Speed Up Formatting in Microsoft Office with Format Painter
By on July 12th, 2011

Format Painter ButtonLay down the canvas!  Put on your painting clothes!  We’re going to do some painting!  Today I would like to show you an easy way to format multiple objects in Microsoft Office using the “Format Painter” tool.  You may have noticed a little paint brush icon that sits at the top of most Microsoft Office applications.  This button is called the “Format Painter”.  Below you will see a screenshot from Excel highlighting the button.  So what does this button do, exactly?  First you have to understand the word “format”.  When you format something in Microsoft Office applications, you are basically changing the way something looks.  In the picture below, you will notice that the spreadsheet has column headers.  The first column header says “First Name”.  It is different from the other headers because it has been formatted to have a bold font, background color, and font color.  It took a few steps to get that header to look that way.  So what if you wanted  the “Last Name” column to look exactly the same?  This is where “Format Painter” saves the day.  First, Click the cell that has the formatting you want.  Now click the “Format Painter” button.  Notice the highlighted cell below and how the mouse changes to a white cross with a paint brush icon beside.

Format Painter Button in Microsoft Excel

Now you click the cell that you want to change and presto! change-o!, you have duplicated the formatting from the selected cell.  See the picture below to verify this.  Once you click the cell that you want to change, the mouse will go back to normal.  You can click and drag with the “Format Painter” button activated, and it will continue to work until you release the mouse.  Once the mouse has been released, “Format Painter” disables.

Selecting Cells with Format Painter

What if you wanted to do multiple  non-contiguous cells?  This is possible.  In the example below, you will see that I was able to format cells that were not contiguous.  To achieve this, you double click the “Format Painter” button.  Doing this enables you to keep on painting until your heart’s content.  Once you are ready to stop formatting, all you have to do is hit the “ESC” key in the top left corner of your keyboard.

Selecting Multiple Cells Using Format Painter

Below, you will see an example of how the “Format Painter” button appears in Microsoft Word.  Notice that the first paragraph has blue font and 1.5 line spacing.

Using Format Painter in Word
In order to duplicate the formatting of the first paragraph in the second, you must highlight the entire first paragraph, click the “Format Painter”, and then highlight the second paragraph.  Why do you have to highlight the entire first paragraph?  If you highlighted a single word in the first paragraph, and then applied the “Format Painter’ to the second paragraph, it would only duplicate the word formatting.  The paragraph formatting would not be duplicated.  Highlighting the entire first paragraph duplicates both the word and the paragraph formatting.  See the picture below.

Formatting Paragraphs in Word Using Format Painter

Using “Format Painter” can make quick work of formatting in Microsoft Office.  Plus, there’s no drippy mess!  :)

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Author: Darrin Jenkins Google Profile for Darrin Jenkins
Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!

Darrin Jenkins has written and can be contacted at darrin@techie-buzz.com.
  • http://www.vijayforvictory.com Vijay

    Nice tip.

    I have been using this so often.

    You can copy the format using Ctrl+Shift+C and you can paste the format to other cells/text using Ctrl+Shift+V.

    This saves lots of time while formatting documents.

    • http://saygeek.blogspot.com/ Darrin Jenkins

      Vijay thanks for the keyboard tip. That is a great tip! Thanks for reading!

  • Danielle

    I totally used this today – thanks for the info!

  • anonomous

    what if I place the courser in between the word in any line and click format painter tool and pasting for other line.

 
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