What’s the Issue with Inserting Checkboxes in Excel?

Here’s something interesting. There’s no way to insert checkboxes in the web version of Excel.

Surprised? So am I.

There's no way to add the developer tab to the web version of Excel.
Here’s the menu bar at the top of the web version of Excel. Notice anything?

The issue here is that we can’t alter the look of the “ribbon” at the top of the spreadsheet.

You can, however, use the desktop application to insert checkboxes.

If you’re platform agnostic and don’t mind using a competitor’s spreadsheet software, it’s much easier to do this in Google Sheets. I have an article on that, too. Here’s how to add a checkbox in Google Sheets.

The Usual Way to Add Checkboxes in Excel

With the downloaded and licensed program, the one that costs money, it’s easy to add a checkbox to Excel spreadsheets. Here’s how it works.

  1. Right click the ribbon.
  2. Make sure the “developer” tab is showing.
  3. When you can see that tab, choose the “insert” option.
  4. In the insert menu in the developer tab, choose “checkbox”.

That’s it. It takes about five seconds total.

So How Do you Insert Checkboxes in the Web Version?

If you own a license to use Microsoft Excel, there’s a workaround to the limitations of Microsoft’s web app.

Step 1: Click the “Editing” button on the top right of your window.

Step 2: Click “Open in Desktop App”.

That opens the Excel software on your computer instead of in your web browser.

Once you’re in the desktop version of Excel, just follow the advice I described above: Right click the ribbon, add the developer tab, then add your checkbox from there.

Why Doesn’t Excel Allow You to Add Checkboxes in the Web App?

It’s not clear why Microsoft would turn off the developer functionality in its web-version of Excel. Here are a few potential reasons:

  • Encouraging users to use the desktop app could drive subscription revenue for Microsoft 365
  • Allowing users to customize the ribbon in the web app could cost too much for Microsoft’s team
  • The user experience for those adding ribbon changes could be unwieldy for those on mobile devices

My guess: Microsoft wants to compete with the pervasive use of Google Sheets and needed to make a minimum viable product version of Excel for the web. When it encounters any advanced features, you’ll see something like this.

Here's an example of where the Web version of Excel asks you to pay for the full version.

So, while you can’t insert checkboxes into Excel on the web, you can do it with the desktop application. You can buy that from Microsoft.

Just make sure you have the developer tab added to your ribbon!

Related Question: How Do You Add a Checkmark in Excel?

If you want to add a checkmark in Excel, just copy any of these symbols and paste it into your sheet.

✓ ✔ ? ☑ ?

If you’re on a PC, you can highlight any of those and click Control + C to copy. Then click into your cell in Excel (web version or desktop app) and click Control + V to paste.

It's easy to add a checkmark in Excel. Just copy and paste one of these symbols.



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