The beauty of using an office suite is that commands, terminology, and techniques that you learn in one program often apply to other programs in the suite. So it is with Microsoft Office — learn to do something in Word and you’ll probably be able to do it in Excel, PowerPoint, and Access with little or no learning curve. In this article you will discover the Format Painter, a tool that lets you copy formatting in one part of a document into another, no matter how complex.
Office documents may be formatted in a variety of ways. You can select some text and change their font, size, color, and so on. In Word, you may create and/or use a style and then apply that style whenever you want. If you are working with tables in Word or Excel, you can select an AutoFormat and choose from a variety of attractive settings. PowerPoint lets you pick design templates complete with color schemes, backgrounds, and more. No matter which program or technique you use, however, a time will come when you just want text or paragraphs to use the same format in one part of the document as you have in another part of the document. And that’s where the Format Painter becomes indispensable.
The Format Painter in Word 2002
The Format Painter icon is found on the Standard toolbar looking like a big paintbrush. If you click it, nothing happens. Instead, Microsoft Word determines and remembers the formatting in effect wherever the insertion point is located. When you select text in another part of the document, that formatting is duplicated. In Figure 1, the insertion point is in the word Primo. The format of the word is unlike the surrounding text — the font, size, attributes, and color are different. The same word appears in the next paragraph, but its formatting is the same as the rest of the text.
Figure 1: Unusually formatted word in the first paragraph
To copy the format of the word to its second occurrence, just click the Format Painter icon, and click on the word Primo in the second paragraph. Voila! Your second word has the same format as the first, as in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Second occurrence of the word has the same format
To copy formatting to more than one word, select the words after clicking the Format Painter icon. To copy paragraph formatting, select the paragraph whose format you want to duplicate first. (Paragraph formatting includes line spacing, tab settings, indentation, bullets, numbering, and alignment.) Click the Format Painter, then click in the paragraph and all paragraph formats are copied. Drag to select several paragraphs to format more than one.
The Format Painter in Excel 2002
Excel lets you use the Format Painter as well. Click the cell containing the formatting you want to use, click the Format Painter icon, and click one cell or drag a range of cells to duplicate the formatting. Cell formatting, in this case, includes character attributes, number formats, alignment, borders, patterns, and protection.
What if you want to copy formatting to several cells that are not connected? You could use the Format Painter over and over again until all of the cells are formatted. What makes the procedure so time consuming is that the Format Painter turns itself off after you release the mouse button. But if you double-click the Format Painter icon it stays on. Then you can click any cells or ranges you want until you have copied all of the formatting you need. To turn the Format Painter off, click the icon once more or press the Escape key. Figure 3 shows several unconnected cells whose formatting has been changed using the above technique. Note how the Format Painter icon is boxed and highlighted on the toolbar.
Figure 3: Multiple cells reformatted by leaving the Format Painter icon on
By the way, this technique for leaving the Format Painter on works in all Office programs, not just Excel.
The Format Painter in PowerPoint 2002
It’s not just text or numbers whose formatting you can copy. Graphical objects such as pictures, WordArt, and shapes have formatting characteristics as well. For example, a picture in a PowerPoint slide may have a black border and a blue fill, as the clip art of the football helmet in Figure 4.
Figure 4: Left clip art formatted with border and fill
The picture of the race car, however, has no border or fill. Click the football helmet, click the Format Painter icon, and then click the race car. Now both pictures have the same formatting, as in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Both pictures formatted with border and fill
All Office programs can use the Format Painter in this way. You can “format paint” Excel charts, AutoShapes in Word, and so on.
The Format Painter in Access 2002
Generally, you format in Access only when you create reports or forms. So it should come as no surprise that the Format Painter icon appears on the Formatting (Form/Report) toolbar. Figure 6 illustrates the Format Painter icon on the toolbar while in the Design view of a form.
Figure 6: Format Painter icon on Access toolbar
To utilize the Format Painter in a form or report design, change the characteristics for the control you want to serve as the model for other controls. With the model control selected, you can click the icon as before, or use the shortcut keys. Ctrl + Shift + C is the shortcut key for clicking the icon and Ctrl + Shift + V is the shortcut key for duplicating the format. The shortcuts are easy to recall if you are used to using Ctrl + C to copy and Ctrl + V to paste — just add the “Shift” and you are copying and pasting formatting instead.
Something New in Word 2002
The first step in using the Format Painter is to move to the text or object whose format you want to copy. Microsoft Word 2002 has a new method for reapplying formats from your document — the Styles and Formatting option of the task pane. By default, the New Document option of the task pane appears when you start Word. (If it doesn’t appear, click View, Task Pane.) To switch the task pane, click the drop-down arrow beside the task pane name, and then click Styles and Formatting. Figure 7 shows the Styles and Formatting task pane in a document with a lot of formatting.
Figure 7: The Styles and Formatting task pane
At the top of the task pane is a box that shows the format in effect at the insertion point. If the format is a style, point to the format in the list and the attributes of the style appear. (Paragraph styles include a paragraph mark [¶] to their right.) To use one of the formats in the list, click or select the text to be changed and then click the format — it’s that easy.
Although you can use this task pane to modify styles as well, we’ll leave that for another article. A feature of Styles and Formatting that should be mentioned is its ability to select and reformat existing text. Let’s say you have changed the font, size, color, and other attributes of a word or phrase you have used repeatedly throughout a document. Now you decide that you want to choose a different font and color but leave the rest of the formatting as is. Just follow these steps:
- Click on any occurrence of the text you want to change. The formatting in effect is boxed in the task pane.
- Point to the boxed format and click the drop-down arrow that appears.
- Click the Select All x Instances. Every place that uses that format is highlighted.
- Change the formatting using any method you wish. All of the occurrences change instantaneously!