I think this question has been here a lot of times. And yes, I have googled it. I've found a lot of different answers. Most say "use another tool to count them". But some have actually scripted something to use directly in LaTeX. Sadly I am really stupid, so I don't know how to use those tools. According to my professor I should only count the title and the text under the title: everything like introducing myself, footnotes and references shouldn't be count!

Here my source code as far:

\documentclass[12pt, a4paper]{article}


counted words: XXXXX


One solution I have found is from phg, answered May 6 '12 at 13:15. He said something about using Context.

\setwordthreshold{3} %%% min chars in a row to count as word
\startwordcount      %%% start callback
\input knuth\par     %%% counted
\currentwordcount    %%% => 94 with threshold == 3
\input knuth         %%% counted
\stopwordcount       %%% deregister callback
\input knuth         %%% not counted
\dumpwordcount       %%% => 188

Fran, answered Jun 4 '13 at 1:01, said something about texcount.

% 1) Need --enable-write18 or --shell-escape 
% 2) This file MUST be saved 
%    as "borra.tex" before the compilation
%    in your working directory
% 3) This code will write wordcount.tex
%    and charcount.tex in /tmp of your disk.
%    (Windows users must change this path)
% 4) Do not compile if you are unsure
%    of what you are doing.

\usepackage{moreverb} % for verbatim ouput

% Count of words

\immediate\write18{texcount -inc -incbib 
-sum borra.tex > /tmp/wordcount.tex}

% Count of characters

\immediate\write18{texcount -char -freq
 borra.tex > /tmp/charcount.tex}


\section{Section: text example with a float}

Words and characters of this example file are 
automatically counted from the source file 
when compiled (therefore generated text as 
\textbackslash{}lipsum[1-10] is {\bfseries not} 
counted). The results are showed at the end 
of the compiled version.
Counts are made in headers, caption floats 
and normal text for the whole file. Subcounts 
for structured parts (sections, subsections, 
etc.) are also made. Number of headers, 
floats and math chunks are also counted. 

\framebox{This is only a example float} 
\caption{This is a example caption}

\subsection{Subsection: Little text with math chunks}

In line math: $\pi +2 = 2+\pi$ \\   
Display math: \[\pi +2 = 2+\pi\] 

\dotfill End of the example \dotfill 

\subsubsection*{Counts of words} 



Last but not least, Loop Space, answered Jul 29 '10 at 8:31, has wrote a Perl script:

#!/usr/bin/perl -w

@ARGV and $ARGV[0] =~ /^-+h(elp)?$/ && die "Usage:\t$0 files\n\t$0 < files\n\t$0\n";

my $count = 0;
my $first = "";
my $tex = 0;

while ($first =~ /^\s*$/) {
    $first = <>;

if ($first =~ /^\\(input|section|setlength|documentstyle|chapter|documentclass|relax|contentsline|indexentry|begin|glossaryentry)/) {
    $tex = sub { $r = $_[0];
                 $m = $_[1];
                 $r =~ s/\\(emph|textbf|textit|texttt|em)\{//g;
                 $r =~ s/\\(sub)*section\*?\{[^\}]*\}//;
                 $r =~ s/\\title\{[^\}]*\}//;
                 $r =~ s/\\\(.*?\\\)/maths/g;
                 $r =~ s/\\\(.*?$/maths/;
                 $r =~ s/^.*?\\\)/maths/;
                 $r =~ s/\\\[.*?\\\]/maths/g;
                 $r =~ s/.*?\\\]// and $m = 0;
                 $m and $r = "";
                 $r =~ s/\\\[.*?$// and $m = 1;
                 $r =~ s/\\\S*//g;
                 $r =~ s/%.*//;
                 return ($r,$m) };
} else {
    $tex = sub { return ($_[0],0) };
    @split = split(" ", $first);
    $count += $#split + 1;

while ($s = <>) {
    ($t,$n) = &$tex($s,$n);
    @split = split(" ", $t);
    $count += $#split + 1;

print "Number of words: $count\n";

Or maybe it is possible to use a word count tool, programmed in Python? (I know a little, a very little, Python myself).

I don't know which solution is the best one! I don't know how to use them. The only thing I know is, that the professor wants me to write how many words are used (title+body text only). And with words he thought of words in the PDF file, and not every LaTeXy word.

Hopefully you are able to help someone as stupid as me. If you can end the source code I started on, that would be a great help! Thank you so much in advance! Yours faithfully ;-)

  • 1
    If your document is not too large, you can submit the *.pdf here felix-cat.com/tools/wordcount to get a count like Word provides. And this site will handle a PDF file up to 15mb docwordcounter.com Jun 13, 2015 at 17:09
  • For requirements which are (a) strictly defined and (b) not "all the words" or "all the words not in figures/tables", the approach I would suggest is to count everything using texcount (you may need to test exactly what gets counted at this point) and subtract the other stuff. You may need to count this "other stuff" manually, or cut/paste it.
    – Chris H
    Jun 13, 2015 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


I'm not convinced that any software tool can do this. The typical, and traditional, hand method is to print the document, count the number of words on a typical page and multiply by the number of pages of interest (making due allowance for any illustrations or tables). As far as I am aware nobody, except the compulsive/obssesive, actually counts every word in a document of any length.

  • 2
    I'm not obssed with word counts, but often in my work people is required to write abstracts in exactly no more than 300, 500, 100 or 5000 words. Many official webs forms from the hell (where write directly is a torture) ask for long texts with limited editing times (with the risk of lost writed text) and do not allow avoid more than x words, so it is better write in another place and know exactly the number of words before of copy & paste in the forms.
    – Fran
    Jun 14, 2015 at 7:40

For Linux:

Convert the pdf document into a textfile pdftotext -nopgbrk <file>.pdf and then run wc -w <file>.txt whch outputs the number of words. There are some more options for pdftotext to crop the pdf file, eg no header or footer.


Reply by allusions: Obviously the best solution is my solution. :D

No, seriously, it is impossible to say ...the "best solution" is any method that you can understand use easily and obtain mostly what you want. For example, the Herbert's solution of pdftotext plus wc is a child-play for Linux users since these tools are standard in any Linux distro, but a Windows users must start searching for the programs in Google. One user do not care of count words in figure captions, another need count only the words of the main text ... There are not a universal solution.

Said that, TeXcount (texcount in the command line) is a very good option. It is a Perl script that counts words in the text of LaTeX files. You probably have this script in your computer since it is available as TeX Live as well as MikTeX package, so you can call this script independently from the command line as external tool to LaTeX, inside LaTeX file as showed my linked answer or even as on-line tool (avail­able as a Web service via its home page).

In any case, the a major advantage of texcount over many other solutions is that is specific for LaTeX. The script has rules for handling most of the common macros, so it can count words in text, header, captions, number of figures or formulas, obviously excluding LaTeX commands (control sequences for the purist) and comments. Even can provide colour-coded output showing which parts of the text have been counted.

Running texdoc texcount you can see the manual and learn more about these options.

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