How to get tick marks in Excel? [custom cell formatting]

Posted on September 15th, 2009 in Excel Howtos , Learn Excel - 12 comments

Here is tricky scenario, faced by Basil, our forum member,

I want to have Excel display a wing ding check mark when a user types “y” in a cell. I have been trying to do a substitute formula but putting the symbol in an unused portion of the spreadsheet and calling it to the selected cell but I can’t get it to work. Any thoughts? [more]

There are 2 simple solutions I can think of (other than the solution proposed by Axim5)

1. Using custom cell formatting

This approach is more robust, but a compromise. Instead of  “y” and “n”, user should type “1” and “0”. Then we can use custom number formatting to conditionally display the tick mark symbols.

PS: you need to change the font to “wingdings”. 🙂

See this:

Custom Cell Formatting Codes in Excel - ExampleTick marks in Excel

2. Using conditional formatting

[This method works only in Excel 2007 and above]

Starting with excel 2007, you can use conditional formatting to set cell format codes as well. This means, when the cell value is Y, we can conditional format the cell to show tick mark symbol. All you have to do is define a new rule, and then go to “number” tab and set the format code you want.

For eg. a code like this will give an output shown to the right.

Custom Cell Formatting Codes in Excel - Example 2Tick marks in Excel using Conditional Formatting

There you go Basil. Go check all you want.

More resources on cell formatting and conditional formatting:

What is your favorite number formatting trick?

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Written by Chandoo
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12 Responses to “How to get tick marks in Excel? [custom cell formatting]”

  1. Jon Peltier says:

    Both of these tickmarks indicate "checked" to me. I'm sure if I scanned a list of them quickly, I'd be hard-pressed to sort them out.

    How about using one of the "checked" symbols, and finding an empty square for "unchecked".

    Better yet, use real checkboxes, so the user can change them with the mouse.

  2. Chandoo says:

    @Jon... very good suggestions. For the unchecked box, we can also use character o (that is alphabet o) in wingdings. It shows an empty box.

    Of course, using real checkboxes is a the best choice, but if they are to be used in a list, it would be pain to maintain them...

  3. Jon Peltier says:

    Ease of use trumps maintenance any day. It's hard to program something to be easy for the user, but it's worth it.

  4. David says:

    I completely agree with Jon on ease of use trumping maintenance. This technique would be great if the data is coming from another source and Excel is being used to generate a report. However, if the user is to interact with it, having them enter a 0 or 1 to generate an empty or checked box seems very prone to error (especially if the users are not comfortable in the Excel environment to begin with, which I encounter quite frequently).


  5. Jon Peltier says:

    David -

    Even if the data originates elsewhere, all you need is a formula that evaluates to true or false that links to the checkbox. Clear and consistent.

  6. henk says:

    checkbox could work, but if there is a relationship between one check box and another it's a bit more tricky. You could use formulas to link multiple check boxes (I like to use conditionals here) to make it user friendly. I also like to split my input cells from a "reporting view" using y/n for input and I've been playing around with conditional formatting on "CHAR()" formula using wingdings based on that input for the reporting.

  7. Chandoo says:

    @Jon... one more for you...

    @Henk: Good idea. I also like to keep my input data away from reporting view. It is a very good practice.

  8. Nimesh says:

    before this post, I used O,P (Caps) in wingdings 2 to do the trick

  9. Golam Mostafa says:

    Is it possible to put multiple options from drop down box in a single cell?

  10. SHASHWAT says:


  11. Sam says:

    Thanks for the tips, has saved me a load of time.

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