate it—is the audio management. It’s too easy to screw things up, and it’s a pain to use be it to manage multiple audio sources (something I often need while I’m streaming: mixing my microphone, plus Discord, music and, of course, the game’s audio itself), or just to switch rapidly between my speakers and headset.

Or so I thought.

I don’t know if it is something that has been added in the latest May update or if it was already there, but I just noticed that it is as easy to select an audio output on Windows 10 than it is on macOS:

  1. Click the sound icon in the Taskbar,
  2. Then, click the little arrow on the right of the actual output source to select another one in the Select playback device list.
  3. Done.

That’s really cool! Now I can easily send my audio through my headset or to the speakers.

The only remaining issue is the lack of meaning of the names in this list. The “Speakers (3 – USB Audio Device)” is just my USB headset 😉

Edit: As Antoine pointed out, it is possible  to rename your devices. Go to Settings-> Sound Settings. Select the device you want to rename in the drop down, and then click Device properties: