Office 2003 - Using the Format Painter


The Format Painter is a great way to copy formatting from one item (text, tables, headings, etc) to others.  It can be found in all Microsoft Office 2003 applications, including Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, FrontPage and Access.   

Using the Format Painter

To copy a format:
1.  Select the item or text that has the format you want to use elsewhere. (See Types of Formats| below regarding various types of formats and how to select each type.) 
2.   Double click the paint brush (Format Painter) icon paintbrush20iconto copy the format of the selected text, table, heading or other selected material.

3.   Notice that as you move your mouse pointer back onto the screen, a paintbrush follows the pointer.

4.   As soon as you select text, its format will be changed.

5.   When you have applied the format everywhere needed, click the icon again to turn it off.   

Types of Formats

The format painter can be used to copy any of the principle types of formatting, as listed below.  In order to copy these formats using the Format Painter, it is imperative that the user knows how to select the relevant element, as described below.

  • Font Formats (all Microsoft applications): These are formats relevant to individual characters, such as bold, italic, font, font size and underline style.  To copy a font format, click and drag across a character or word which has the format you desire. 
  • Paragraph Formats (all Microsoft applications except Excel): These include all formats applicable to entire paragraphs, such as indentation, line spacing, alignment, shading, borders, bullet points and numbering.  To copy a paragraph format, select the entire paragraph, including the space(s) following the final character.  Note: if all characters in the paragraph share a single font format, this font format also will be copied.
  • Table Formats (all Microsoft applications except Excel): These incorporate all aspects of formatting applicable to a table as a whole, such as alignment of the table within the margins of a page, table width, margins between rows & columns and border style.  To copy the format of an entire table, move the mouse pointer over the table without clicking.  The icon will appear at the upper left corner of the table as shown below; click on this icon to select the entire table. Note: if all data and labels in the table share a single font format, this font format also will be copied.


  • Cell Formats: These comprise all types of formatting relevant to one or more entire cells, such as shading and border style.  To select the contents of an entire cell, move the mouse pointer onto the lower left corner of the cell so that the pointer takes the shape of a small black arrow pointing to the upper right corner of the cell, and then click.  The entire cell will be selected, as in the example below.