Add checkbox controls to a Word document

Use a customized bulleted list or a content control to insert checkboxes into a Word document, depending on how you are going to use it.

This post was originally published in February 2012.

You can use Word to create a simple To Do list. If you like, you can even print checkbox controls next to each item. There are two ways to add checkbox controls and how you'll use them determines which method you'll use.

Only for printing

If you plan to print your list and use a pen or pencil to mark each item as you complete it, you can add checkbox controls instead of bullets, as follows:

  1. Select the list.
  2. Click the Home tab if necessary.
  3. Click the Bullets dropdown in the Paragraph group. (Don't just click the option; doing so will automatically insert the default bullet.)
  4. Choose Define New Bullet from the dropdown list.
  5. In the resulting dialog box, click Symbol.
  6. Choose Wingdings from the Font dropdown.
  7. Select the checkbox in the first row.
  8. Click OK twice.

In Word 2003, select the right-click the list and choose Bullets and Numberings from the resulting shortcut menu. Choose any bullet style and click Customize. Click Character in the resulting dialog box. Continue with step 6 above.

Word will replace the default bullet character with the selected checkbox. This particular symbol won't let you check anything in the actual document, but it's great for printing.

Content control

If you want the capability to check the checkbox within the Word document, use a content control (in Word 2003, use a Forms field). These controls are available on the Developer tab, which isn't visible by default. To display the Developer tab, if necessary, do the following:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the ribbon's background and choose Customize The Ribbon.
  2. Check the Developer item in the list to the right.
  3. Click OK.

Once the Developer tab is available, you can add a checkbox content control, as follows:

  1. Position the cursor where you want the first control. (Don't select the entire item; doing so will delete the item).
  2. Click the Developer tab.
  3. Click the Checkbox content control in the Controls group.

Unfortunately, you can't insert content controls to the entire group of items, as a group, similar to the way you'd add bullets. You must insert each control individually. Selecting the checkbox content control toggles between checked and unchecked. Don't limit checkboxes to just To Do lists - anytime you have a two-state choice, consider using a checkbox.


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

Rigging World
Rigging World

I have a document that was created in Excel 2010 it has several rows 20 - 44 that have check boxes in them.  Is there a way that you can check the boxes in rows 20 - 25 and have it print only those boxes?  I know I can go in an individual hide rows 26 - 44 but was thinking if I could just have only the checked boxes print.

Andy P Roberts
Andy P Roberts

I guess it would be possible to write macros that would overcome some of the problems with these checkboxes. For instance, having created checkboxes of the printable sort, to have a macro that converts these to the fully dynamic sort. This would enable you to add the printable checkboxes to lots of lines quickly and then convert them. Andy

Full Tao-er
Full Tao-er

If you use the first method often, you could save time by saving the bullet as a Quick Style. In Word 2010: 1. Use the steps Susan gave to create the printable checkbox bullet 2. Select the entire bullet by moving the cursor to the left margin until the pointer turns into the arrow pointed up to the right, and then left-click 3. Expand the Quick Styles selection box and click "Save selection as a New Quick Style..." 4. Click the "Modify" button 5. Name the Quick Style 6. Select "New documents based on this template" 7. Click "OK"


I agree with McKinnej. You build a process in MS Office, then the new release comes out and you need to completely redesign the process. With 2003 they tore up all my mail merges. Funny, MS talks about how to "automate the office" then does crazy things like "forget" the checkboxes in a release.


I used these to build numerous forms in 2003. When I tried converting those to 2007 and the docx format, I ran into a hiccup. I had to use a mix of the newer 2007 objects and the 2003 forms tools (specifically for checkboxes like this). It caused some issues when the forms were protected for actual use too. It appeared that MS "forgot" the checkbox when they built the new objects for 2007. Thankfully they fixed that in 2010.

Editor's Picks