Control Choice - Do you use checkboxes instead of multi-select dropdowns?

Last updated by Tiago Araújo [SSW] almost 3 years ago.See history

For multiple items selection, multi-select dropdown listboxes have a number of behavioral quirks that make it difficult for users to get used to them:

  • They require users to know that you select more than one entry by holding down the Ctrl key
  • They lose all selections if you click in the wrong place
  • You can't tell if a Listbox is single-select or multi-select at first glance

multiple select dropdown bad
Figure: Bad Example - ListBoxes are impractical for multiple choices

Note: It is OK and recommended to use dropdown lists for single item selection, when there is no more than 10 options.

Checked Listboxes are the ideal alternative for multiple items selections. They're much more pleasant to use and are a good deal more intuitive - compare to the list above. Checked Listboxes tell users immediately that they have the ability choose multiple options.

  • In ASP.NET, use System.Web.UI.WebControls.CheckBoxList. If you're having problems with there being too many items in the list, use a scrolling div
  • In Windows Forms, use System.Windows.Forms.CheckedListBox

multiple select checkbox good
Figure: Good Example - The beauty of the CheckListBox for multiple choices

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