Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007 and 2010. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Character Frequency Count.

Character Frequency Count

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 14, 2015)

3

Scott is looking for a way to get a "frequency count" of all the characters in a document. He would like to know how many times each character, ASCII codes 9 through 255, occur. It is possible to use Find and Replace to determine the count of individual characters (simply search for a character in question and then replace it with itself), but such an approach would be tedious, at best, if you needed to do it for 247 different character codes to get the desired information.

Such a task must be done with a macro, but there are several ways to approach it. One way is to write a quick macro that will step through each member of the Character collection, examining each, and assigning that character to one of a number of counters.

Sub CountChars1()
    Dim iCount(0 To 255) As Integer
    Dim i As Integer
    Dim vCharacter As Variant
    Dim sTemp As String

    ' Initialize the array
    For i = 0 To 255
        iCount(i) = 0
    Next i

    ' Fill the array
    For Each oCharacter In ActiveDocument.Characters
       i = Asc(oCharacter)
       iCount(i) = iCount(i) + 1
    Next

    ' Add document for results
    Documents.Add
    Selection.TypeText Text:="ASCII Character Count" & vbCrLf

    ' Only output codes 9 through 255
    For i = 9 To 255
        sTemp = Chr(i)
        If i < 32 Then sTemp = Trim(Str(i))
        sTemp = sTemp & Chr(9) & Trim(Str(iCount(i)))
        sTemp = sTemp & vbCrLf
        Selection.TypeText Text:=sTemp
    Next i
End Sub

The macro uses the iCount array to accumulate the counts of each character code, and then a new document is created to output the results. (The results document can be formatted in any way desired.)

This approach can work well for relatively short documents, up to a few pages. When the document gets longer, the macro gets slower. Why? Because it takes a great deal of time to use the Characters collection for some reason. If the macro runs too slow for your documents, then you will want to change it a bit so that it works solely with strings.

Sub CountChars2()
    Dim iCount(0 To 255) As Long
    Dim i As Long
    Dim j as integer
    Dim lCharCount As Long
    Dim sDoc As String
    Dim sTemp As String

    ' Initialize the array
    For i = 0 To 255
        iCount(i) = 0
    Next i

    ' Assign document to a huge string
    lCharCount = ActiveDocument.Characters.Count
    sDoc = ActiveDocument.Range(0, lCharCount)

    ' Fill the array
    For i = 1 to Len(sDoc)
       j = Asc(Mid(sDoc, i, 1))
       iCount(j) = iCount(j) + 1
    Next

    ' Add document for results
    Documents.Add
    Selection.TypeText Text:="ASCII Character Count" & vbCrLf

    ' Only output codes 9 through 255
    For i = 9 To 255
        sTemp = Chr(i)
        If i < 32 Then sTemp = Trim(Str(i))
        sTemp = sTemp & Chr(9) & Trim(Str(iCount(i)))
        sTemp = sTemp & vbCrLf
        Selection.TypeText Text:=sTemp
    Next i
End Sub

Notice that this version of the macro stuffs the entire document into a single string, sDoc. This string can then be processed very, very quickly by the macro. (A 635-page document only took about 30 seconds to process on my system.) Because this version is made to work with longer documents, note as well that some of the variable types have been changed to reflect the likelihood of larger counts.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (112) applies to Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Character Frequency Count.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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Comments for this tip:

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What is nine more than 1?

2014-11-11 11:32:14

Davide

Thank you, this was really useful for me.


2014-03-03 14:05:28

Bryan

Yikes!! It shouldn't be a wonder why the first code runs so slowly when you are accessing the characters collection once for every single character in the document!! This should never be done.

At first glance CountChars2 seems like a bad way to do it as well, as you are still looping through the whole string, but on the whole it seems about as efficient as the best way I know to count characters: by comparing the length of the original string to the length of a string with the target character replaced with an empty string. I.e. numAs = Len(Str) - Len(Replace(Str, "A", "", vbBinaryCompare)). It turns out that the Replace function essentially just scans through the whole string anyway, so there's no real efficiency gain here.

I was able to gain another ~50% increase by rewriting the rest of the function. There's no need to call Selection.TypeText once for every line. Instead, concatenate the whole thing and call it once. For a document with ~150,000 characters, CountChars1 took 12 seconds, CountChars2 took 2 seconds, my Replace method also took 2 seconds, and my Replace method with a more efficient Selection.TypeText call took less than 1/2 second.

(Also, you haven't defined oCharacters in CountChars1... you need a "Dim oCharacters as Object" if you are using Option Explicit -- and as I've mentioned before, there's absolutely no reason not to).


2011-10-30 14:02:47

Roy

Some people will want a letter frequency count and that would be only higher and lower case characters.
For English,these would be ASCII codes 65 to 90 for capitals and 97 to 122 for lower case.
This would mean two loops but probably quicker.
Roy.


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