Word: Run Format Painter with the keyboard

January 21, 2009

One of Word’s handy tools is Format Painter, which looks like this Format Painter toolbar icon in the Word 2003 toolbar and in Word 2007’s Clipboard group on the Home tab. It’s a tool I use often, but sometimes it’s a nuisance to continually click in the text that has the formatting I want to copy, move the pointer to the top of the window to click the icon, then move it back down to click in some other text to apply the same formatting, repeat…

So it was with delight that I read that there’s a keyboard shortcut for Format Painter that works the same in both Word 2003 and Word 2007:

  1. Click in the text with the formatting you want to apply.
  2. Press Ctrl+Shift+C to copy the formatting (make sure you include the Shift as Ctrl+C only copies the text).
  3. Click in the text to which you want to apply the formatting.
  4. Press Crtl+Shift+V. You can press this key combination as many times as you like while the document is open — it retains the copied formatting until you do step 2 again.

(I found out about this gem on the Microsoft Office Word Team’s Blog.)


  1. Hi Rhonda, did you know you can also double-click on the format painter to keep a particular format in the clip board so that you can paste multiple times?

  2. Yep. The issue I was having was where I had a paragraph formatting just so and wanted to quickly copy that formatting and apply it to another paragraph WITHOUT going back up to the toolbar each time. I use swivel monitors set in portrait orientation, and sometimes the distance from the bottom of the document to the toolbar involves too much mousing!

  3. Natalie and Rhonda,


    I use formate painter frequently but could never figure out how to get it to “stay on” (thank-you Natalie) nor what the keyboard shortcut to it was (thank-you Rhonda).

    You saved me a ton of time!

  4. Ditto.

    Thanks so much…. These two tips will save me an incredible amount of time!!

  5. […] Run Format Painter with the keyboard: Ctrl+Shift+C (copy formatting), Ctrl+Shift+V (paste formatting) […]

  6. Ctrl+Shift+C (copy formatting), Ctrl+Shift+V (paste formatting) is not working in Excel 2007.

    Any other suggestions please?

  7. Hi Arvind

    My instructions were for Word, and quite a lot of Word things don’t apply across other Office applications.

    I just checked in Excel 2010, and it doesn’t work there either. However, the Format Painter icon works fine (on the Home tab > Clipboard group).

    1. Click in the cell you want copy the formatting from.
    2. Double-click the Format Painter icon to ‘hold’ the formatting so you can ‘paste’ it to other cells. (A single click on that icon will only paste the formatting once.)
    3. Click in the cells you want to paste the formatting to.
    4. When you’re finished, click the icon again to turn it off.

    I also noticed that in Excel 2010 (and presumably earlier versions), you can’t apply your own keyboard commands or even view the existing keyboard commands as you can in Word. There’s no ‘Customize’ option for Keyboard Shortcuts on the ‘Customize ribbon’ or ‘Quick access toolbar’ settings in the Options. That was a surprise!


  8. […] would have similar functionality. Not so. I was alerted to this lack because of a comment on one of my blog posts — Ctrl+Shift+C activates the Format Painter in Word, but doesn’t do so in Excel, even […]

  9. None of all suggestions work in my Excel 2010 (with all updates and patches). Still searching for a solution…

  10. OH! Thank you! I was always frustrated with how Format Painting seeminly relied entirely on the mouse. This saves me a load of grief.

  11. Thank you!!! :-)

  12. There is a shortcut for this, it’s not well known: ctrl-alt-@

  13. Thanks Dave, but that didn’t work for me in Word 2010 or Excel 2010 — all that happened in Word was that the Heading 2 style got applied to the text, not the formatting just applied to the previous text, and nothing happened in Excel.


  14. Thanks for that great shortcut for format painter. I teach a computer class and I can’t wait to share that with my students.

  15. Thanks a million! A really helpful tip!

  16. I’ll echo everyone else: THANK YOU! :D

    Works great in Outlook as well.

  17. what do you do when you double click the paint brush tool, then go to scroll to the new spot you’d like to apply the formatting, and the paintbrush un-clicks itself…. this happens on occasion in word 2007. as soon as a scroll the icon un-highlights!

  18. Hi Rachel

    I can’t help you on that as I never use the Paintbrush tool. If you use the Ctrl+Shift+ Ctrl+Shift+V method above, you won’t run into this issue and the copied formatting stays in ‘memory’ ready to be used until you do another Ctrl+Shift+C.


  19. In Word 2010 a faster shortcut for Format Painting is:
    1. Copy some text with the wanted format by ctrl+c
    2. Select the text that you want to re-format
    3. Paste the copied format by ctrl+shift+v
    Word remembers what you have copied, so you can repeat step 2 and 3 as many times you like!

  20. Hi Nils

    Ctrl+C then Ctrl+Shift+V doesn’t work for me in Word 2010. Only Ctrl+Shift+C and then Ctrl+Shift+V works, as per my original instructions.


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