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How to create a drop down list in Excel

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When you are entering data in Excel you may want to ensure your data is entered in a consistent way. Maybe you have multiple people working on the same file and you are constantly having to correct entries due to spelling errors or colleagues using abbreviations. If you want some consistency, you can add a drop-down list to any cell, column or row within your Excel spreadsheet. This then allows users to choose an option from the drop-down list rather than typing their own entries.

This is also a great feature for use within a classroom setting. Teachers can create interactive quizzes allowing students to choose an answer from a drop down list. This can be extended to include a self-marking function to let students know if the answer is correct or incorrect.

How to create a drop down list in Excel

In the example below there is no consistency in the way data is entered into the Source column or the Course Name column which will make sorting and filtering difficult.

Use drop down lists to ensure consistency in data entry

Let’s look now at how we can create a drop-down list to allow users to select from a pre-defined list of options. In my example, I want to have a column in my worksheet where users must select from a list of predefined locations.

Create the drop-down list

To create the drop-down list we are going to use the Data Validation tools. This allows you to specify what type of information you wish to allow to be entered into a cell, entire row or column.

Create the list

  1. Open Microsoft Excel
  2. If you wish to work on an existing file then press Ctrl + F12 to display the Open dialog. Locate the file and open it.
  3. If you want to start from scratch you can work directly from the new blank workbook displayed
  4. We will use the first blank worksheet (Sheet1) as our main data entry sheet. We will need a second worksheet to store the options we want to be displayed in the drop down list.
  5. Click the New sheet button at the bottom of the window

Click the New Sheet button

  1. A new blank worksheet will be added
  2. Click on the new worksheet to open it, this will hold the options to be used in our drop down list
  3. In cell A1 type the heading Location
  4. In cell A2 type the first location e.g. Sydney
  5. Press Enter and continue to add approx 6-8 different locations into the list
  6. You can format the heading as needed and resize the column if you prefer. You can even use the Sort function to put the list into alphabetical order.

Type in your list items

Display the drop down list

  1. Return back to Sheet1
  2. Type the heading Location into an appropriate location
  3. Highlight all of column A by clicking once on the column heading

Highlight the column

  1. Select the Data tab from the Ribbon
  2. Click the Data Validation button and choose Data Validation from the drop-down menu

Choose Data Validation from the Data tab

  1. The Data Validation dialog box will appear:

The Data Validation window will appear

  1. From the Allow drop-down, select that you want to allow a List
  2. You now need to select the location which holds the list within the workbook
  3. Click the Collapse button on the right side of the Source field

Collapse the dialog box

  1. you now need to highlight the cells which hold the entries you want displayed in your drop down list
  2. Select Sheet2 and highlight the cells containing each location, do not include the heading (I’ve highlighted A2:A9)

Highlight the values to include in the list

  1. Click the Expand button to bring the Data Validation dialog box back

Click Expand

  1. Click OK
  2. Place your cursor in column A and you will see a drop-down arrow appear on the right side of the cell

The drop down list appears

  1. Click the drop-down list and select a location
  2. Your list will now be available for the entire column
  3. Repeat this process to create drop-down lists in any other columns within the workbook

Edit a drop down list in Excel

If you need to add additional options to a drop down list, or you’ve made a spelling error, you can easily edit the list within the worksheet.

If you need to edit an option within the list:

  1. Open the second worksheet which contains all the list items you have created
  2. Edit the entries as normal
  3. The edited entries will now be available via the drop down lists on your data entry worksheet

To add more options to a drop down list:

  1. Open the second worksheet which contains all the list items you have created
  2. Add in any additional options you wish to include
  3. Go back to your data entry worksheet
  4. Highlight the column containing the corresponding drop down list
  5. Select the Data tab from the Ribbon
  6. Click the Data Validation button and choose Data Validation from the options

Choose Data Validation from the Data tab

  1. Edit the Source field by clicking the Collapse button

Collapse the dialog box

  1. Highlight the new range of cells containing your list options
  2. Expand the dialog box again and click OK
  3. Your new list items should be available through the drop down list in your data entry worksheet

To remove a drop down list

If you no longer wish to use a drop down list within your worksheet you can easily remove it.

  1. Highlight the column containing the drop down list
  2. Select the Data tab from the Ribbon
  3. Click the Data Validation button and choose Data Validation from the options
  4. Change the Allow field to Any value

The Data Validation window will appear

  1. Click OK
  2. The column will now allow any type of value to be entered

Feel free to post any comments or questions below.

 

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