by Cheri Lasota

Format Painter is a time-saving tool I only recently discovered while working with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. This handy button allows you to copy the formatting from one place to another. In Microsoft Excel, you can copy formulas, fonts, you name it. Microsoft Word works the same way. It works like copying and pasting; the difference is that it doesn’t change your actual numbers and text, it simply copies the formatting of the section you highlight.

If you do not have the Format Painter button in your toolbar, first go to View, Toolbars, and click on Customize down at the bottom of the list. This opens the “Customize” dialogue box. Under “Categories” click on Format and you’ll find the Format Painter tool located in the “Commands” list. Simply drag this icon somewhere IN THE MIDDLE of your toolbar and then let go.

For those who already have the Format Painter button in their toolbars, here’s how you use it: select a portion of your manuscript with the correct formatting. Hit the Format Painter button and then highlight the selection you want to change, and presto! Instant formatting without all the endless highlighting and menu searching.

You can also copy formatting for more than one item. In such a case, simply highlight the selection, double-click the Format Painter button, and then click on each item you want to format. When done, hit your Escape (ESC) button to exit Format Painter.

You might wonder, Where would I use this tool? If I had known about this tool when I first created my novel’s Table of Contents (TOC), it would have been incredibly helpful. I had originally typed all my chapter headings as body text, but in order to hyperlink my TOC I needed to change all my chapter headings to the “Heading 1” style. This was a tedious business, but Format Painter could have helped me change all of my headings in a matter of minutes. Ah well, there’s always my second novel . . .