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Validate Your Business Data Using Excel Drop Down List


Excel is one of the best productivity tools to be ever created. The software has helped enterprises organize, store, and analyze data easily for more than three decades. Most individuals are aware of the basic functionalities and features of Excel. They use it for simple data organizing or calculation tasks.

But, Excel packs in a bunch of features that not many people are aware of. These features can further simplify Excel-associated tasks and even help you perform them quickly and efficiently. One such feature that we will discuss today is the Excel drop-down list.

What Is the Excel Drop-Down List?

The drop-down list is one of the best yet under-utilized features in Excel. It allows users to select items from a predefined list. The biggest benefit of using a drop-down list in Excel ensures that only the required, valid data is entered in the cell. This feature ensures that the spreadsheet looks clean and intuitive.

Why Use the Excel Drop-Down List?

The drop-down list in Excel provides multiple benefits. As mentioned earlier, they ensure that only the correct data is entered and help keep the spreadsheet organized. Here are three reasons to use it.

Limits the Number of Options

An Excel drop-down list provides the user with a limited number of options to choose from. This helps them understand what data is expected as input. They won’t need to guess.

Reduces Errors

Limiting the input to predefined choices reduces the chances of errors. It helps eliminate common mistakes such as spelling errors that usually happen in Excel sheets.

This proves more helpful if there are formulas involved that depend on the cell values. Elimination of spelling mistakes ensures that the formulas don’t return errors.

Increases Input Speed

Naturally, typing text takes longer than selecting options from a predefined list. Using drop-down lists makes it easier and faster for users to input data.

What Is Data Validation in Excel?

Data validation is a feature that restricts or controls what the user can input into a cell. Data validation ensures that the value entered in a cell is among the predefined choices provided to the user.

For example, you can use data validation to ensure that the user enters a value only between 1 and 50. If the user inputs any other value, the input is rejected. You can even have an error message displayed notifying the user.

How to Create a Simple Excel Drop-Down List?

#1. First, you will need to define the cells for which you want to create and add the drop-down list to. For this, you can select a single cell or select multiple cells, as shown below.

Excel Image credits: Microsoft

#2. Select Data Validation from the Data tab. This will open a dialog box where you can define various parameters regarding data validation.

Excel Image credits: Microsoft

#3. In the validation criteria segment under the settings tab, you need to define the data type that is allowed as the input. You can choose between whole number, decimal, list, date, time, and other options.

Excel Image credits: Microsoft

#4. After that, you need to input the data that will appear in the drop-down list.

ExcelImage credits: Microsoft

#5. Click OK to validate.

#6. Next, go to the ‘Input Message’ tab. Here, you can customize the message users will see while entering data. Enter a title and the input message and press ‘OK.’

Excel Image credits: Microsoft

You can also set an error alert for users if they input a value that is not from the predefined list.

#7. Go to the ‘Error Alert’ tab to customize the style, title, and error message. Select ‘OK.’

Excel Image credits: Microsoft

#8. Head back to the Excel sheet to see the drop-down list and the applied data validation.

A simple Excel drop-down list is easy to create. But, the drawback with this is that users are required to type the value manually. This can become tiring and time-consuming when dealing with large amounts of data.

To overcome this issue, you can create a dynamic drop-down list.

How to Create a Dynamic Excel Drop-Down List?

A dynamic drop-down list in Excel can be created in many ways. The two popular methods of creating a dynamic drop-down list are:

  • The drop-down list linked to an Excel range
  • The drop-down list linked to a table

The Drop-Down List Linked to an Excel Range

If you want to remove manual input, you will need to link the drop-down list to an Excel range. The steps are mostly the same. But in the source field in the settings tab in the data validation dialog box, you will need to select a range in the spreadsheet.


The users will be able to select an option only from the list. As mentioned earlier, dynamic drop-down lists help save time as there is no need for manual input. But, modifying the list to add or remove items can become tiring if it needs to be done more often.

The Drop-Down List Linked to a Table

 In this method, you first need to format your source data as a table. For that, select the data you want to convert into a table. Then, on the ‘Home’ tab, go to the ‘Styles’ group and click ‘Format as a Table.’


Next, choose a table style from the options provided. A ‘Create Table’ dialog box will open up. Check the ‘My table has headers’ option and click ‘OK.’ This will create a table from the range. Next, name the table.

ExcelNow, head to the cells where the data needs to be input. Click on the ‘Data Validation’ option, and in the ‘Source’ option in the settings tab, insert the name of the table.

This will create the required dynamic drop-down list. The data source will automatically update if new values are added or removed from it.


We hope that now you must have mastered the art of creating Excel drop-down lists and validating your business data with it. They will help you visually enhance your Excel sheets, reduce the chances of errors significantly, and speed up the dreaded, time-consuming data entry process.

Do you have any questions or want to share some ideas or your tips and tricks for data validation using Excel drop-down list? Feel free to share them in the comments.

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