How-To Geek

Use a Unicode Text Trick to Make Lists with Checkboxes

Why bother with complicated webapps when you just want to make a simple list? With a few handy Unicode characters, you can make a visually appealing and easy-to-skim list with plain text!

The Unicode symbols that you’ll want to copy and paste are:

☐ ☑ ☒

Their meanings can change depending on the context, but for almost any list that we can think of, these symbols convey all the information you need with just one character.

Now, rather than signing up for that new todo list webapp, just open up a text file and copy in this template.

☐ todo ☑ completed ☒ postponed

☐ Item
☐ Subitem
☑ Completed item
☒ Postponed item

Which results in a nice looking list that took no time at all to set up.


You can then copy this into an email without having to worry at all about formatting.

Since this is plain text, there are some other neat things that you can do. If your text editor supports it, you can easily highlight all of your “todo” items.


You can even search for one of the Unicode characters to quickly skim through all of a certain type of item.


Another great use for this trick is in tracking attendees for events that don’t warrant the full Facebook event treatment.


We’re sure there are other geeky uses for these handy unicode characters. If you have one, let us know in the comments!

Trevor is our resident Linux geek, but always keeps his eyes open for neat Windows tricks too.

  • Published 09/17/10

Comments (17)

  1. Tim

    Narf, can’t see anything but a box with some numbers in. My system needs resetting methinks.

    What’s the characters ASCII numbers?

  2. servantfist

    Thanks for the tip. Also, nice plug for Notepad++ which I use already and indirectly answers Tim’s question. Windoze notepad only uses ASCII character set so this won’t work in it. If on Windoze, I highly recommend downloading the free Notepad++ (from sourceforge or cnet) which supports the unicode character set and is just a handier tool supporting features such as the multi-highlight that was mentioned.

  3. Han Broekman

    How would this work in classic Eudora? It seems not to support ANSI???

  4. Prester John

    I’m trying to find a way to use AutoHotkey (or something similar) to set those characters up for hotkeys, but it’s proving rather difficult, and I’m not quite good enough with AHK scripting yet to sort it out. Still working on it, though… :)

  5. rroberto18

    I’m missing something.

    I downloaded and installed Notepad++, then copied the template into a new .txt file

    The squares changed to “?”

  6. GravityMaster

    Using Vista, able to copy/paste into Notepad and save as unicode or UTF-8 and still see the check boxes. However, in Notepad 5.7 all that paste is the boxes, nothing in them. Tried converting ANSI, UTF-8 (w/ &w/o), and UCS-2 (both big & little) to no effect. Any ideas?

  7. Emilio

    Same issue as GravityMaster.
    Working perfect is saved in MSWord2007.
    Tried fifferent encoding on ++.
    same results

  8. Hatryst

    What do you think of this article?

    ☐ Not helpful

    ☑ Awesome !

  9. SeanW

    For those that see ? marks instead of the boxes, open up your preferences, then change to the New Document tab. In the Encoding section, choose UTF-8 instead of ANSI.

    Then create a new file, paste and voila.

  10. Senax

    Just checking which of those cool Unicode characters will show up correctly: ☀☁☂☃☄★☆☇☈☉☊☋☌☍☎☏☐☑☒☓☚☛☜☝☞☟☠☡☢☣☤☥☦☧

  11. Trevor Bekolay


    These aren’t ASCII characters, they’re Unicode. You’ll have to use a program that supports Unicode (or UTF-8, the most popular type of Unicode encoding).

    @Han Broekman

    I don’t know for sure, but I would be pretty surprised if Eudora uses Unicode. You’ll have to use a different email client if you want to use Unicode characters.

    @GravityMaster and Emilio

    Changing the encoding in Notepad++ doesn’t convert characters already entered, so select “Encode in UTF-8” in Notepad++ and then try pasting in the unicode characters again, it should work.

  12. tate

    that’s fun, but i just use a ___ for uncompleted and _x_ for completed. things that are uncompleted are inherently postponed.

    in notepad++, you could map these characters to shortcuts rather than cut and paste; shortcuts are quicker.

  13. GravityMaster

    It is probably this crappy/buggy Windows Vista that is on this machine, but no joy for either Senax or Trevor’s solutions. Not getting ?, just the ☐. So I will use plain old Notepad since I can get it to work. Thanks for the ideas though.

  14. Rudy

    Tried and failed. Used Notepad++ v5.6.8 (UNICODE). Set default encoding to UTF-8. Restarted Notepad++. Confirmed encoding set to UTF-8. Created new file. Pasted boxes, but just shows ☐ ☑ ☒. I would really like to get this working. Anyone got any other ideas? Running Windows XP, BTW.

  15. Rudy

    @ Trevor

    The only place I see them correctly is in the screencaps, the rest are just plain boxes. So it must be an XP thing. I’ll try it at home on Windows 7 and see what happens.

    Thank you for your help.

  16. wtf is a name!?

    £∞x╔U≈ಐ ಓ ಔ ಕ ಖ ಗ ಘ ಙ ಝ ಞ ಲ ಶ ಹ ೀ ಾ ಿ ಧಿ ೈ ೋ ೌ ೬ ೂ ೄ ભ મ ય ર લ ળ વ શ ષ સ હ ઼ ઽ ા િ ી ુ ૂ ૃ ૄ ૅ ે ૈ ૉ ો ૌ ્ড ঢ ণ ত থ দ ধ ন প ফ ব ভ ম য র ল শ ষ স ঁ ং ঃ অ আ ই ঈ উ ঊ ঋ ঌ এ ঐ ও ঔ ক খ গহಐ ಓ ಔ ಕ ಖ ಗ ಘ ಙ ಝ ಞ ಲ ಶ ಹ ೀ ಾ ಿ ಧಿ ೈ ೋ ೌ ೬ ೂ ೄ ભ મ ય ર લ ળ વ શ ષ સ હ ઼ ઽ ા િ ી ુ ૂ ૃ ૄ ૅ ે ૈ ૉ ો ૌ ્ড ঢ ণ ত থ দ ধ ন প ফ ব ভ ম য র ল শ ষ স ঁ ং ঃ অ আ ই ঈ উ ঊ ঋ ঌ এ ঐ ও ঔ ক খ গহ~~~___ Œ it worked Ähhhhhhhh

  17. Laky

    Copy and paste does not work in my Notepad++. Tried copying and pasting other stuff, still does not work. Why, I wonder.

More Articles You Might Like

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!