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.

(An online) Dark Mode for Antidote

Unlike its macOS cousin, Druide Antidote for Windows doesn’t come with a dark theme. A lack that makes it very hard to read, at least for me.

One thing you might not know is that, if you’re using the latest Antidote 10, you probably also have a free access to their new-but-in-beta web version: all their guides and the spellchecker, directly in a web browser.

So, you can use Antidote in Dark Mode, as long as you load it in a web browser that support some dark mode extensions.

Out of curiosity, I tried to load it as a PWA, using the beta version of Edge-Chrome.

It works fine. And since it’s a PWA, you can pin it as any app to the Start menu and to the Taskbar.Making it even faster to access. You can also change Antidote’s settings to make it use the web version by default, instead of the classic app—but be aware that, while in beta, Druide will analyze any text that you correct through their website.

The main difference is that, unlike the classic installed app, you must be connected to the Internet to use the PWA version. But, hey, at least it’s there and it has a dark mode 😉

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

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

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

Notepads, at last a modern Notepad alternative

Screenshot of my desktop with Notepads displaying the draft of this blog post. Using Dark Mode.

Notepads is not an alternative to Visual Studio Code, but it’s a great alternative to Notepad, Windows 10 default text editor. An alternative that Microsoft should have offered a long time ago, imo.

It’s open source, it’s fast and it sports a modern UI (aka a clean and simple interface, supporting Dark mode, with tabs). And Markdown support is planned too, btw.

It’s available as a beta on GitHub, but I have had no issue for the week or so I’ve been using it.


Make the content of Markdown files searchable in Windows

If you use a custom file extension for your Markdown files—like .md, or .markdown, or whatever—instead of .txt, Windows will only index their filename, not their content even though they are still text files. So, any Windows search will completely ignore their content.

It’s silly, but the good news is that it’s easy to change this by telling Windows that your .md or .markdown files are to be treated like standard text files.

  1. Press the Windows key and start typing “Indexing” until it suggests “Indexing option”. Open it.
  2. A small old looking window appears. Click on Advanced, in the bottom:
  3. Another window opens, click its File Types tab to see the list of all the file extensions used on your PC. Scroll this long list until you find your own Markdown file extension (md, in my case):
  4. Click your extension once. Then look at the bottom of the window and check Index Properties and File Contents.
  5. Click OK.

Done. Windows will need a few moments to rebuild its index but now the content of your Markdown files will be searchable too. Yeah.

The Dictionary app on Windows?

Why the macOS Dictionary?

As a writer, Dictionary is one of my favorite apps under macOS. It’s also one of the most underestimated.

It includes English, French, German dictionaries, and a few others. It comes with an integrated French-English dictionary, and others I don’t use. You can use it as a front-end to search Wikipedia. Add to that a tight integration to macOS—you can invoke it from almost any app containing text, with a gesture or a right-click on a word—it’s hard not to love this app.

The Mac Dictionary, with a partial list of dictionaries.

Continue reading The Dictionary app on Windows?