Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Single-Use Drop-Down List.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 27, 2019)
One of the really cool uses for the data validation feature in Excel is the ability to create a single-use drop-down list. This list allows users to select the cell and then select from a list of pre-defined values for that cell. Once the user makes a selection and moves to a different cell, the arrow for the drop-down list disappears.
Start by creating a list of the values that you want available in the drop-down list. You can create this list almost anywhere, but for design purposes it is a good idea to put the list on a different worksheet than the one where the data entry will be.
For example, let's say that you want a list of employee names. On a new worksheet, enter the employee names in any manner desired. (You probably will want to sort them in some manner.) Select the list and give it a name such as Employees. (To define a name, display the Formulas tab of the ribbon and click Define Name in the Defined Names group.) Now, back on the main worksheet, follow these steps:
Figure 1. The Data Validation dialog box.
Now, whenever someone selects the cell you used in step 1, they'll see a drop-down list arrow to the right of the cell. Clicking on the list provides a drop-down listing all the employees. The user can select one of the employees but cannot enter a different name. When they move to a different cell, the drop-down list disappears, but the selected value remains visible.
As a side note, if you don't want to place your data list in a worksheet, then you can enter the choices directly into the Data Validation dialog box. In step 6 (the Source box), leave out the equal sign and just enter the choices. Separate them by commas, and those are the choices that will be available to the user.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (6191) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Microsoft 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Single-Use Drop-Down List.
Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!
When using data validation, you may want to reference a list of validation criteria contained on a different worksheet. ...Discover More
When inputting information into a worksheet, you may need a way to limit what can be entered. This scenario is a prime ...Discover More
When using data validation, you might want to have Excel display a message when someone starts to enter information into ...Discover More
FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."
Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.