Copy formatting using Format Painter

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Whenever I conduct a training course in any of the Microsoft products, I always touch on the Clipboard group of tools. These include the Cut, Copy and Paste functions and almost all users have some type of experience using these tools. What many users have not utilised is the fourth little icon in this group called Format Painter.

Copy formatting using Format Painter

Format Painter is a quick and easy way to copy the formatting from one location to another. I use this on a very regular basis and it replaces the need to format different pieces of text multiple times. I am often asked “why don’t you just create a style?” and whilst that is certainly an option, you may not want a style created for every single set of formatting which can be used within a document.

The format painter will copy the font style, size, font colour, and other characteristics of the text you select but will not copy the actual text so if you like the look/feel of some text in a document, you can easily replicate it using this function. This feature comes in very handy where a document has been created by another user; instead of going through and working out how they have achieved a certain look, just use Format Painter to copy it within the same document or even across to a new document.

In this example I use Format Painter within Microsoft Word, however, the process is the same in Excel and PowerPoint. You can even use Format Painter when creating email messages in Outlook.

To use Format Painter, follow these steps:

  1. Open Microsoft Word
  2. Either type in some sample text or open an existing document which you would like to experiment with, use Ctrl + F12 to launch the Open dialog box
  3. I’ve typed in a list of my favourite features in Word

Copy formatting using Format Painter

  1. Now I will apply formatting to the first heading (Styles) including font style, size, colour, bold, underline and centre the text on the page

Copy formatting using Format Painter

  1. Now apply a second set of formatting to the second heading (Tables) however use different properties and leave the text left aligned

Copy formatting using Format Painter

  1. Now we will copy the formatting from the first two headings and apply them to the remaining headings
  2. Highlight the first heading (Styles)
  3. Click the Format Painter icon from the Home tab

  1. You will notice your mouse cursor will now have a paintbrush icon next to it and the Format Painter button has turned a different colour on the ribbon (colour depends on which colour scheme you are using). The button changing colour identifies that the function is active.

Copy formatting using Format Painter

  1. Be careful where you click next on your document, this is not the best time to get “trigger happy” with the mouse! Wherever you click next will determine where the formatting you’ve just copied will be applied to
  2. Highlight the third heading (Breaks) and release the mouse button
  3. The heading will now be formatted the same as the first heading and the button on the Ribbon will return to its original colour to show the function is no longer active
  4. Repeat this process and copy the formatting from heading 2 (Tables) to heading 4 (Quick Parts)

Copy formatting using Format Painter

  1. Repeat the process again to format the final heading(s) in whichever style you prefer
  2. Now let’s take this feature to the next level…
  3. You can “lock” the format painter feature on so that you can continue to apply the same formatting to more than one heading/sentence/paragraph at a time
  4. Use the Undo (Ctrl + Z) feature to undo the formatting of the headings except for where you have formatted heading 1
  5. Now select the first heading and click the Format Painter button however use a double click this time
  6. The Format Painter button has again changed colour along with the paintbrush appearing next to your cursor, however this time it will remain active even after you have applied the formatting to the first piece of text. The feature is now “locked” on so you can continually apply the chosen formatting to multiple locations within the document, again you need to be careful with the mouse so that you avoid accidentally formatting content which you didn’t intend to
  7. Format all five headings, one at a time, until all are formatted the same
  8. To turn off the Format Painter feature either press Esc on the keyboard or click the Format Painter button once more to turn it off
  9. The button should return to its normal appearance

I hope you have enjoyed this post on using the Format Painter feature to copy formatting within your document. Remember that you are not limited to open copying formatting within the one file, you can apply the formatting to any program or document you wish. If you enjoyed this article, you may also find the following useful: How to resize an image correctly in WordCreate a PDF file using Microsoft OfficeCustomise the Quick Access Toolbar, or The Office Clipboard – a hidden treasure.

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