There are many different apps to choose from if you want to create a checklist. But if you’re doing Excel work and have tasks associated with it, it may be easier to just include the checklist right within your spreadsheet. In this post, I’ll show you how you can make a checklist in Excel quickly and easily that you can re-use in many spreadsheets.
Step 1: Creating your list
Excel is an easy place to create a list since a spreadsheet is already in a grid format. You can use either numbers or letters as prefixes, or without anything at all:
Step 2: Add checkboxes
In order for this to look like a task list, we should add some checkboxes. If you don’t have the Developer tab enabled in Excel, make sure to do so. Under Excel Options, you’ll have an option to customize the Ribbon. This is where you can select which tabs you want to have enabled:
Once enabled, go to the Developer tab and click on the Insert button. Select the checkbox icon that is under the Form Controls section:
Then, use the mouse to drag and create a checkbox. It will automatically create some generic text to say ‘Check Box 1’ — you can remove this as it is unnecessary. Once you’ve got the checkbox in the position you want (and within its own cell), copy the entire cell and paste it over so that you have a checkbox next to each task:
Each checkbox can be linked to a specific cell. And every time you click the checkbox, the value of that cell will toggle between TRUE and FALSE, to indicate if the box is ticked or not. To create a link, right-click on a checkbox and select Format Control. Then, under the Control section, select a cell in the Cell Link section:
Then, when the checkbox is ticked or unticked, here’s how the values in the will appear in the linked cell:
The danger with copying these checkboxes after you have linked a cell, is that those cell links won’t change; multiple checkboxes will be linked to the same cell:
To correct this, you will need to modify the cell link for each checkbox. Once that’s done, it’s time to move on to the last step.
Step 3: Add conditional formatting
Right now, ticking the checkbox doesn’t do anything but show a TRUE or FALSE value. In this step, I’m going to add some conditional formatting to also cross out the item. To do this, I’m going to highlight the column that has the tasks (column B) and create some conditional formatting rules:
I’m going to create a rule that looks at the column that contains the cell link values (column C). It will check if the value is set to TRUE using the following formula:
Then, under the Format options, I will apply a strikethrough effect:
Now, when a checkbox is ticked, the text will have a strikethrough effect:
The TRUE/FALSE values can be hidden since they don’t need to be visible in order for the checkboxes and strikethrough effects to work. The only other changes you may want to make at this point relate to formatting. This includes applying a header. Here’s what your finished checklist might look like with some additional formatting:
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In a previous post, I covered how to create a form in Excel. Although I didn’t go over drop down lists specifically, they are one element you could incorporate into them. The problem is that your list can change over time, getting bigger or smaller. And that can make it difficult to maintain if your list isn’t dynamic as it will involve you always having to manually change the range of your drop down list. Otherwise, it could be incomplete or contain blanks. Below, I’ll show you how you can manually change your drop down list in excel and create it without blanks while also making it dynamic so that you don’t need to worry about whether it changes over time.
Setting up the drop down list
First, let’s start with the basics — creating the list. To create a drop down list in Excel, you just need a series of options to choose from. My list is going to be made up of the top 30 places to visit. I’m just going to put those names in a list.
After entering in the list of places into Excel, the next thing I will do is select all the values, and create a named range. This is as simple as just entering a value next to the formula bar, where you see the cell location. I will call this range VacationSpots:
There is no need to add headers or anything else. Just select the values, enter in a name for the list, and hit enter. A longer approach would be to go to the Formula tab and select Name Manager:
Clicking this will show you all of the named ranges in the workbook:
It shows you the named range I created. However, I could also create one from this screen and also Edit my existing range. This is where you would go to make the change manually. Clicking on the Edit button would give you this screen:
As you can, here I can manually change the address as needed in case the list changes. However, this is obviously not optimal as it can be a tedious process if your list changes frequently.
