Use The Format Painter Quickly

Q. When I’m creating an Excel spreadsheet for a special project, I generally do a lot of custom formatting—boldface, italics, indents—for different parts of the file. It’s a slow and tedious job. The Format Painter in the toolbar is helpful, but after a while it, too, gets to feel a bit clunky. Any suggestions for a shortcut?

A. Before I suggest a shortcut, let’s review the use of the Format Painter.

To copy a format from one part of a document to another (it works in both Excel and Word, by the way), highlight the cell or cells that have the format you want to copy, click on the Format Painter and then, with the cursor, swipe the text you want formatted. As you see, using Format Painter takes at least three separate actions: highlighting, clicking on the icon and then swiping.

Now for the shortcut, which is especially handy if you have to apply the same formatting or style to many different cells or text. After highlighting the format or style you want, move your cursor to the text or cell to be formatted, highlight it and press Ctrl+Y. But be careful, Ctrl+Y repeats the last action, so if you’ve performed some other action (even deleting or adding a word), it will repeat that. Pressing F4 will achieve the same result.

A related tip: If you don’t remember what your last action was, click on Edit in the toolbar and it will show what you did. For example, if you boldfaced some text, when you click on Edit , the menu will display “Undue Bold Ctrl+Z.”

Q. I usually work with as many as seven different Excel workbooks at one time. Opening them all is a chore because I have to repeat the process for each file: I click on File, Open, locate the correct folder, click on the first file, wait for it to open and then go through the whole process again. There has to be an easier way. Help!

A. Before I give you the shortcut for opening multiple files, you should know there is an easier way to open any file. Instead of clicking on File, Open, press Ctrl+O. That takes you directly to your default folder. Incidentally, to set a default folder, click on Tools, Options, General, and in the box labeled Default File Location, type in the name of the folder (subdirectory) you want Excel to default to (see screen shot below).

Now, back to the shortcut. After getting to the Open screen, don’t just click on the first file you want; instead, hold down the Shift key and click on each file in the order you want it to open. If you accidentally click on a file you don’t want, to make the highlighting disappear, either click on it again or hold down the Ctrl key and click on that file again. After making your selections, click Open and each file will open automatically in the order you initially highlighted them.

Select the default folder you want for your Excel folder.

Q. I have a solo practice, and I work at home with one phone line and call waiting. On occasion, when I’m getting information off the Internet or sending or receiving e-mail, an incoming call will interrupt the modem, wiping out my e-mail connection or my Internet download. If I turn off call waiting, I miss a call. I guess I can buy a second phone line, but since I don’t really need it, except when I’m surfing or e-mailing, it seems like a waste. Is there anything else I can do?

A. A second phone line is the most obvious solution, but if you’re adamant about sticking with one line, there is an option with a one-time charge of about $100. Actiontec Electronics ( ) recently introduced a 56K modem, Call Waiting, that can solve your problem. When you’re online and a phone call comes in, the modem puts the Internet call on hold, giving you a few seconds to chat with the caller and decide whether to continue the conversation—and suspend the online session—or hang up and call back.

Q. The Bookmark feature in Word is handy if you want to find many different places in a long report. But if you’re scanning the report and you just want to get back to the last place you were editing, it’s sort of overkill because you’re forced to go through a bunch of keystrokes just to get there. Is there a faster, easier way?

A. Yes, there is. It’s not a well-known feature, but it’s really handy. Let’s just briefly review Bookmark first. Bookmark should be in your toolbar. If it’s not, you can customize your toolbar to include it. To do that, click on Tools, Customize, Commands, Insert, and under the Commands column move down the menu to Bookmark and drag it to your toolbar.

Now, once it’s there, click on it, and the Bookmark screen (see screen shot below) will appear. It’s quite intuitive. Be aware that you can add many bookmarks to the file. They appear as the large letter “I” in the text. If you want to hide them in the text, go to Tools, Options, Views and uncheck the Bookmark box.

But if all you want to do is “bookmark” the last text you edited in a file, press Shift+F5, and it’ll take you there instantly.

Bookmark makes it easy to get to any place in a document.

Q. There are times I’d like to have two separate pages of a document on a screen at the same time. I can open the document twice and then go back and forth, but that’s a crude solution. Is there a better way to do it?

A. There is. A simple keyboard sequence can split the screen—providing two screen views of the same document, and the text of each view can be moved independently. In other words, if you want to view two different parts of the same file at once—one at the bottom of the screen and one at the top—press Alt+Ctrl S (see the screen shot below). You can move the dividing line between the two screens up or down with the mouse; when you release the mouse button, the dividing line will become stationary. To abort the dual screen, just repeat Alt+Ctrl S.

Two independent views of the same document can appear on the screen at one time.

Q. I’m a Microsoft Word user who hates using the mouse. Among other things, it slows me down. To use it, I have to take one hand off the keyboard. Aren’t there keyboard shortcuts to replace all those awkward, time-wasting mouse clicks?

A. Yes, indeed. Keyboard shortcuts are a lot faster than repeated mouse clicking—especially when you want to format text in Word. The box below contains some of the most popular keyboard shortcuts. Memorize the ones you use most frequently.

Press To
Ctrl+M Indent a paragraph
Ctrl+SHIFT+M Remove a paragraph indent
Ctrl+T Create a hanging indent
Ctrl+SHIFT+T Eliminate a hanging indent
Ctrl+Q Remove paragraph formatting
Ctrl+Shift+S Apply a style
Alt+Ctrl+K Start AutoFormat
Ctrl+Shift+N Apply Normal style
Alt+Ctrl+1 Apply Heading 1 style
Ctrl+Shift+F Change font
Ctrl+Shift+P Change font size
Ctrl+Shift+> Increase font size
Ctrl+Shift+< Decrease font size
Ctrl+] Increase font size by 1 point
Ctrl+[ Decrease font size by 1 point
Shift+F3 Change case of letters
Ctrl+Shift+A Format letters as all capitals
Ctrl+B Apply bold formatting.
Ctrl+U Apply an underline
Ctrl+Shift+W Underline words but not spaces
Ctrl+Shift+D Double-underline text
Ctrl+Shift+H Apply hidden text formatting
Ctrl+I Apply italic formatting
Ctrl+1 Single-space lines
Ctrl+2 Double-space lines
Ctrl+5 Set 1.5-line space
Ctrl+E Center a paragraph
Ctrl+J Justify a paragraph
Ctrl+L Left align a paragraph
Ctrl+R Right align a paragraph
Ctrl+Y Copy last format created


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