Robbie mostly writes about Skyrim but also occasionally sheds light on the oddities of Microsoft applications such as Excel and Outlook.
Excel allows you to add a number of Form Controls to your spreadsheets. Today we will be looking at the check box (or checkbox). They allow you to easily create visually striking and very useful lists such as to-do lists which will allow you to show the progress of each item in your list. In this article, we will look at:
- Configuring Excel to allow you to create and add check boxes
- Creating and adding check boxes
- Aligning them
- Recording whether check boxes are selected
Conditional formatting allows you to further enhance your to-do list by adding colours depending on whether an item is complete or not. This will give your list much more visual impact and allow you to quickly see which items are outstanding.
Combo boxes allow you to create a button with a drop-down list which is perfect for small lists such as delivery options or dates. You can also use Conditional Formatting with Combo boxes as the figure illustrates.
Scroll bars allow you to add bars so that users of your workbooks can quickly and easily select items. These very user-friendly bars that are identical to those that people use to select items on websites and allow you to make your spreadsheets very user-friendly and simple to use.
Command buttons enable you to add buttons that can be programmed using Visual Basic to perform a function when they are pressed by a user of your spreadsheet. In my hub, I created a button that, when pressed, resets all the combo boxes in the workbook to their default setting.
Enabling the Developer Tab to Allow the Creation of Check Boxes
Before we can create any Controls, including check boxes, we need to ensure that the Developer tab is visible in Excel. It is from this tab that we create the check boxes. The instructions are different depending on which version of Excel you are using.
For Excel 2007:
- Click on the Office Button
- Select Excel Options
- Choose the Popular tab and ensure that Show Developer tab in the Ribbon is selected (by default it is not selected).
For Excel 2010:
- First, select the File Menu
- Next, choose Options
- Click the Customise Ribbon Tab
- Check Developer under the Main Tabs as shown below
Creation and Manipulation of Check Boxes
First we need to create text and the check boxes that will make up our to-do list
- Add the items you need to get done in column A
- To create a check box, select the Insert button in the Controls group on the Developer tab
- Click Form Control and then select Check box
- Click the cursor (the cursor will change to a cross) on the cell in your Excel spreadsheet (mine are in column B) within which you want the check box to appear. It will allow you to draw a box for you that will determine the size of your new check box.
- To manipulate the check box (move it around, resize it, etc), right-click on the check box
- Your new check box comes with text which can be deleted if not required.
- To remove the text, right click on the check box and select Edit Text
- You can now delete the text so that we are left with just the box without a label
Here are some methods to create more check boxes.
If your check boxes are larger than the cell they reside in:
- Right click on a check box that is setup perfectly and select copy
- You can paste multiple times, simply move the cursor to a new cell before selecting paste so you don’t end up with them all on top of each other
If they are small enough so that you can select the cell that the check box is in:
- Again, ensure that the check box is configured to your specifications
- Select that cell and use the fill handle to create more
Aligning the Check Boxes so That They Line up Correctly
So now that we have created a column of checkboxes, they may well all be in a wiggly line like mine below. If so, we will need to straighten them.
To straighten them, we need to select all of the check boxes. To do this:
- Click all the check boxes while pressing the control key to select them all
- Navigate to the Page Layout tab and select the Align button in the Arrange group
- Select Align left
- If they are still not aligned perfectly, you can also click the Distribute Vertically button
Your boxes should now be perfectly aligned!
You may prefer your check boxes to be in the centre of the cell. While you have them all selected, drag them to the right until they are in the middle of the cell.
Recording Whether Check Boxes Are Selected in a Linked Cell
Now we have check boxes created, configured as well as aligned and positioned exactly where we require them, it is time to consider whether you wish to record whether they are checked and if you want to do something with this data.
Excel is able to record whether a check box is selected using True (checked) or False (not checked) displayed in a cell that is linked to your check box. This can be used for conditional formatting as shown above, or as part of some Visual Basic code associated with a macro.
- Configuring this is very straightforward.
- Right-click on a check box and select Format Control and then the Control tab.
- Type in or select a cell to link that cell to the check box
Note: For ease of illustration, I selected a range next to the checkboxes, but they can in fact be placed anywhere in the workbook.
Note: I would recommend placing the linked cells on another sheet entirely and hiding them so that users of your workbooks won’t be tempted to remove or change those linked cells.
Once completed, you will end up with something that looks similar to the figure above. The cells automatically update depending on whether the checkboxes are ticked (true) or blank (false). You can now use the results of the check boxes stored in these linked cells for any additional conditional formatting that you may like to add to your To Do list.
Check boxes are an excellent way of creating to-do lists in Excel. In this article I introduced how to:
- Enable the Developer tab so that check boxes and other Controls can be used
- Creating and manipulating check boxes
- Aligning your new boxes
- Linking them to cells so that you can record whether they are selected or not
In addition, I introduced Conditional Formatting which used alongside check boxes allows you to create fantastic to-do lists which are very easy for your users to use and have a great visual impact.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my article as much as I have enjoyed writing it and that you found it useful and informative. Please feel free to leave a comment below.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2012 Robbie C Wilson
Jane on September 01, 2015:
Thank you, this has been of great help to me!