Creating the drop down
Now that my list has been created, I can set up the actual drop down. To do this, I’m going to select a cell and under the Data tab, click on Data Validation. Here, there is a place to enter your list of values:
Under the Allow section, I choose List. And for the Source, I enter the ‘=’ sign followed by my named range, VacationSpots. Now, when I click OK and go to the cell that contains the data validation, this is what I see when I select it:
Clicking on the drop down arrow will show me my list of options, in the same order that they appear in my list:
I can select any of the values and my cell will update accordingly. This is great, but what if I decided to add more items to my list, perhaps 10 or 20 more locations I want to visit? Next, I’ll go the different ways you can create drop down lists in Excel without blanks.
Option 1: Create extra spaces in your drop down list at the very end
Technically this step involves blank spaces, which is not what this post is supposed to be about. However, I just wanted to show you how this could work. If your list has dozens of items, then having extra blanks may not be that big of a deal. For example, say I edit my named range so that it goes to 50 rows. If you do that and include empty cells, this is the biggest problem you’ll face:
My list no longer starts from the top, it goes to the first blank cell. This can be an annoying problem because now it looks like all of my options aren’t there (they are, but I have to scroll up every time). This is probably the main reason people want to avoid having blank values in their lists. If the blank values simply came after all of your selections, that might be more tolerable. But because they impact where your drop down list begins from, it can be a nuisance.
The good news is there is a simple way to get around this. For all your empty cells, enter just a single empty character. Select a cell, hit the space bar, get out of the cell, and copy that value down. Now, your empty cells technically aren’t empty because they contain a space. And by doing so, the drop down list now starts from the top again. You will still have blank values, but this time they will show at the bottom of your drop down list:
If this is acceptable then you can stop here. If you are still intent on getting rid of any possible blank value whatsoever, then head over to the next option.
Option 2: Creating a table to create a nonblank list
This option is the easiest method for getting rid of blank values. What you need to do here is convert your list into a table. Select a cell on your list, click on the Insert tab and then click Table:
Leave the option for headers unchecked and then click OK. You should see something like this:
By default, Excel will apply its formatting and design but you can change the look of it to make it blend in more with your spreadsheet. You can also re-name the header from Column1. Either way, you can now create a new drop down list from this table. Since the values are in range A2:A31 in my spreadsheet, that is what I will enter for my new Data Validation list:
You can either select the range, or enter it in yourself. But if you enter it, you need to include the $ signs otherwise it will not auto-update properly. Now, I’ll go to my list add ‘New City’ to the bottom of the table. When I do that, the table automatically expands which you can notice because I haven’t changed the design and so the colors change:
And if I go back to the Data Validation settings, my source has automatically been updated:
This is a really easy way to make your drop-down list automatically update without the need for any formulas.
If the table you are referencing isn’t on the same sheet as your drop-down list, then you will need to use the INDIRECT function reference it. For instance, if you have created a table called Table1 (which should contain just one column for your list) on a different sheet, you can reference it the following way:
This will allow you to reference the list even if it is on a different sheet.
Option 3: Using a formula to remove the blanks in your drop down list
If for whatever reason creating a table isn’t an option for you, you can still create a dynamic list using a formula. Here, I’ll go back to creating a named range. Except rather than selecting a fixed set of cells, I will rely on a single formula. First, I’ll go back to the Name Manger. I’ll create a new named range. The formula for this can look a bit complex so I will break it down into parts.
First, I’m going to use the OFFSET function. This is because it can allow me to specify a height and width, which is crucial to making this work. My data starts in cell A1, and that’s where my formula will begin:
A1 is my starting point and that is the first argument. The next two arguments are whether I want to offset and move to any adjacent rows or columns. Since I don’t, I leave those values as zeros. It is the next argument that is critical, as it relates to the height. Here is where I will use a COUNTA function. I want to count the number of nonblank values in my list. My formula looks as follows:
I will embed this within my previous formula:
For the width, I will set the last argument to 1, since I don’t want to include any extra columns. Here is my completed formula:
You always want to used $ signs in named ranges so that they don’t move on you. Now that this is set up, I can use this NewRange as my Data Validation source. And just like with a table, whether the list gets bigger or smaller, my named range and the drop down list will automatically update.
