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Drop Down Lists Excel 2003

Use Excel data validation to create drop down lists on a worksheet, so data entry is easier. Watch the video, and download the sample file

For newer Excel versions, to get the video and instructions, click here.

Allow List

What is Data Validation?

Data validation is a tool that helps you control the kind of information that is entered in your worksheet. With data validation, you can:

In this tutorial, you'll see how to create a drop down list of choices in a cell.

Create a Drop Down List

Watch this video to see the steps for creating a drop down list in Excel 2003. Written instructions are below the video. The video transcript is at the end of the page.

How to Create a Drop Down List

Use Data Validation to create a drop down list of options in a cell. List items can be typed in a row or column on a worksheet, or typed directly into the Data Validation dialog box.

Note: Data validation is not foolproof. It can be circumvented by pasting data into the cell, or by choosing Edit|Clear|ClearAll

1. Create a List of Items

If the list of options is more than a couple of items, it will be easier to maintain if you type the list on a worksheet. The list can be entered on the sheet that will contain the drop down lists, or on a different sheet. In this example, the list will be stored on a sheet named Lists.

  1. In single row or column, type the entries you want to see in the drop-down list. (Note: The list must be in a single block of cells -- e.g. you can use A2:A6, but not A2, A4, A6, A8.)

2. Name the List Range

If you type the items on a worksheet, and name the range, you can refer to the list from any worksheet in the same workbook.

  1. Select the cells in the list.
  2. Click in the Name box, to the left of the formula bar
  3. Type a one-word name for the list, e.g. FruitList.
  4. Press the Enter key.

Note: To create a named list that automatically expands to include new items, use a dynamic range. go to top

Name Range

3. Apply the Data Validation

  1. Select the cells in which you want to apply data validation
  2. From the Data menu, choose Validation.
  3. From the Allow drop-down list, choose List

Allow List

  1. In the Source box, type an equal sign and the list name, for example: =FruitList
  2. Click OK. go to top

List Source

Tip: To select a range name, instead of typing it:

  1. In the Data Validation dialog box, under Allow, select List
  2. Click in the Source box, and on the keyboard, press the F3 key
  3. From the Paste Name list, select a named range, and click OK.
  4. Click OK, to close the Data Validation dialog box.

Paste Name dialog box

4. Using a Delimited List

Instead of referring to a list of items on the worksheet, you can type the list in the Source box, separated by commas. For example:


Note: This method of Data Validation is case sensitive -- if a user types YES, an error alert will be displayed. go to top

Delimited List

5. Allow Entries that are not in the List

To allow users to type items that are not in the list., turn off the Error Alert. go to top

Show Error

6. Protect the List

To protect the list from accidental damage, if you have entered it on a different worksheet, you can hide that sheet.

  1. Select the sheet that contains the list
  2. Choose Format | Sheet | Hide

Hide the Sheet

Get the Sample File

Get the zipped Excel 2003 sample data validation drop down lists workbook go to top

Video Transcript

Here is the trascript for the vidwo at the top of this page.


You've created an order form, and instead of having people type the name of the item they'd like to order, you're going to make a drop down list so that people can just select from that list.

That way, you'll prevent typing mistakes and people ordering things that aren't available.

To start, we're going to create a list of items and we've done that on the sheet called Lists.

We've typed the items in column B and now I'm going to select all those cells and we're going to give that group of cells a name.

To do that we'll click in the Name Box and type -- this is going to be FruitList -- the
name has to be all one word

We'll type, and then press the Enter key. And now, with those cells selected, you can see the name

Now we'll go back to be order sheet which is called DataEntry, and we'll select the cells where we want the list

To create the list we'll use data validation, so go to the Data menu, and click Validation

On the Settings tab we'll select List -- that's what we're going to allow

For the source, we start with an equal sign, and then type the name of our list

Or on your keyboard you can press F3, and that will bring up a list of all the names that you've created

So there's FruitList. Click OK and now it's entered for us

We'll click OK, and now you can click on any of those cells and select from the drop-down list

More Tutorials

Create a Drop Down List

Create Dependent Drop Down Lists

Dependent Dropdowns from a Sorted List  

Data Validation Criteria Examples

Data Validation Tips


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Last updated: January 26, 2023 8:23 PM