· 3 minute read

When you spend significant time writing in web applications – say, in a CMS, social media client or a bid submission portal – a quick way to count words and characters is useful. Here are my favourite tools to count words or characters without leaving the browser.

Word Count extension for Chrome

This is a basic extension to display word and character count. When you install the Word Count extension it sits in the navigation bar. Highlight the text you want to count the words or characters in, then select the extension icon. You’ll see the number of words and the number of characters (including spaces) in the selected text:

Word count extension for Google Chrome

The extension doesn’t count text in Gmail or Google Docs but I’ve found it works fine with many other applications.

Word Count Tool

The website wordcounttools.com counts words and characters in a piece of text pasted into the browser and provides more statistics on sentences, paragraphs and readability. The ‘copy and paste into another browser’ step can slow you down though.

Fortunately, there is a Chrome extension and Firefox add-on. After installing the extension/add-on, highlight your text, right-click and select Word Count Tool. You’ll see a pop-up similar to the one below containing counts of words, characters, sentences, paragraphs, plus average sentence length and average word length:

Word Count Tool popup

Count characters in meta tags

It’s important to limit the number of characters in your page’s title meta tag so that the title displays sensibly in search results without being truncated. The Moz title tag page has guidance on the recommended number of characters and an emulator to preview how your title displays in Google search results:

Moz title emulator

If you publish posts and pages using Wordpress, the All-in-One SEO Pack plugin is useful. It has a feature to display the character count, and a preview of, your post title and description in search results. This helps you to craft good title and description meta tags within the recommended character limits.

After installing the plugin, start writing a draft post and expand the Screen Options menu (it’s at the top right of the screen). Ensure the All in One SEO Pack checkbox is selected. Beneath your draft post, you see a preview snippet of how your post title and description displays in Google search results. The plugin displays a character count (including spaces) to help you stay within the recommended character limit.

For example, below is a screenshot of this post when I was writing it. The original post title – Browser-based word and character count tools for web editors – is prepended to the site title and previewed in the Title field. The draft title tag contains 73 characters:

Preview of post title and description with character count

This is more than the 50–60 characters Google typically displays. So, I changed the post title to Word and character count tools for web editors. When prepended to the site title, the title tag contains 59 characters. That’s more like it.

Markdown editors

I’m becoming more of a fan of Markdown editors, particularly when writing snippets that need approval quickly and then publishing. Keeping the draft text in Markdown and exporting the approved version to HTML reduces the time spent reformatting text or faffing with a WYSIWYG editor.

Two popular browser-based Markdown editors are dillinger.io and StackEdit (my current favourite).

dillinger.io displays your word count in the live preview pane while you type. If you can’t see it, click the settings icon at the top right and select Word Count.

Word count in dillinger Markdown editor

StackEdit provides more information on your draft and counts characters, words and paragraphs. To see the statistics, select the small flyout menu at the bottom right of the preview pane, then click the number:

Word count in StackEdit Marksdown editor

So, those are my favourites. Are there other extensions or tools you would recommend?

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