How to reset formatting

Everyone needs to reset formatting every once in a while.

But do you know all the available methods?

I was myself surprised when I started writing this article!

reset formatting by Dr. Nitin Paranjape

Estimated reading time 8 min

The need

It is obvious. Things have unwanted formatting and we want to get it to its original state. Things can be many things like : text, images, shapes, video, cells, pivot tables, charts and so on. I will try to make a comprehensive list here – across products.

Text: Paragraph formatting and Character formatting

One important distinction is that some formatting is applied at paragraph level where as some formatting is specific to characters. Usually any emphasis type of formatting (bold, italic, underline) is character level.

Resetting formatting also works at paragraph level or character level. Remember this much for now.

Ctrl Spacebar

This is a general purpose key for removing formatting across the selection.

For Word – Ctrl Q is used to remove paragraph formatting only. Ctrl Spacebar removes both paragraph and character formatting.

Another option is to apply Normal style in Word – Shift CTRL N. It does not remove character formatting.

(DO NOT use Shift CTRL N in PowerPoint – it opens a new window!)

Clear All Formatting button

Word and PowerPoint also have the Clear All Formatting button. Excel does not have it.

Clear all formatting

Copy Paste options

You may want to match to local formatting or paste as unformatted text during copy pasting. After pasting the small icon appears (it is called a Smart Tag). This has multiple options – Keep Source formatting, match destination formatting and unformatted text.

Notice that there are shortcuts for these options.

Copy paste - paste as text only

The default paste format can be changed for various types of copy paste operations.
File – Options – Advanced (scroll down). You can also choose the Set Default Paste… option in Word.

Reset picture and / or its size

This resets the formatting applied. But it does NOT reset the scale or cropping. For resetting size as well, there is another option in the drop down menu.


Resetting SmartArt

Ideally you should not select individual items in a SmartArt diagram to modify its formatting. In case you have disturbed the formatting and want to bring it back to original, choose Reset Graphic option in the Design menu.

Reset graphic

Excel has regular formatting and number formatting

To remove number formatting, change the format to General. Removing number formatting does not affect rest of the (visual) formatting.

CTRL SPACEBAR does not work in EXCEL – it selects the whole column!

DO NOT make changes to the formatting too many times manually. Excel has a quota of unique formatting settings. If you manually make 40 cells bold – one by one, 40 items from the quota are gone. Instead if you do the same action by selecting all 40 cells in one stroke, only one item is reduced from formatting quota.

This is technically feasible but practically useless – why? Because you make those cells bold at different points in time – whenever you notice something abnormal, for example.

Often the entire formatting quota gets consumed and then Excel will not allow any formatting changes. Frustrating.

So what is the solution? Use Excel styles. Yes. Like Word, Excel also has styles. Create and use. There are existing styles shown in the Home tab – Cell Styles dropdown (with live preview).

So one of the simplest ways of removing formatting in Excel is to use the style Normal (like in Word). It resets number formatting as well as visual formatting.

clear formatting - Dr. Nitin Paranjape

Shortcut for clearing all formatting in Excel

Want a shortcut? No problem there is one – though a bit lengthy one.

Press Alt E (now release all keys). Then press and release A. Then press and release F.

Alt E    A     F

This works because in older version Alt E was used for opening Edit menu. Which had Clear where A was the hotkey and within the Clear sub-menu Formatting had F as the hotkey. Excel even encourages you to use these keystrokes by visually showing you that it understands the shortcut – while you are typing it. So much for backward compatibility!

reset formatting shortcut - Dr. Nitin Paranjape

PowerPoint resetting the slide to the base layout master

I have written a whole article about this. Read it:
Ignored Marvel : RESET button in PowerPoint

Notice the Smart Tags in all copy paste options

While copy pasting, the source and destination formatting may be different. That is why there are options given for you to choose from. These options are shown through a small icon which appears (uninvited) after copy paste. Most of us never notice it or if we do notice it, we get irritated with it. Now onwards start using it.

Read this article for details:Copy paste – Part 14 – Paste Special in Word

Actually, if you have not read it before, read the whole series of Copy Paste articles.
It will transform your life for better: Copy Paste: Knowledge Pack

What next

In a future article, I will cover one brilliant feature in Word which helps you compare formatting. Invaluable tool while performing complex troubleshooting with multiple formats in Word.


3 thoughts on “How to reset formatting”

  1. Hi Dr. Love this trick. Please can you do an article about the ruler at the top of the screen? What each of the markers mean etc.

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