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How to insert a checkbox in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Google Docs

word excel google docs logos
(Image credit: Microsoft / Google / Future)

It’s useful to know how to insert a checkbox in Word or Excel, or Google Docs, if you’re making to-do lists for yourself and your team, asking colleagues for approval or agreement, or even simply reminding yourself which party supplies to purchase.

In this step-by-step guide, we explain how checkboxes are added and used in these two popular Microsoft products. However, if you’re using one of the best Microsoft Office alternatives, you’ll be happy to hear we also cover inserting checkboxes in Google Docs.

Screenshot of four checklist items in Microsoft Word

Checkboxes can be used to create multiple-choice questions and polls. (Image credit: Microsoft)

How to insert checkbox in Microsoft Word, Excel, and Google Docs: Preparation

Before inserting checkboxes in Microsoft Word and Excel, you must add the Developer tab to your top ribbon, as it’s not visible by default. The process is the same in both Word and Excel. 

Simply click the File tab in the upper left corner of your screen and select Options on the left-hand side. In the Options pop-up window, click on the Customize Ribbon category. In the column on the right, titled Main Tabs, check the box next to Developer, then click OK. 

You should now have access to the Developer tab in your top ribbon in Word and Excel.

There are no such preliminary steps to follow with Docs. But if creating checklists in either Word, Excel, or Docs, you may want to write up your list items before following the steps below.

Insert a checkbox in Microsoft Word

Step 1: Click the checkbox icon in the Developer tab

In your Word document, click your cursor where you want to insert a checkbox—to the left of a list element, for instance.

Then, select Developer in the top ribbon and, in the Controls section, click the checkbox icon. If you hover over it, its title is Check Box Content Control. Repeat this process for each checkbox that needs adding.

Users with editing permissions are able to tick and untick the checkbox, which is useful if, say, the list tracks team members’ progress on individual tasks.

Screenshot of changing checkbox symbol in Microsoft Word

Changing the checkbox symbol in Word is not particularly straightforward but can be done in a few simple steps. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Step 2 (optional): Change the checkbox symbol

The default symbol for a selected checkbox is an X in a square outline. Should you want to change this to a tick or other symbols, select a checkbox, then click Properties in the Developer tab. At the bottom, under Check Box Properties, click the Change button, next to Checked symbol.

To replace the X with a tick, select the Windings 2 font at the top, locate and click the tick symbol, then click OK.

Insert a checkbox in Microsoft Excel

Step 1: Click Insert in the Developer tab

In Excel’s Developer tab, click Insert in the Controls section. Here, you’ll see two categories that contain a checkbox icon: Form controls and ActiveX controls. 

Many users find the basic functionality of Form controls checkboxes sufficient, but you should go for ActiveX controls if you want advanced functions, like creating automated actions when a checkbox gets ticked.

Step 2: Click the checkbox icon

Click the checkbox icon under either Form controls or ActiveX controls, according to your needs, then click on a specific cell to place it.

Form controls checkboxes can be checked and unchecked in a single click, whereas ActiveX checkboxes are edited using more advanced Developer tools.

Screenshot of selecting a checkbox from Form controls or ActiveX controls

For basic checkboxes in Excel, go for the Form controls checkbox. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Step 3: Edit the checkbox text

To edit the list items next to Form control checkboxes, right-click the checkbox, then select the default text by clicking on it. Delete the existing text and type in your own. Click the return button on your keyboard to save.

For ActiveX control checkboxes, right-click the checkbox and select Checkbox Object, then Edit. This allows you to delete and retype the item next to the checkbox. Press your keyboard Return button to save.

Alternatively, you may want your checklist items written in cells. If so, list your items in one column, before adding one checkbox at a time into corresponding cells to the left, as per the previous step.

Insert a checkbox in Google Docs

Step 1: Click the checklist icon in the ribbon

If you’ve written a list, select it and click the checklist icon in the top ribbon. Depending on the interface, you may need to click on the three horizontal dots to the right of the ribbon to reveal this icon.

If there’s no checklist icon in your ribbon, the alternative is to click the arrow next to the Bulleted list icon and select Checklist at the bottom. 

You should now have checkboxes next to your list items.

Checkboxes can be selected with a single click, but the default in Google Docs is that this will apply a strikethrough to the corresponding text, signifying a done task. If you want to tick a box without a text strikethrough, follow the steps below.

Screenshots of two Google Docs checklists, one with strikethrough text

If you don’t want strikethroughs in your checklist, create a table to get around the formatting. (Image credit: Google)

Step 2 (optional): Insert a table for checklists without strikethroughs

There isn’t an option to remove strikethrough formatting for checklists in Google Docs. However, one way to get around it is to insert a table with two columns, where one column contains the checkboxes and the other the list items. 

Click your cursor where you want your checklist to be and select Insert in the top ribbon, followed by Table. Move your cursor and click to select the table size—for example, 2 x 5 for a checklist with five elements. 

Copy or type your list into the second column, then select the cells in the first column and copy or insert a checklist, without text, according to the previous step.

Step 3 (optional): Remove checklist table borders

First, you may want to place the checkboxes and list items closer together by dragging the column divider to the left with your cursor.

To remove table borders, select the whole table and click the Border width icon, usually located under the three dots icon at the right end of the top ribbon.

Then, select 0 pt and the table borders should blend in the page background color. You can now tick and untick the boxes without any text strikethroughs.


You should now be able to insert checkboxes and use them effectively across Word, Excel, and Google Docs. 

Using Developer controls is the easiest way to work with checkboxes in both Word and Excel, while in Google Docs, checkboxes are easy to set up but may require optional table editing if you don’t want strikethroughs in your list.

If you’re using checkboxes to track tasks in your team, why not have a look at our best online collaboration tools buying guide for more software options? You can also figure out which major platform suits you best by reading our Microsoft 365 vs Google Workspace comparison.

Ioana holds a BSc in Business Management from King's College London and has worked for over four years as a management consultant in the industries of technology, media and telecoms. Ioana is also a successful entrepreneur, having launched several social enterprises. No stranger to IT and enthusiastic hackathoner, Ioana is also an accomplished fintech, SaaS and B2B tech writer.