Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Automatically Copying Formatting.

Automatically Copying Formatting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 2, 2021)

One of the foundational features of Excel is to allow one cell to be equal to another cell. For instance, you could use the simplest of formulas in a cell:

=C7

This copies the contents from cell C7 to the current cell, and updates whenever the contents of cell C7 change. What if you are not just interested in copying cell values, but also want to copy formatting from one cell to another?

Unfortunately, there is no intrinsic way to do this in Excel. There are two workarounds you can try, however. First, you can create a macro that will find out whenever cell C7 changes, and if it does, the macro copies the contents of the cell (including formatting) to the target cell. For instance, the following event handler will run every time there are changes in the worksheet. (Provided, of course, that you place it in the VBA module for the worksheet—just right-click on the worksheet's tab, choose View Code, and add the macro there.) When the change is in cell C7, then the contents of C7 are copied to cell E3 on Sheet1.

Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Range)
    If Not Intersect(Target, Range("C7")) Is Nothing Then
        Range("C7").Copy (Worksheets("Sheet1").Range("E3"))
    End If
End Sub

There are some downsides to this approach. First, it can be slow, particularly if you have quite a few cells that you want to copy in this manner. In addition, the macro only runs if the contents of cell C7 are actually changed, not if the formatting alone of C7 is changed. (There is no way to trigger an automatic event whenever formatting is changed.)

An alternative to the macro approach is to use the Camera tool in Excel. This has been covered in other issues of ExcelTips, but essentially the camera is a way to copy a dynamic image of a range of cells from one place to another. It is the image of the source cells that is shown, and it is shown as a graphic, not as the contents of any target cells. Since the graphic is dynamic, whenever the source cells are changed (including formatting), the image is also updated to reflect the change.

To use the Camera tool, you must customize the Quick Access Toolbar so that the tool is available; it is not available by default. When you are doing your customizing, the Camera tool is easiest to find if you choose to display all commands. The Camera tool has a small camera icon next to it.

With the Camera tool in place, follow these steps to use it:

  1. Select the cells or range of which you want a picture taken.
  2. Click on the Camera tool. The mouse pointer changes to a large plus sign.
  3. Change to a different worksheet.
  4. Click where you want the top left-hand corner of the picture to appear. The picture is inserted as a graphic on the worksheet.

Finally, you could also use conditional formatting on the cells. For instance, if you use conditional formatting to format cell C7 and you place the formula =C7 into cell T45, then you could apply the same conditional format to cell T45 that you used with cell C7. That way, whenever the value in T45 changes (which it will do if the value in C7 changes), then the formatting in T45 changes to match the formatting in cell C7. The only downside to this is that if you change the conditional formatting in one of the cells, you'll need to remember to change it in the other.

Note:

If you would like to know how to use the macros described on this page (or on any other page on the ExcelTips sites), I've prepared a special page that includes helpful information. Click here to open that special page in a new browser tab.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8450) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Automatically Copying Formatting.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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