However, what if your list contains some formulas that look blank but really aren’t? Formulas are a great example of cells that can look empty even if they aren’t. The COUNTA function will count these values and you could again be back to square one with additional blank values. One way you can get around this is by counting the cells that are blanks, and subtracting that from the total rows. The formula would look as follows:
Using this, you should correctly arrive at the number of cells that contain text and that aren’t blank as a result of a formula You can then insert that formula in your named range, in place of the COUNTA formula:
As you can see, this method isn’t the easiest and that is why I left it for the end. However, there are multiple different ways you can create a drop down list in excel without blanks. But it’s important because by removing blanks, it will make your form or spreadsheet look more polished by not having blank values in them.
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In a previous post, I covered how to add checkboxes. Now, I’m going to go a step further and show you how you can create a form in Excel from start to finish. And at the bottom of the page, you can download a file that you can use for your own custom forms. It will incorporate, list boxes, checkboxes, validation rules, and allow you to move the data onto a separate sheet. For now, let’s start from scratch.
Step 1: Determine the data you want and how it should be entered
The first step in creating a form in Excel is determining what information you want to collect. In this example, I’m just going to include name, address, city, state, email, a checkbox to confirm if it is okay to contact the person, a rating, and an area for comments. It is also important to determine how users should enter these values. While it’s easy to leave everything as text, that can make it difficult to ensure someone doesn’t enter invalid data. And if the data is not useful, it will defeat the purpose of the form.
Here are the types of inputs I’m going to use for my fields:
State: List box
Contact confirmation: Checkbox
Rating: Radio button
Next, let’s work on the form’s design.
Step 2: Designing the form and creating the inputs
One thing I did to help make the form cleaner from the beginning was to turn off gridlines. You can do that by going to the View tab and unchecking Gridlines under the Show group:
This will make your form look more like a form and less like a regular Excel sheet. Another thing you can do is in that same section, unselect the Formula Bar and Headings, which will add more white space and are unnecessary if someone is just filling in a form. However, you may want to save this for the end when your form is done.
Since an Excel form can come in all shapes and sizes, the one thing that may help you in the design process is to set every column to a width of 2. This way, it will be easier to maneuver in case one field needs to be bigger than another without having to try and force everything to be a similar length.
As for the input fields, there are a few things you will want to do:
Make sure they are long enough. A good way to test this is by entering a long value, or what you might think will be the longest value into each field and then adjusting its length so that everything displays correctly.
Assign a named range. This is useful to keep things organized and it will make it easier for you to refer back to the field later on if you only have to remember its name, as opposed to its cell reference.
Now, let’s move on to creating the fields in the Excel form. What you can do for text entries is to just add some outlining and highlighting to existing cells. A subtle light grey can be a good way to indicate that is an input value. And I’ll also add a border to help make these fields stand out. If you set the column width to 2, you’ll also need to merge the cells as needed.
For the State field, I’ll go back to the Developer tab where I will select the option for a List Box from the Form Control section — which is next to the Radio Button on the right. When in doubt, you can hover over each control to see what it is.
After creating the List Box, I need to populate the list plus link to a cell where the selected value should go. I’ll start with creating a range of cells for all 50 states and then assign a named range for them called StateList.
Then, I will set up a named range called StateNumber for the linked cell. Here is what the List Box control shows when I go into Format Controls and select the Controls tab:
But this is not enough as the list box returns a number, not the state’s initials. I will need another cell to pull that in. I created a named range for State and here is what my sheet looks like:
In the list box, I selected MT, which returns a value of 26 in the StateNumber range. To extract the state’s initials, I need to use a formula to get that. Since I’m getting the data from one column, I’m just going to use the INDEX function. Here is what the formula in the State named range looks like:
It is looking at the StateList and pulling out the row that relates to the StateNumber. Since MT is the 26th selection, that is the value that gets returned. So now my List Box is working correctly. What I like to do with these named ranges is to hide them so that the user doesn’t see all these intermediate steps. All it takes is to just move the List Box over top of these cells:
And just like that, the user only sees their selection and not the calculations afterwards. You could certainly use a drop-down list for states but I thought I would try something different and more user-friendly for this example.
