OK, here's what happened: The article I intended to post today, I couldn't.  And now the day's almost done (except, of course, here on the left coast of the US where it's still mid-afternoon and in Australia, where it's already tomorrow.)

So instead of posting a full article, I'll devote this space today to an underrated Office command that I'm still learning to appreciate myself: the Format Painter.

The idea behind Format Painter is simple: it lets you copy the formatting from one object and apply it to another object.  The "objects" can be words, paragraphs, shapes, pictures, tables, text boxes, or just about anything else in Office.  Format Painter copies the entire formatting of the source object, including borders, fills, shadows, text styles, etc.

You'll find the "Format Painter" button in Office 2003 right next to the Paste button on the Formatting toolbar.  (It looks kind of like a hand broom to me.)

Here's how to use it:

First, select the object which has the formatting you wish to copy.  Then, click the Format Painter button.  The mouse cursor changes to show that you have "picked up" the formatting.  Now, you're ready to paint with it: simply click wherever you want to apply the formatting.  (To apply formatting to a range of text, just select the text you want to paint while the mouse cursor is in "paint" mode.)

If you want to paint multiple objects at once to make them match, follow the same procedure, except this time double-click the Format Painter button.  Now, your cursor will remain in "paint" mode indefinitely so that you can paint lots of objects at once.  When you're done painting, just press "Escape" on the keyboard.

That's all there is to it!  Long live Format Painter: underappreciated time-saver, and one of the coolest features in Office.