There is an icon on the toolbar in MS Office applications that is a little gem 🙂

It saves so much time when typing documents, spreadsheets and even presentation slides.  It’s the Format Painter icon.

What does it do?

Basically it does exactly what it says…. it paints (copies) the format of a selected area and applies it to another (hover over the icon and it will give you a description of what it does).

Where do I find it?

In the 2007 versions, you’ll find this icon in the Home section of the ribbon, in the Clipboard tab.

Where to find the Format Painter icon

In 2003 versions, you’ll find the icon on the toolbar.

If you don’t have it on your toolbar, go into View, click Toolbars, and make sure Standard is “ticked”.

Below are some examples of what it does in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.


You have a document which you’ve been adding to on a regular basis – maybe pages of a book or a guide that you’re typing out.  You’ve been pasting quotations or paragraphs from other sources which have different formats to the rest of your document.  If you highlight a section of the paragraph that you want to keep the formatting for, click on Format Painter and you’ll see the mouse cursor has changed slightly – it now has a paintbrush next to it.

Highlight the section of text that you want to change, let go and it will automatically copy the format of the original text that you selected.

If you have multiple sections of text that you want re-formatted, highlight the formatting you want to keep, double-click the Format Painter icon, highlight the first section of text you want to change, then highlight the 2nd section and so on.


The Format Painter will work with cells as well as text, so if you have a cell that is formatted as shaded, bold, currency or whatever type of number formatting you have, by clicking the Format Painter icon and then clicking the cell you want to change, it will automatically re-format that cell to be identical.

For example, you want the two cells containing “normal” numbers to be formatted the same as the “price” cell, so click on cell B4, go to Format Painter, then highlight cells B7 and B8 together, let go of the mouse and it will automatically re-format to be the same.

Again, if you want multiple places within the spreadsheet to be changed, then just double-click the Format Painter icon.


The Format Painter is also a great tool to use in PowerPoint.  If you have a format in a section of a slide that you want duplicating on another section or even a different slide, just do the same as before – select the text box, graph, table or image that you want to keep, click on the Format Painter icon, then select the area where you want the formatting.

Again if you want to select multiple areas, then just double-click on the Format Painter icon.

Personally, I think Format Painter is a tool that is really under-used, which is a shame as its so handy for quick formatting – I hope you find it useful too 🙂