Next, let’s go to the email field. This can be tricky because although you want this to be text, you also want to control what a user enters to avoid a possible error. You can’t guarantee the email will be correct but you can take steps to at least prevent some errors. The key here is going to be to create a data validation rule. There are two things that should be present in email addresses: the @ sign and a period. To create a data validation rule, select on the cell and click on Data Validation under the Data tab:
There are many rules you can set up such as limiting the entry to fall within certain dates, making sure it is a whole number, or that it is from a drop-down list. But this situation is unique and will require a custom formula.
To check for both the period and the @ sign, I will need to use the FIND function and check that the value is a number (which means that it was found). Here’s how that looks inside of an AND function:
Since I set the field to a named range of ‘Email’ it is easy to reference it without worrying about whether I have selected the right cell. If I put this calculation in the formula section, now you won’t be able to enter a value that doesn’t include both a period and an @ sign. In addition, you can also specify the error alert and determine what pops up if someone enters something different that violates these rules. However, that’s not necessary as they will get an error anyway.
Now, I’ll add the checkbox for the email. This again comes from Excel’s Developer tab and the Form Control section. Simply select the checkbox and set up a linked cell. If you want more details on this, refer to the link at the top of this post for a more detailed outline of how to add checkboxes. I have positioned the checkbox right below the email field:
Next, I’ll add some radio buttons to allow someone to leave a rating. These are useful if you want to specify a number. Here I will go back to the Developer tab and create some radio buttons and re-size them so they don’t take up much space. Unlike the other controls, you will want them to all have the same linked cell; the purpose of radio buttons is that there is only one selection. Here is how I added them, just below the numbers that they refer to:
The radio buttons will automatically increment on their own so if you don’t pay attention to what order you’ve added them in you may get some unexpected results.
Lastly, I will add a large comment box where people can leave detailed comments. This can just be a large merged cell that takes up more space.
But the one thing you will want to do is make sure that Wrap Text is selected so that the comment fits in the box. And you will probably want to align it so that it is in the top left corner of the cell:
Then, when I enter the text it looks correct:
Here is what my completed form looks like:
It looks good, but we are still not done. Something needs to happen with these inputs otherwise the information goes nowhere. Let’s go over that next.
Step 3: Storing the data from the form in an Excel sheet
If you are sending just a single form over for someone to enter data in, what you can do is create an output page that will link to these values. Since they are all named ranges, you can easily reference back to them as such:
In the above example, if you created a named range called Name for the first field, it will pull in the data from there. On an output sheet, you might have formulas and values that look like this:
In column B I am showing the formulas. You can keep this tab hidden if you want it out of sight. You can even go one step further and make them very hidden.
Not sure whether your fields should go horizontally or vertically? In most cases, you’ll actually want them going across the top. When in doubt, consider the number of fields you have versus how much data you will be entering into the sheet. If you will have dozens of results that you will need to populate (or more), you probably don’t want to be cycling through that many columns; rows are easier to scroll through and that’s why it will probably make more sense for the fields to go across the top.
Once you have your output tab set up, you can copy the values you get back from these forms and start populating a database.
But what if you are doing data entry and need to make these entries multiple times and need the data to push to the output tab automatically after each entry? This is where you will need to set up a macro and need a button to trigger this movement onto the output tab. If you’d like to see how that code might work or just want a ready-to-use file that you don’t have to mess around with, you can download this free template.
The template will grab the input values and based on the named ranges, it will populate them in the output tab once you click the Post button on the main page. If there isn’t a named range that matches to a header on row 1 on the output tab, the data just won’t get copied over. Give it a try!
One additional step you may want to consider is locking down the form in Excel to make sure people don’t accidentally move things around or delete any formulas. You can protect the workbook and the individual sheets do that. Click here for information on how to lock cells.
If you liked this post on how to create a form in Excel, please give this site a like on Facebook and also be sure to check out some of the many templates that we have available for download. You can also follow us on Twitter and YouTube.