Jun 27, 2011

Counting Characters in Outlook

I hate texting. I've been touch typing since my Mom brought home that Olivetti back when I was in middle school. That's long enough ago that my brain and fingers no longer have a direct connection. My fingers know how to type all by themselves. The problem is when I go to text (with one of those little teeny-tiny keyboards on a phone – I become the world's slowest hunt and pecker, I have to pretend to touch type every time I want to find "b".  So my solution is to just send texts via email . As far as I can tell every cell provider has an email suffix for this. You type the persons phone number followed by the proper email domain suffix.

Can you count to 160?

The point of this post is that there is problem with using email to respond to text messages. Unless you tweet, it's hard to gauge just how short 160 characters is. If you exceed that length your message might just get truncated or split into multiple text messages. So the key is to know just how many characters you've typed. You can do this in Outlook 2007, but it's far from obvious how. Ideally you would want something showing you the count as you type (like even the most dimwitted text editors do). I haven't found this in Outlook yet but at least there is way to do it on demand. Spell check. Yep, that's right. The feature you always use but never invoke manually.

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SNAGHTML90b42e8Hiding right there at the bottom is Word Count…, type your message and click it and you'll get a dialog similar to that shown at the left. Now if you look carefully at the first image above, you'll notice the Word Count… icon in the quick launch toolbar at the top of the window.  That's not there by default, but you can easily add it.
SNAGHTML91ca7d2

SNAGHTML9212367Click the little drop down arrow on the right of the quick launch bar and select the More Commands… option as shown in the image at the left. You'll get the dialog shown in the image on the right. In that dialog follow the green arrows, choose the Message Tab, scroll to the bottom and choose the Word Count… command, click the Add>> button and Word Count… will show up in the right pane. Click OK and the command should now be in your quick launch bar. One final tip.

 
SNAGHTML931dc2bHold down the Alt key. A series of characters will litter your screen. You'll notice on mine that 6, corresponds to the word count. That means I can hit Alt-6 and the word count dialog will appear on my screen. Now if I could just curb my verbose writing style I might like texting.

Update for Outlook 2010

If you happen to be on Office 2010, the location of the Word Count feature has moved. Use the Review Tab and you'll find the Word Count option in the ribbon as shown below.

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About Me

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Tod Gentille (@todgentille) is now a Curriculum Director for Pluralsight. He's been programming professionally since well before you were born and was a software consultant for most of his career. He's also a father, husband, drummer, and windsurfer. He wants to be a guitar player but he just hasn't got the chops for it.