Stop Spending Time Formatting Word, Excel, and PowerPoint

30.11.18 10:15 PM Comment(s) By Bob Sullivan

Don't you hate it when you copy something into Word or Excel and it messes up the format? After that happens, most people spend a ton of time going into the format to try to make it match the rest of the file. What if I told you there was an easier way to make sure that all the formats match?

The Format Painter

There is a function available across all the Microsoft products call the Format Painter. However, many people don't know about since it's hidden in plain sight on the ribbon. This is because it's actually located where the cut/copy/paste options are, even though it serves a totally different purpose.

How does it work?

The Format Painter is easy to use and extremely powerful. All you have to do is:

  1. Select the text from which you want to copy the format.
  2. Click the little paintbrush in the Home ribbon.
  3. Select the text you want to apply the format to.
  4. Vualá!

Tips and Tricks

I first learned about this handy tool in college. An engineering friend was working in Excel and said "let me use my little paintbrush to fix that issue." Since then, this is a tool I use almost every day. Here are some tips and tricks, as sometimes the tool does not work like you would expect.

Microsoft Excel

  • It's best to highlight the cell itself to copy, rather than the text in the formula bar. Highlighting the formula bar doesn't always work.
  • It's handy to paint a format to an entire column, which you can do by clicking on the column letter itself when pasting.
  • If the data in the cell don't support the format (for example: there is text in the cell and you are painting a date field), Excel will paste all the formatting it can, but then will change the cell type back to General.

Microsoft Word

  • You don't actually need to highlight anything when copying; Excel will use the format from the cursor location.
  • I normally use the painter to keep bullets and lists consistent between sections in the document. Remember, it paints the entire format, including bullets and numbering.

Microsoft PowerPoint

  • Anyone who has used PowerPoint knows that the formatting tools overall are awful, and the format painter is no exception. I have had minimal success actually getting it to work.
  • Good luck!

Now that you know how to use this great little tool, make sure you ask yourself before ever clicking to change the font, size, or other formatting, "Is the format I am looking for already in this document?" If so, use the Format Painter!

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