Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Automatically Copying Formatting.

Automatically Copying Formatting

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 26, 2014)


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


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 macro will run every time there are changes in the worksheet. 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 Excel.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 your toolbar so that the tool is available; it is not available by default. When you are doing your customizing, the Camera tool is available on the Commands tab in the Tools section. It is near the bottom of the list of commands and looks—oddly enough—like a small camera.

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.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2769) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) 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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What is five more than 3?

2017-08-04 08:45:46

Abe Ash

Little more detail

I have a master sheet "Master" that has a table and numerous TABS
Each TAB has a spreadsheet with a specific cell that gets it's from a specific cell in the master sheet

Private Sub Worksheet_SelectionChange(ByVal Target As Range)
Me.Range("A4").Interior.Color = Worksheets("Master").Range("A3").Interior.Color
End Sub

A4 is the cell that needs to be colored in every TAB and it gets it's color from the Master Row 3,Row 4, Row 5.....
Right click on every TAB and select "View Code" then paste the code
To activate the command, go to every TAB and click on the page

2016-11-25 14:41:31

dennis brennan

So, I got my first set of tips and I think they'll be a big help especially since microsoft completely removed from help type support.
I never knew you could customize the tool bar so i followed your instruction to add a camera icon to the tool bar. eureka! it worked! I even took a pic following the instructions in the tip. now, of course, i cannot get rid of it! please help!

2016-09-26 10:33:38


what if i want to copy the cell contents to another sheet

2015-10-29 03:11:41




2015-03-18 05:42:22



I'm trying to get different cells on sheet2, to link with different cells on sheet 1.

So I want to make some cells green (not through formatting) in sheet2 and link them to various cells in sheet 1 and for those cells in sheet 1 to go green also.

Ive recorded a macro as suggested by New way 08 Mar 2015, 11:18 but that only does it for one. If i needed it for many, i would have to create lots of shortcuts.

Please can anyone help me?


2015-03-08 11:18:51

New way

You can do this by recording a macro using the copy and paste formating and paste contents

2015-03-06 03:04:24


using paste special > Linked image will work the same. it's a little bit faster imo.

2015-02-19 10:23:13


Thank you so much for this - I have been looking for a solution for ages! I tried all the =Master!A1 stuff but kept getting a warning about merged cells not being the same size.. Only problem now is that my Workbook is 10 times the file size? Any ideas how to reduce? Thank you!

2015-01-07 03:11:46


Hard to believe (in one way!) that Microsoft doesn't have an option to link the formatting between cells but a wonderful workaround solution - thanks!

2014-10-09 22:04:28

Chris Lloyd

How about making a given cell automatically mimic the format in another cell? So whenever I change the format of the first, the second will change>

2014-09-12 09:42:51


camera tip saved me tons of work. Thanks had never used this feature! THANKS!!

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