A little about Excel Dropdown List

Excel create dropdown list Demo

Having a dropdown list can be particularly useful if an Excel sheet is created by one and used by others.

In that case, you may limit the users for selecting a pre-given list of values in a cell. Optionally, you may facilitate users for selecting a value from the available ones along with adding new values that do not exist in the list.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to create a dropdown list in Excel that only shows values that you set along with an example of allowing users selecting a value from the available dropdown list plus writing their own.

How to create a dropdown list in Excel?

Follow these steps for creating a dropdown list.

Step 1:

First, you have to create the source for the dropdown list. For that, you may write the dropdown list items on the same sheet or another sheet. For the demo, I am writing the items on the same sheet that will appear in the dropdown. See the image below:

Excel dropdown source

You can see, these are G2 to G10 cells that will act as the data source for the dropdown. The step 4 shows how to use it.

Step 2:

Select the cells where you want to create a dropdown as shown below:

Excel dropdown list 1

So in the end, the dropdown will appear from B2 to B11 cells in our example.

Step 3:

Go to the “Data” in the ribbon and locate the “Data Validation” group.

Excel dropdown data

Click on the “Data Validation” option that should open the pop-up window.

Step 4:

In the popup window, the Settings tab should already open. Under the “Validation Criteria”, click on the “Allow” dropdown and select the “List” option.

Excel data source

There you can also see the “Source” option. Click on the source textbox and select the cells in the sheet that we created for dropdown values i.e. G2 to G10 cells.

Press the Ok button and you should see the dropdown in the B2 to B B11 cells with the values from G2 to G10.

Allowing users entering other values example

In the above example, an error will be displayed if you try entering a value that does not exist in the dropdown. For example, our dropdown does not contain “Meat”. As I entered the value in a cell with dropdown, this is how it displayed the error:

Excel data valid

So, what if I want to allow entering other values apart from the dropdown?

This is quite easy to implement. Follow these simple steps to enable this.

Step 1:

After selecting the dropdown cells, go to the “Data” in the ribbon and locate the “Data Validation” group.

There, click on the “Data Validation” option as we did in the above example.

Step 2:

In the pop-up window, click the “Error Alert” tab as shown below:

Excel error alert

The option “Show error alert after invalid data is entered” should be pre-selected. Uncheck this option and press Ok.

Now, Excel should not display the error message for entering other values than dropdown’s list.

Excel error gone

Displaying a custom error message example

If you want users to enter only a value from the list and if some other value is entered, you want to show a custom error message, this is how you may do it.

Step 1:

After selecting the dropdown cells, go to the “Data” in the ribbon and under the “Data Validation” group, click the “Data Validation” option.

In the pop up window, click the “Error Alert” tab and there you may enter the custom message as shown below:

Excel error message

If a value other than dropdown list is entered, this is how the custom message will display:

Excel custom message

Using the data source other than cells example

Rather than selecting a range of cells as the source of values for the dropdown list, you may also enter the values directly in the source text box.

In that case, write the values in the source text box and just separate by a comma as shown below:

Excel data source 2

Now our dropdown list should show only three values entered in the source text box as shown below:

Excel data direct

How to add new items in the dropdown example

After creating a dropdown list, you may require to add, update or remove the existing items in the dropdown.

For adding the new items based on the cells as the data source, simply insert a new cell at the desired position where you want that item to appear in the list and enter the value.

For example, in our list of the above demos, we don’t have “Meat” in the dropdown list. Suppose, we want to add this item.

Step 1:

Right click on the cell that acted as the source of values for the dropdown list. I want to add the “Meat” after the Wheat, so I right-clicked on the “Rice” as shown below and clicked the “Insert” option:

Excel item new

Press the “Shift cells down” in next window that should result in a blank cell under the “Wheat” item.

There I added the new item “Meat”:

You can see below the dropdown is also showing this new entry:

Excel item new added

Removing an existing item

For deleting an existing item from the dropdown list based on cells, simply right click on the item and click on the “Delete” option under the “Insert”.

Click on the “Shift cells up” in the next window and press “OK”. This should delete the existing item in the list.