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.