How to Create a Printable Checklist or To-Do List in Microsoft Excel

Key Takeaways:

  • Excel provides several methods to create checklists or to-do lists, including using cell borders, special characters, form controls, and conditional formatting.
  • The simplest way to create a printable checklist is by formatting cells with square borders and typing tasks inside them.
  • More advanced options involve using data validation to insert checkboxes or drop-down lists for marking tasks as complete.
  • Checklists in Excel can be customized with colors, fonts, and additional columns for due dates, priorities, or notes.
  • While Excel is a versatile tool, dedicated task management apps may be better suited for complex projects or team collaboration.

Creating checklists or to-do lists is a simple yet effective way to stay organized and productive. While there are numerous dedicated task management apps available, sometimes the good old Microsoft Excel can be a handy tool for this purpose, especially if you need a quick and printable checklist.

The Simplest Method: Using Cell Borders

One of the easiest ways to create a printable checklist in Excel is by formatting cells with square borders. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Open a new Excel workbook and create a table with two columns: one for the task names and another for the checkboxes.
  2. Adjust the width of the second column so that the cells appear square-shaped.
  3. Select the cells in the second column and go to the “Home” tab.
  4. Click the dropdown arrow next to the “Borders” option and select the “Outside Borders” option.

This will add a square border around each cell in the second column, giving you a basic checklist layout. You can then type your tasks in the first column and use the square cells as checkboxes by manually adding a check mark or an “X” when a task is completed.


  • Quick and easy to set up
  • No additional formatting required
  • Printable and easy to read


  • Manual effort required to mark tasks as complete
  • Limited customization options

Using Special Characters or Form Controls

If you want a more interactive checklist experience within Excel, you can use special characters or form controls to create actual checkboxes or drop-down lists.

Using Special Characters:

  1. Go to the “Data” tab and click on “Data Validation.”
  2. In the “Data Validation” dialog box, select the “List” option from the “Allow” dropdown.
  3. In the “Source” field, enter the following: ☐,☑ (or any other special characters you prefer for unchecked and checked boxes).
  4. Apply this data validation to the cells where you want the checkboxes to appear.

Now, when you click on a cell, you’ll see a drop-down list with the special characters you entered, allowing you to toggle between the unchecked and checked states.

Using Form Controls:

  1. Go to the “Developer” tab (if you don’t see it, you may need to enable it first by going to “File” > “Options” > “Customize Ribbon” and checking the “Developer” box).
  2. Click on “Insert” and select the “Check Box” form control.
  3. Draw the checkbox in the desired cell by clicking and dragging.
  4. Right-click on the checkbox and select “Format Control” to customize its appearance and behavior.

Form controls offer more advanced options, such as linking the checkbox to a specific cell value or running a macro when the checkbox is clicked.


  • Interactive and visually appealing
  • Customizable appearance and behavior
  • Can be linked to cell values or macros


  • Requires additional setup and formatting
  • Form controls may not be printable in some cases

Customizing Your Checklist

Regardless of the method you choose, you can further customize your checklist by adding additional columns for due dates, priorities, notes, or any other relevant information. You can also apply conditional formatting to highlight overdue tasks or use different colors and fonts to make your checklist more visually appealing.

When to Use a Dedicated Task Management App

While Excel can be a handy tool for creating simple checklists or to-do lists, it may not be the best solution for more complex projects or team collaboration. Dedicated task management apps like Trello, Asana, or Microsoft To-Do offer more advanced features, such as task assignments, due date reminders, file attachments, and real-time collaboration.

If you’re working on a large project with multiple team members or need to track dependencies, priorities, and progress more effectively, it’s worth considering a dedicated task management app. However, for personal or small-scale use, Excel can be a quick and convenient solution for creating printable checklists or to-do lists.


How do I print a checklist created in Excel?

To print a checklist created in Excel, simply go to the “File” menu, select “Print,” and follow the prompts to send the document to your printer. You may want to adjust the print settings, such as scaling or orientation, to ensure the checklist fits properly on the page.

Can I share my Excel checklist with others?

Yes, you can share your Excel checklist with others by sending them the file or saving it to a shared location like OneDrive or SharePoint. However, keep in mind that only one person can edit the file at a time unless you’re using a collaborative editing feature like co-authoring in Office 365.

How do I mark a task as complete in my Excel checklist?

The method for marking a task as complete depends on the approach you used to create your checklist. If you’re using cell borders, you can manually type a check mark or an “X” in the square cell. If you’re using special characters or form controls, you can toggle the checkbox or select the appropriate option from the drop-down list.

Can I set reminders or due dates for tasks in my Excel checklist?

While Excel doesn’t have a built-in reminder or due date feature for checklists, you can add additional columns to your checklist for due dates or priorities. You can then use conditional formatting to highlight overdue tasks or sort the list based on due dates or priorities.

How do I create a recurring task in my Excel checklist?

To create a recurring task in your Excel checklist, you can simply copy and paste the task entry for the desired frequency (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly). Alternatively, you can use Excel’s built-in functionality to create a recurring entry in a separate sheet or table and then link or import that data into your checklist.