In this article, we're going to show you how to create a system-wide service that enables you to get an immediate word count and character count in TextEdit, Safari, Mail, or indeed any app on your Mac that lets you highlight text. It offers a handy home-made solution if you often find yourself pasting into a blank Word or Pages document for no other reason than to find out how many words are in a text selection.

word count automator service 2
The steps below will guide you through the process of creating your own word count service using the macOS Automator app. It's a simple procedure to follow and should only take five minutes, but if you'd rather use a third-party solution, then check out WordCounter, a free Mac menu bar utility from Onekerato.

How to Create a Word Count Service in Automator

  1. Launch Automator from the Applications folder.
    1 Automator

  2. Click New Document.

  3. Choose Service as the type of your document.
    2 Automator document type

  4. Type "run" into the Library search field at the top of the Automator sidebar, then drag the Run Shell Script action into the empty workflow area.
    automator drag shell script

  5. In the Run Shell Script action window, change the Pass Input: option to as arguments using the dropdown menu.
    automator run shell script

  6. Clear the text in the shell script box (highlight the text with your mouse cursor and hit Backspace) then copy and paste the following text into the same area:

    echo Words:

    echo $1 | wc -w

    echo Characters including spaces:

    echo $1 | wc -c
    automator word count script

  7. Clear the Library search field at the top of the Automator sidebar and type "set value", then drag the Set Value of Variable action into the workflow area.
    automator set value of variable

  8. Click the Variable: dropdown menu and select New Variable....

  9. In the blue dialog that appears, click inside the Name: input field. It may default to "storage", but you can rename it – we'll call it "count". Click Done, and you should now see "count" (or whichever name you used) appear in the variable list below the workflow area.
    automator variable name

  10. Clear the Library search field at the top of the Automator sidebar again, and this time type "ask", then drag the Ask for Confirmation action into the workflow area.
    drag ask for confirm

  11. Now, drag your "count" variable from the variable list up to the "Message" title in the Ask for Confirmation action.
    drag count variable

  12. In the Automator menu bar, select File -> Save..., call your new service "Word Count", and click Save.

Next time you want to get a word count and/or character count for some text you've highlighted, simply right-click (or Ctrl-click) on the text and select Services -> Word Count from the contextual dropdown menu.

word count
You can assign a key shortcut to it for even faster access. To do so, launch System Preferences, select the Keyboard pane, and click the Shortcuts tab. Select Services from the sidebar and you should find Word Count near the bottom of the list. Just click it, select Add Shortcut, and finally, enter your custom key combination.

word count shortcut

Top Rated Comments

TheralSadurns Avatar
56 months ago
Srsly guys... I don't think I'll need this. But you rock! Keep these guides and tutorials coming!!! They are MUCH appreciated!
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
H2SO4 Avatar
56 months ago
Srsly guys... I don't think I'll need this. But you rock! Keep these guides and tutorials coming!!! They are MUCH appreciated!
Was gonna say exactly this till I saw your post. Reminds me of MacOXSHints.
[doublepost=1526030048][/doublepost]
Or get WordService for free from the App Store to give you text stats and so much more:
https://itunes.apple.com/app/wordservice/id899972312?mt=12
Maybe but this also teaches you stuff.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
IJ Reilly Avatar
55 months ago
Or get WordService for free from the App Store to give you text stats and so much more:
https://itunes.apple.com/app/wordservice/id899972312?mt=12
Beat me to it. I've used this indispensable collection of services for over 15 years. Can also be downloaded here:

https://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/10523/wordservice
[doublepost=1526061714][/doublepost]
Maybe but this also teaches you stuff.
I learned that I don't have to do it myself. ;)
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
fairuz Avatar
55 months ago
Automator is one of the many amazing productivity features in macOS that few know about. It's saved me so much time.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mingravity Avatar
56 months ago
Srsly guys... I don't think I'll need this. But you rock! Keep these guides and tutorials coming!!! They are MUCH appreciated!
absolutely !! very useful read
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MauiPa Avatar
55 months ago
Interesting, but all the text and code editors I use these days already have word and character counters built-in. Also, as stop-hammertime mentioned, if terminal commands aren't filtered, this script could execute code with unintended, or even dire consequences.
Padawan, perhaps it is the journey and not the destination.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Apple Watch Series 7 Starlight Midnight

Standard Apple Watch Series 8 Rumored to Feature Same Design as Series 7

Friday August 5, 2022 7:46 am PDT by
The standard 41mm and 45mm models of the Apple Watch Series 8 will feature the same design as the Apple Watch Series 7, according to Twitter user @ShrimpApplePro, who was first to reveal that iPhone 14 Pro models would feature a new pill-and-hole display. Titanium will not be an option for the standard Apple Watch Series 8 models either, according to @ShrimpApplePro, but Bloomberg's Mark...
cook sept 2020 event

Gurman: Apple Preparing Pre-Recorded iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 Event

Sunday August 7, 2022 6:13 am PDT by
Apple has "started to record" its virtual September event, where it's expected to announce the upcoming iPhone 14 lineup, the Apple Watch Series 8, and a new "rugged" Apple Watch model, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman says the event, which is expected to take place in the early part of September, is already under production, implying...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Front and Back MacRumors Exclusive

Five iPhone 14 Rumors You May Have Missed

Thursday August 4, 2022 6:05 am PDT by
With August upon us, the countdown is officially on. We're just weeks away from when we're expecting Apple to announce the iPhone 14 lineup. Rumors of the next iPhone start early in the year, and as a result, some details about the upcoming device sometimes get lost in the crowd. Exclusive MacRumors iPhone 14 Pro renders by graphic designer Ian Zelbo To help MacRumors readers, we've created a ...
banish safari app pop ups

New iOS App Blocks Those Annoying 'Open in App' Pop-Ups in Safari

Friday August 5, 2022 2:47 am PDT by
You've probably experienced visiting a website like Reddit or LinkedIn on your iPhone only to be greeted with an annoying, almost full-screen pop-up urging you to view the content in their app instead of on the website. It's a common practice for websites that have accompanying iOS apps to push users to open (if they already have the app installed) or download their app from the App Store to ...
top stories 7aug22

Top Stories: iPadOS 16 Delayed, iPhone 14 Pro Rumors, Studio Display Speaker Issues

Saturday August 6, 2022 6:00 am PDT by
The big Apple news this week was word that the upcoming iPadOS 16 update apparently won't be arriving alongside its counterpart update for the iPhone in September, largely due to a need to continue refining the new Stage Manager multitasking feature. Other popular stories this week included more hints about the iPhone 14 Pro's rumored always-on display, potential design leaks for the...