Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. 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: Limiting Entry of Names.

Limiting Entry of Names

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated July 1, 2023)
This tip applies to Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Using Excel for entering data is quite common. When you are entering information, you may want to limit what can be placed in a particular cell. For instance, you might be working on an employee register, and you need to make sure that you only enter each employee's name a single time in the worksheet.

One way to approach this challenge is to create a list of allowable names, either on another worksheet or in a different place on the same worksheet. Give this list of names a defined name, such as ValidNames. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the cells where you will be entering employee names—the ones where you want to make sure you only enter each name once. (For this example, let's assume you select cells A1:A10.)
  2. Display the Data tab of the ribbon.
  3. Click the Data Validation tool. Excel displays the Data Validation dialog box.
  4. Make sure the Settings tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Settings tab of the Data Validation dialog box.

  6. In Allow drop-down list, choose Custom.
  7. In the Formula box (which appears when you complete step 5), enter the following formula:
     =AND(COUNTIF(ValidNames,A1)=1,COUNTIF($A$1:$A$10,A1)=1)
  • Click OK to close the dialog box.
  • This validation formula works because it checks the input range (A1:A10) and makes sure that no more than one name from the ValidNames list appears there.

    This formulaic method works great if you are typing names into your input list. If you instead prefer to use a drop-down list to select names, there is a slick method presented at this Web page:

    http://www.contextures.com/xlDataVal03.html
    

    What makes it slick is that the drop-down list is dynamic. For instance, when you select a name to go into one cell, that name is removed from the drop-down list used to select names in other cells. Quite nice.

    ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (7361) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Excel in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Limiting Entry of Names.

    Author Bio

    Allen Wyatt

    With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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