Creating a Checkbox in Google Spreadsheet

I’ll admit that what I’m about to explain is a bit “geek speak,” but not too bad if you follow a few steps.

Problem: Within a Google Spreadsheet, I needed wanted a way to add checkboxes (or a yes/no selection box) in order to show completion of certain project tasks. You might think there is an easy way to do this; after all, most things with Google Docs or Spreadsheets are relatively straightforward. The key part of that was “you might think” as it seemed adding a checkbox (or selection box) was going to fall under the “not so easy” category. That said, I stumbled across a forum post with a similar need to add a checkbox function in a Google Spreadsheet.

Solution: There isn’t a simple “add checkbox” option in the text editor or menu. Instead, you can use “Data Validation” as a way to transform empty cells into check or selection boxes. The following steps will enable you to create them:

  1. Select the cell(s) where you want to add a checkbox or selection box.
  2. Under the Data menu, select Validation… to access Data Validation options.
  3. Select List of items within the Criteria area.
  4. In the empty field next to the Criteria dropdown menu, you will enter your options and separate with a comma (e.g., “Yes, No” or “X, √” or simply “√”). NOTE: You can copy and paste a checkmark/square root symbol (√) or use “option + V” on a Mac.
  5. Ensure Display in-cell button to show list is checked and then click Save.

This works really well when you need to collaborate with the rest of your team to easily display a completion status for a given task. If you simply need to add such a status indicator for your own purposes, though, you might opt for the super easy solution of using a Y or N (or using the combination of “option + V” on a Mac to add a checkmark) within each cell.