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Quickly apply multiple formats in a Word document

Applying multiple formats throughout a document can be a tedious task. Bust the task with this easy-to-use keyboard shortcut.

I tend to think of styles in terms of entire documents, or even sections or paragraphs. Applying formats to individual words or phrases is often easier accomplished manually, usually as an afterthought, but only if you're applying the formats just once.

Repeating the manual process is inefficient. Fortunately, there’s a shortcut -- the Ctrl + Y keystroke combination. This shortcut remembers the last set of formats applied. By set, I mean multiple formats applied to a selection. There are two limitations with this shortcut:

  • The shortcut remembers only the last set of formats applied. That means you'll want to apply the set to every occurrence in the document, before starting a new formatting task.
  • You must apply the first set of formats using the Format dialog box. If you use icons on the Formatting toolbar, Word remembers only the last icon clicked. It can’t remember a set of formats applied via the toolbar icons.

To use the Ctrl + Y shortcut to quickly apply multiple formats, do the following:

  1. Select the first word or phrase.
  2. Choose Font from the Format menu.
  3. In the Font dialog box, select the appropriate formats.
  4. Click OK to close the dialog box and return to the document, where Word will have applied the specific formats to the previously selected text (step 1).
  5. Highlight the next word or phrase that you want to format and press  Ctrl + Y to apply the same formats chosen previously (step 3).
  6. Repeat step 5 until you're done applying that particular set of formats.

This shortcut is most useful when you’re in a position to apply multiple formats to an entire document -- usually after you’ve created the document and you’re reviewing it.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

10 comments
mark
mark

It's repeat the last command. Not all command, mind you, but it is simple, and effective.

AtCollege
AtCollege

Another fast way to apply the same formats to several areas of text that are not touching is to use the feature that allows you to select non-touching text. 1. Select the first area of text 2. Hold down the Control key and drag across the next batch of text. 3. Continue with step 2 until you have selected all the text you want to change. 4. Apply the formats using any method you like. 5. All the selected text will look the same.

tgolodik
tgolodik

Multiple formats works fine when Word provides the formatting option in the Format dialog box. I'm working on a document that has a portion of the text within a paragraph that needs to be reformatted in a different color and type and in upper and lower case rather than all caps. The only way to change the formatting for all caps to u/l case that I can see is an icon on the Home tab. Am I missing something, or is there a way to make this change from the Format box so I can do all of the changes at once?

lspringle
lspringle

Caveat: technically, Ctrl+Y is "Redo," the counterpart to Undo. So if the context isn't as outlined above, you may end up redoing the last thing you undid.

AdaptiveDervish
AdaptiveDervish

As mentioned in the article it will only work with formats applied "in one go" so clicking multiple formatting icons will result in only the last click being reapplied. But if you do all your clicks then use Format Painter, then use CTRL Y on another selection it will "repaint" all the formats. Hope this helps.

AtCollege
AtCollege

I don't like to change case using the Format dialog box and selecting All Caps because no matter if you type all lower case or mixed case, the text ends up as All Caps. So when I want to quickly change the capitalization of a word or several I use a handy keyboard shortcut that has been around for a long time. Shift + F3 This keyboard combo cycles through all upper case, all lower case, and sentence case. And I can remember the shortcut because I know I press SHIFT to get a capital letter and F3 because this shortcut cycles through 3 types of capitalization. If you want to use title case in Word 2007, on the Home ribbon in the Font group, look for the Aa button arrow and choose capitalize each word.

jean.gerrekens
jean.gerrekens

Even easier and independent on how and when the initial formatting was applied: copy and paste formats. Select the text section with all formatting applied, presst shift-ctrl-C; then, select text on which format should be applied and press shift-ctrl-V.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Format Painter takes them all. [Ctrl]+Y applies only those last applied -- most of the time, they'll be the same thing, sometimes they won't, so [Ctrl]+Y offers a great solution for those occasions when they're not the same.

Retired007Geek
Retired007Geek

If you lock the format painter (double click) then you can apply those formats by just clicking and dragging over any areas of the document where you want those format options. Remember to click the format painter again (or use the Esc key) to unlock it when you are done. No Ctrl+Y needed!

Tink!
Tink!

I use Format Painter all the time. Ctrl-Y I use mainly when I need to undo an Undo (Ctrl-Z). [i]or is that redo?[/i] LOL

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