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Office 2011 Secrets: Radio Buttons and Check Boxes for Excel

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Not every Microsoft Office feature is well-documented—or documented at all. In this article, Microsoft Office guru Steve Schwartz reveals a hidden, undocumented feature of Excel 2011 for Mac and shows you how to put it to work in your own worksheets.
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Most worksheets consist of text, numbers, and the occasional chart or shape. However, you can also add sets of radio buttons and check boxes to your Excel 2011 worksheets. As objects (rather than cell formats), radio buttons and check boxes float on the surface of the worksheet. This means they can’t appear in a cell, a table row, or on a database form. While there are relatively few reasons why you might want a set of radio buttons or checkboxes on a typical sheet, they can make excellent additions to form-based sheets, such as an invoice or business form. You can use a set of radio buttons or check boxes as a display element, or you can base formulas on the numeric or text result that each returns.

Radio buttons (known as option buttons to Windows users) allow a user to select one option from a group (Figure 1). Radio button items are mutually exclusive; that is, only one can be selected at a time. You might, for instance, use a set of radio buttons to specify a shipping method for an order, answer a yes/no question, or indicate one’s gender or ethnicity. The currently selected radio button contains a small dot; the unselected buttons are empty. If the user selects a different radio button, the dot appears in the newly selected button and is removed from the formerly selected button. Radio buttons are often found in dialog boxes, on web forms, and on database data-entry forms.

Figure 1

Figure 1 In Word’s Sort Text dialog box, radio buttons are used to designate the direction of each sort level (Ascending or Descending), as well as whether the selected text has a Header Row or No Header Row.

Check boxes are used when more than one option may need to be selected. For example, a set of check boxes could indicate allowable contact methods for a person. Any number of check boxes can be selected—from none to all.

By default, the ability to add radio buttons, check boxes, and other controls is hidden from you. And if you search Help, you won't find any mention of them. As such, this article shows where to find these features and represents my experimentation with them.

Revealing the Form Controls

To add radio buttons or check boxes to your worksheets, you’ll need to expose a hidden Ribbon tab.

To reveal the Developer tab:

  1. Choose Excel > Preferences. The Excel Preferences dialog box appears.
  2. In the Sharing and Privacy section, click the Ribbon icon.
  3. In the scrolling list in the Ribbon dialog box, click the Developer check box (Figure 2) and click OK. The Developer tab containing the form controls is added to the Ribbon (Figure 3).
Figure 2

Figure 2 Checked items in the list represent displayed Ribbon tabs.

Figure 3

Figure 3 Check boxes and radio buttons can be inserted from the Form Controls group of the Developer tab. This is also where Visual Basic is found.

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