Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Interactive Checklists in Google Docs

Checklists are a convenient and effective way to stay on track and get things done. I recall learning about their many benefits during a book study my district did on “The Checklist Manifesto” several years ago.

For our students, checklists can be used in many ways:

  • Steps in a science experiment
  • Self-monitoring of behavior
  • Mastery of subject content and standards
  • Tasks when composing and editing their writing
  • Working through a math procedure
  • And many more…

Typically we think of such checklists as printed paper documents that our students can mark on with a pencil as they complete the steps in their list. While that is perfectly fine, we can also take advantage of digital checklists. When done electronically, checklists can be collaborative, edited as needed, accessed by multiple people, and hopefully not eaten by the dog.

There are certainly a lot of mobile apps, web apps, web extensions, and websites that provide checklist tools. However, one creative way to make an interactive checklist is with Google Documents. I have always known that you can add a checkbox list to a Google Doc, but did not realize a neat trick you can do to make the checklist more interactive. Recently I learned this clever approach from Caitlin Christel, an attendee at one of my Google certification boot camps.

See below for how to use Google Documents to create interactive checklists for students.

Create the Checklist

First, begin by creating the checklist in Google Docs using the “Bulleted list” feature.

  • Type out the items in the checklist, with one item per line.
  • Select all the lines of items.
  • Click the down arrow to the right of the “Bulleted list” icon in the top toolbar, and then choose the checkbox option from the pop-out menu.
  • Alternately you can click “Format” in the top menu bar, then “Lists”, then “Bulleted list”, and then finally choose the checkbox option.
  • This will place a checkbox at the start of each line in the list.

Mark off the Checklist

Now the student can mark off an items in the checklist as they complete them. This can be done by changing a checkbox to a checkmark at the start of any of the lines.

  • Left-click one time on a checkbox, which will select the entire group of checkboxes.
  • Now left-click one more time on the same checkbox, which will now just select the single checkbox you have clicked on.
  • Now right-click on the same checkbox.
  • This will pop up a window where you can choose a new bullet to replace the checkbox.
  • Choose the checkmark icon.
  • The empty checkbox will now be replaced with a checkbox, indicating the item has been completed.
  • Repeat as needed for other checkboxes.

Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts and on Google+ at plus.google.com/+EricCurts1


  1. Very nice summary. What I would love to be able to do next is search for "unchecked" items. I don't think it's possible but thought I'd ask.


    1. You can use ctrl+f and type the item you would like to search for in the box that pops up. Hope that helps!

    2. @Anonymous (other) The OP is asking how to search UNCHECKED items, not everything in the doc. I would probably write an app to search specifically for bulleted items with the box symbol. See api's here: https://developers.google.com/apps-script/guides/docs

  2. Thanks for this super set of directions. Just did learned this at a recent Google Summit, but your directions rock!

  3. How does this work for IOS? On my ipad I can create the checklist but I can't change the boxes to a check. I can't even select them. Right now I have to delete the checkbox and insert the check character.

  4. Thanks for this. Unknown: in iOS use control and click

  5. I can't believe that with all of the requests in forums for this feature that Google has yet to add it. It's such a foundational function for any doc.

  6. I can't believe that with all of the requests in forums for this feature that Google has yet to add it. It's such a foundational function for any doc.

  7. Big thumbs up for this! Very helpful!

  8. I think this is too much work. So far I've just been using standard lists and using the strikethrough shortcut to show that they are done.

  9. Thanks you for writing this. You helped me improve my productivity rate.

  10. Thanks so much! Hey Google - you should add a checkbox option!

  11. Sweet! This is great! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  12. Super helpful. Always wanted to know how to do this, as I make "To Do" lists all the time. Thank You!

  13. Excellent idea. However on my "more bullets" box there is no check mark available, even on the extended list. Would anyone know how to add the check box to the first list of symbols that pops up, as shown in this tutorial? Thanks!

  14. Thanks for sharing. It was very useful.

  15. wow! useful great job you have done we should learn such kind tick because of this is technologies world good job keep it up!Han Solo Leather Jacket