My short cuts: format painter

25 Jul

Today I’m going to introduce you to a lovely quick short cut that can save what can only be described as a lot of faffing around: format painter.

We use format painter to pick up the formatting of some text, copy it, and paste it into some other text, to make the formatting match. I’ll give you a simple example.

How do I copy the formatting of one bit of text into another?

Here we have some text in the format we want, and some text not in that format, which we want to change.

Now the trick is to use a little button you may not have even noticed before. It’s on the Home tab (in Word 2007 and Word 2010; in Word 2003 it’s in the Format menu) in the cut, copy, paste area. Handily, it has its name next to it:

Now, it’s important to get this next bit in the right order! Highlight the text which is formatted in a way you want to copy, in this case the first line of text, and, once it’s highlighted, press the Format Painter button:

It doesn’t matter how much of the original text you pick up, as long as it has the right formatting. Now you will notice that the cursor has changed into a little paintbrush. Annoyingly, this doesn’t show up on a screen print, so you will have to take my word for it. “Paint” with the paintbrush across all of the text you want to change, keeping your left mouse button down, and it will highlight it (but nothing will change … yet):

Now let go of the mouse button and hey presto …

Note: the formatting will change to exactly what you picked up from the original text. So if you have a word in bold in the middle of your text, it will change to whatever the original had.

This is quite a simplistic example, but here’s where it comes in handy:

Say you’re editing a document with a lot of different text styles, header styles, etc. Maybe there’s a table with a variety of fonts. Rather than clicking on the text that you want your text to look like, noting the font, size, etc. then highlighting your text and changing all those features manually, simply highlight, format painter, and paint away!

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2003, Word 2007 and Word 2010, all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents. Find all the short cuts here


Posted by on July 25, 2012 in New skills, Short cuts, Word


Tags: , , , ,

4 responses to “My short cuts: format painter

  1. Ben

    April 3, 2014 at 11:38 am

    The format painter is my favourite tool in Microsoft Office. I remember the first time a colleague showed it to me (about 15 years ago) and I was blown away. I have consistently used it ever since in Word/Excel and occasionally Powerpoint. I have only recently started using Outlook at work but I use it there too.

    I am always astonished how many people do not know of its use/existence and I always try to educate them in how to use it.

    In my opinion it is one of the most productive tools in the whole office suite. Cumulatively it must have saved me hours and hours of additional effort over the years.


    • Liz at Libro

      April 3, 2014 at 11:42 am

      Nice to find another fan. I use it all the time, every day, yet it amazes me that hardly anyone knows it exists!


  2. Ben

    February 18, 2020 at 5:32 pm

    I was using the Format Painter just now an remembered this blog post. I remembered this post and I still had the old link (I must be very organised).

    I was 6 years ago! How time flies. 🙂

    I’ve been using Google docs much more in the last few years. I got made redundant and the new place I work used Google Docs more heavily the MS Word. Fortunately, it also has a format painter. It is not as good as the Word one though. I think there used to be an option where you could double-click the format painter icon and it would operate in a kind-of ‘locked’ mode. Whatever one selected would change format to the selected one. This would happen until the painter icon was unlocked.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz Dexter

      February 19, 2020 at 8:11 am

      Oh, that’s great, glad I could still help! And thanks for the data points about Google Docs, very useful.



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