Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 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: Limiting Choices in a Cell.

Limiting Choices in a Cell

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 9, 2019)

2

When you are developing worksheets that will be used by others, you may want to limit what your users can enter into a particular cell. For instance, you might have a cell where the user should enter their department. You would obviously want them to only enter one of the valid departments for your company.

To ensure that only certain departments can be entered in the cell, follow these steps:

  1. Select the cell where the user will input the department name.
  2. Display the Data tab of the ribbon.
  3. In the Data Tools group click the Data Validation tool. Excel displays the Data Validation dialog box.
  4. The Settings tab should be displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  5. Figure 1. The Settings tab of the Data Validation dialog box.

  6. Using the Allow drop-down list, choose List.
  7. In the Source box, enter your department names, separated by commas.
  8. Display the Error Alert tab. On this tab you specify an error message that the user will see if they enter an improper department name. (See Figure 2.)
  9. Figure 2. The Error Alert tab of the Data Validation dialog box.

  10. In the Title field, enter the phrase "Enter Valid Department Name".
  11. In the Error message box, enter a message that indicates what the user did incorrectly. You should also indicate the acceptable department names.
  12. Click OK.

That's it. Now, the user can only enter one of your valid department names. Better yet, when they select the cell, they will see a drop-down arrow at the right of the cell where they can select from the department names you specified in step 5. If they enter one that is incorrect, they will see the error message and will need to change what they entered.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (8033) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Limiting Choices in a Cell.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Weekdays in a Month

Want to find out how many of a particular weekday occur within a given month? Here's how you can find the desired ...

Discover More

Using Find and Replace to Change Text Case

Can you really use Find and Replace to change the case of text in your document? Not really, but that shouldn't stop you ...

Discover More

Changing the Highlighting Color

You can highlight words and phrases in your document, much the same as you can mark printed words and phrases with a ...

Discover More

Program Successfully in Excel! John Walkenbach's name is synonymous with excellence in deciphering complex technical topics. With this comprehensive guide, "Mr. Spreadsheet" shows how to maximize your Excel experience using professional spreadsheet application development tips from his own personal bookshelf. Check out Excel 2013 Power Programming with VBA today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Contingent Validation Lists

Data validation can be used to create lists of choices for entry into a particular cell. Using the techniques in this tip ...

Discover More

Limiting Input to Two Decimal Places

When entering data in a worksheet, you may want to exercise some degree of control on the values that can be entered. ...

Discover More

Limiting Entries to Numeric Values

When creating a worksheet, you may need to limit what can be entered into a particular cell. Using data validation you ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is 5 + 7?

2019-11-11 14:52:25

Ben

Use ; instead of , to separate values


2019-02-09 10:30:45

Lou B

Be aware that the Source box has a limit of 256 characters, otherwise you've got to use a range reference for the values.
More importantly, Data Validation only affects values that you type into a cell. If you Copy/Paste the values in, or use Find/Replace, the Validation has no effect.


This Site

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.

Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.