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Independent Radio Buttons

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Independent Radio Buttons.

Larry is using Excel to put together a way to track his performance at bowling. As part of his system, he would like to use the Controls toolbox to add radio buttons (sometimes called option buttons) to his worksheet, one for each of the ten pins. He would like a way to click on the radio buttons representing the pins he left standing after the first roll of the ball.

The problem is that radio buttons are not designed to allow multiple selections. When there are multiple radio buttons in a group, only one of the radio buttons in that group can be selected at a time. (This would be acceptable if Larry never left more than one pin standing after each roll, but such an expectation may be unreasonable.)

There are two options that can be tried. The easiest is to use check boxes instead of radio buttons. By design, check boxes are independent of each other; you can click one or all of them—it doesn't matter. You can easily arrange the check boxes in a triangular pattern to simulate the position of the bowling pins.

The drawback to this approach is that the check boxes are square. If this aesthetic does not meet your expectations, then the second approach might better. This approach involves putting each radio button into its own group.

Remember that only one radio button per group can be selected at a time. When you add radio buttons to a worksheet, they default to the same group, the name of which matches the worksheet name. As you add each radio button you could right-click on it and display its properties. One of the properties is GroupName; change this to something like Pin1, Pin2, etc. As long as each radio button uses a different group name, they will be considered independent of each other.

There is an advantage to using check boxes instead of radio buttons—a huge advantage. Check boxes can be selected and then deselected; radio buttons cannot. Thus, you can click once on a check box to select it and a second time to deselect it. If you try this with radio buttons, it won't work—once a radio button is selected, it is selected for good. This isn't that big of a deal if you have multiple radio buttons in the same group—if you make a mistake in clicking one, just click on another to undo it. If you configure the properties so there is one radio button per group, then you can only select that single radio button in each group; you cannot undo it.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3076) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Independent Radio Buttons.

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Comments for this tip:

Ced    25 Aug 2015, 16:13
Thanks for the tip. Totally worked and straight to the point - Changing Group Name in properties.

Richard C    15 Aug 2012, 17:40
How about inserting groups of 2 radio buttons instead of only 1. The PIN buttons can be arranged as they are placed on the bowling lane and the RESET buttons can be placed in a row above the pins. Default selection would be the RESET radios. Then for each roll of the bowling ball, select the PIN radio buttons left standing (which will make the corresponding RESET radio clear). To reset the PINs, just reselect the corresponding RESET buttons.
robert williamson    28 Jul 2012, 23:50
You can use the image for a radio button for check boxes! I.e. you can use round images for you pins even though they are check boxes so you can have the computational capability that makes sense without sacraficing the visual image that's appropriate.
Marty W    28 Jul 2012, 19:20
Another way to do exactly what you want is to assign a macro to a graphic of the character of the radio buttons that changes the image. When you click on the button image displayed,the macro switches the display to the opposite image. e.g. You show an open button (Wingdings character 0xA1), clicking on it initiates a macro to swap the image with that of character 0xA4; and vice-versa.

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