capsule review

Hermetic Word Frequency Counter Advanced

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Note: This review addresses v12.45 of the software.

Hermetic Word Frequency Counter Advanced is a useful utility for analyzing the contents of your text files, either individually or in batch mode. In many ways, it's a friendly shell around common grep functionality. The default is to simply count the unique words in a file, and their frequency (common English words like a and the are normally not counted, though this can be changed). This alone has some utility for programmers, but the real power of this program comes in two features: The ability to scan an entire folder tree and the ability to look for and count specified patterns.

For example, if you wanted to see how often a particular function was called in a large directory of source code, you can point Word Frequency Counter at the root directory, set the included file extensions to .cpp (or .java, .bas, or whatever), and set the word to look for to someRoutine. You then get back a list of how often this word appears. Pattern matching increases the functionality greatly: If there are a dozen functions, all beginning with FileProcess, you can enter FileProcess~ and get a breakdown of each function's frequency. (This could reveal that some functions are being over- or underused.) You can save the patterns to search for in a file, making it easy to run regular checks.

Outside of programming, there are other uses. Archives of corporate memos or e-mail can be searched to see how often people use bafflegab such as proactive and leverage. You can use a client list as a source of patterns and see how frequently each is mentioned. Writers might find a list of overused phrases and clichés and see if they're using them too often in their prose.

All of these uses require two things: First, that you are willing to spend a little time learning the pattern matching specifications and tweaking the many options and settings to get the results you want; and second, that your data be accessible in plain text files. The greatest flaw to Word Frequency Counter is that it does not work on Word or PDF files (or any other non-text format). Given how much data is found only in those formats, this can be crippling, depending on your needs.

Word Frequency Counter Standard lacks the ability to search for specific phrases, to use pattern-matching, or to scan multiple files in a folder; it just counts individual words in a single file. This still has some uses for basic text analysis, but it is much less flexible.

Hermetic Word Frequency Counter Advanced isn't an impulse buy. However, if you regularly perform manual searches for multiple phrases or find yourself needing to analyze text data that is freeform and stored in hundreds or thousands of text files, it may well be worth it.

Note: The demo version displays the first 200 results only, and it shows only the counts of words or phrases beginning with A through F. The price given here is for an unlimited (perpetual) license. The vendor also sells less expensive licenses in three-month and one-year increments.

--Ian Harac

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