Count words from top in Pages

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One of Microsoft Word’s more useful features is a live word count (shown in the status bar at the bottom of the window). When you’re editing a document, this word count shows you exactly where you are in a document, displaying something like Words: 354 of 1253. The first number represents the number of words above your cursor, which is good to know if you’re working against a word count limit—if the first number is at or above your word count limit, and you’ve still got 40 paragraphs in your document, you’re in for a long night of editing.

iWork ‘08’s Pages word processor also includes a word count feature, but it’s not quite as easy to use as the one in Word. To see Page’s word count, you first need to open the Inspector (View -> Show Inspector), select the Document section of the Inspector, then click the Info tab. Unfortunately, the word count displayed here is only for the full document (or selection), and it doesn’t provide a count of words above the cursor’s current position.

Here’s a workaround that, while not solving the problem completely, at least makes it reasonably simple to solve. First position the cursor at the point at which you’d like to know the “words above this point” word count. With the Info tab of the Document Inspector visible, just press Shift-Home (or Shift-Command-Up Arrow on a laptop). This will select everything from the cursor position back to the top of the document. The Info panel will automatically change to show the word count in the selection, which represents the number of words above the cursor’s position.

When you’re ready to get back to editing, just press Down Arrow to clear the selection. While this isn’t quite as easy or transparent as Word’s live word count, it gets the job done and isn’t overly time consuming.

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