Be Careful Using Radio Buttons in Excel

At RSM, we are prototyping an instructor observation worksheet as a tool to help us have great conversations with instructors to help them grow.

For a number of reasons, I built the prototype worksheet in Excel, using radio buttons. I used this excellent tutorial to figure out the technology. I tested it, sent it out to the team, and closed the file. Everything worked great.

Until I opened the spreadsheet again. When I opened the file, it no longer worked. Groups of radio buttons that worked fine before I closed the file were now behaving in strange ways. I eventually figured out that I had tried to be too precise in my screen layout. I had used the tips in the tutorial linked above to create very precise layouts, but when Excel opened the spreadsheet the next time, it re-rendered the cells slightly differently. Radio button groups depend on all the radio buttons in that group being contained in a larger “Group Box.” When Excel re-rendered everything, the radio buttons that I had so carefully lined up now had bounding box borders just slightly outside of the group box, messing everything up and creating a lot of re-work.

It’s my own fault for using the wrong tool (spreadsheet) for the job (survey form), and for not knowing the tool well enough to avoid problems. I did learn a lot about Excel, though.

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