NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, November 2010
You Know 'Copy and Paste' --
Meet their Cousin, Format Painter

By Nancy DeMarte – Sarasota PC Users Group
alert@ieee.org (click to email author)

When you begin to use the programs that are part of Microsoft Office, it is easy to overlook some of the tools which could make your life easier. I found that to be the case with Format Painter, a command which appears in several versions of Office programs, yet is greatly underused. Once you know what it can do and how easy it is to use, you will wonder why you never got to know it before.

In Word 2007, Format Painter is located on the Home tab in the Clipboard group. In Word 2003, it’s on the Standard toolbar. It provides a quick way to copy formats from one place to another in the Office programs: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, even Access. It doesn’t change any content like its cousins, Cut, Copy, and Paste, but it can reproduce even the most complex formats in seconds.

For example, let’s say you have created a long document with headings and sub-headings. You want to give it a little pizzazz by changing the sub-headings to a different font, font color, and size from the rest of the document. All you have to do is make your format changes manually to the first sub-heading and use Format Painter to replicate those changes on all the others.

Another instance where Format Painter is a lifesaver is when you are creating a document or outline where certain lines are indented. Occasionally, you will find that the amount of indentation becomes inconsistent as you work your way through the document. Rather than dragging the indentation marks on the ruler to the correct positions, you can use Format Painter to copy the exact indentation from the last correct area to any others that need to be fixed.

This tool works with text formats, like fonts, italics, and font colors. It also works with paragraph formatting, such as indents, alignment, bulleting, and line spacing. And it is available in all the popular Office Programs. When creating a custom PowerPoint presentation, for example, Format Painter can help overcome the challenge of keeping your custom headings formatted the same on all slides. Excel users can copy formatting from one cell to another with Format, which is Excel’s name for Format Painter.

It also works with certain graphics in some Office programs. In Word, you might want to include an auto shape like a large arrow on the cover of a brochure for emphasis. You might have resized it, added a border, and filled it with a custom color. Format Painter can reproduce that format on another arrow on the back page with very few clicks.

Here’s how it works. It is best if you follow the advice from the professionals and type the entire document before formatting it. Then, once you get an item – word, phrase, or paragraph -- manually formatted the way you want it, select it. Then click the Format Painter icon once, which turns the cursor into a paint brush. Scroll to the item you want to change and select it. Immediately it changes to match the format of the original item. If you have more than one item you want to change, double click the Format Painter and use it on as many items as you need to. It will remain active until you click its icon to turn it off.

Some quick tricks:
* If you want to copy text formatting, select a portion of a paragraph. If you want to copy paragraph formatting, select the whole paragraph plus the paragraph mark.
* Make a mistake? Use Undo.
* Want all formatting done for you? In Word, choose one of the Templates (or Themes in Word 2007).

Format Painter is only one of several commands that even beginners can learn to use to save time and frustration when using Office programs. Other tools will be featured in future articles.

Click here to return to top