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Microsoft Office: Quickly Copy Formatting with the Format Painter

One of common task in Microsoft Office programs is duplicating the look of text, cells, or even shapes to another area of a file. Instead of manually trying to copy the format you want to each part of your work, use the Format Painter. Available in each of the programs copy formatting, duplicate formats, Format Painter, copy document formattingin Microsoft Office (Office 2010, Office 2007, Office 2003 and earlier), the Format Painter is a quick way to copy formatting from one item--such as a heading in Word, a cell in Excel, or even an object or shape in PowerPoint to another. Even though the Format Painter has been available for many years, it might be the most helpful feature you've never used.

How the Format Painter Works

Whether you are using Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, or even Access, the Format Painter works the same basic way:

  1. First, select the "good stuff", that is, the text, cells, or object with the formatting you want to duplicate.
  2. Next, look for a yellow paintbrush tool on the Home tab of the Ribbon for an Office 2010 or Office 2007 program. The Format Painter icon is found on the Standard toolbar in Office 2003.
  3. Click once on the Format Painter paintbrush tool. Your mouse pointer turns into a paintbrush icon.
  4. Finally, move to and select or click and drag on the text, cells, or objects you want to take on (or be "painted" with) the selected format.

Bonus Tip: If you want to apply the same formatting to more than one item, select the formatting you want (steps 1 and 2 above), and double-click the Format Painter tool. Then select the item you want to apply formatting to. You can continue to repeatedly apply formatting as long as you want. Press [Esc] to cancel or click on the tool again to turn it off.

Why the Format Painter?

Let's say you've written a long report or other document in Word. You like the look, especially your headings. Now, the challenge is to duplicate the look of the headings to all of the other titles in your report. The solution for many Word experts could be to apply styles. Creating and using styles are a fabulous time-saver for long, repetitive documents but are often unnecessary for many types of work. Plus, most Word users don't know how to quickly work with styles and other Office programs don't support styles as fully as in Word.

Using the Format Painter in Microsoft Word

To copy formatting with the Format Painter in Microsoft Word, do one of the following:
To copy both paragraph attributes (such as alignment, indentation, spacing, etc.) and character attributes (such as font size and style), select the text which has the formatting you want to copy plus the paragraph mark following the text. To copy only character attributes, select the text without selecting the paragraph mark.

Tip: To turn on or off the display of paragraph marks and other non-printing characters in Word, click the Show/Hide button or press [Ctrl] + *.

  1. Click the Format Painter button.
  2. Drag the paintbrush pointer to select the text you want to apply the formatting to. The text takes on the new formatting.

Using the Format Painter in Microsoft Excel

To quickly copy formatting of cells (such as borders, number formats, background color) and to apply that formatting to other cells:

  1. Select a cell with the formatting you want to copy.
  2. Do one of the following:
    To copy the formatting to a single cell or range of cells, click the Format Painter icon, then drag the mouse pointer across the cell or range of cells you want to format.

    To copy the formatting to several cells or ranges of cells, double-click the Format Painter tool, and then drag the mouse pointer across each cell or range of cells you want to format.
  3. When you're done, either click Format Painter button again or press [Esc] to turn it off.

Tip: To copy the width of one column in an Excel worksheet to a second column, select the heading of the first column, pick the Format Painter button, and then click the heading of the column you want to apply the column width to.

Using the Format Painter in Microsoft PowerPoint

In PowerPoint, you can use the Format Painter to apply text formatting and some basic graphics formatting, such as borders and fills.

  1. Select the text or graphic or other object with the formatting you want to copy.
  2. Click the Format Painter button to change the pointer to a paintbrush icon. Double-click to apply formatting to more than one block of text or graphic.
  3. Click the text or graphic you want to format. To apply formatting to more than one block of text or graphic, select each of them, one at a time.

You can quickly format your work in Microsoft Office with the Format Painter.

Dawn Bjork Buzbee, MCT, The Software Pro

Dawn Bjork Buzbee is The Software Pro and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) as well as a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Master Instructor, certified Microsoft Applications Specialist (MCAS) Instructor, and a certified Microsoft Office expert. Dawn shares smart and easy ways to effectively use software through her work as a software speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of 8 books.

This article and more can be reprinted at no charge in your publications and website with copyright and attribution.
>>Learn more about how easy it is to share these valuable tips, tricks, and techniques.

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Hot Office Tip
Double-click the Format Painter icon to duplicate formatting more than once.
 
Did You Know?
Activate the Format Painter with the keyboard in Office 2010 and Office 2007 by pressing
[Alt] + H + +FP.
 
 
 
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