How to Make a Checklist in Excel

By Kevin Lee

Functioning like light switches, checklists give people the ability to make yes or no decisions quickly without writing or typing a word. They simply read the list of items and put check marks next to those they've completed. You'll find checklists on school tests, Web surveys and even in Microsoft Excel forms. You can add checklist items to worksheets manually or customize an existing checklist template that you can download for free.

Build Your Own Checklist

Step 1

Ensure that the Developer tab is available: Launch Excel and proceed to the next section if you see the Developer tab on the ribbon. Otherwise, click "File" followed by "Options" and then click "Customize Ribbon." Put a check mark next to "Developer" and click "OK" to add the Developer tab to the ribbon.

Step 2

Click "Developer" and then click "Insert" to view available form controls. Click "Check Box" and click the cell where you want to place the first checklist item to add a new check box there. Default text appears next to the check box and a rectangle surrounds the check box and the default text. This rectangle acts as a container that lets you work with the check box and text as a unit.

Step 3

Click and drag the rectangle if the check box is not positioned neatly in the cell's left corner. Click the rectangle's lower right handle and drag it to the right to make the rectangle about two inches wide.

Step 4

Right-click the check box, select "Edit Text" and replace the default text with the text you want to use as your first checklist item. For instance, if you're building a vacation checklist, the first item might be "Made hotel reservations." If the text does not fit within the rectangle, make the rectangle wide enough to hold the text.

Step 5

Insert additional text boxes in the rows below the first one using these steps. Ensure that you change each check box's default text to match the text you'd like to appear as the item's text. For instance, the second checklist item in a vacation checklist might be "Packed luggage."

Step 6

Click the column header where you added your checklist items. If you want to put them in column A, click that column to select all its rows, click "Format" and then click "AutoFit Column Width." Excel resizes the cells so that all your checklist item text fits within the column.

Start with a Checklist Template

Step 1

Launch Excel, click "File" and then click "New." Type "checklist" in the "Search for Online Templates" text box and press "Enter" to view a list of available checklist templates. Thumbnails give you an idea of what each checklist looks like.

Step 2

Double-click a template you like to load it into Excel. Review the template and delete items you don't want by right-clicking them and selecting "Delete." For instance, a template might contain a picture that you don't need in your checklist.

Step 3

Highlight the text in the template's first checklist item and replace it with the text you want to use for your first checklist item. Repeat these steps until you replace the template's checklist item text with your own.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check and uncheck any item in your checklist by clicking its check box. Delete a checklist item by right-clicking it and selecting "Cut."
  • You can customize a checklist item by right-clicking it and clicking "Format Control" to view the Format Control window. Click "Colors and Lines" to view the Fill and Line sections. If you'd like to change the item's Fill color, click the "Color" drop-down menu in the Fill section and click the desired color. If you want a box around the checklist item, click the "Color" drop-down menu in the Line section and select a color. Click "No Line" instead if you don't want a box around the item.
  • If you don't plan to make more checklists, you can remove the Developer tab from your ribbon to free up space. Click "File," click "Options" and then click "Customize Ribbon." Remove the check mark from the "Developer" check box and click "OK."
  • Print your checklist before putting check marks on it, and you can check items off using pen and paper.
  • These instructions apply to Excel 2013. If you have a different Excel version, your steps could vary.