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Using List Box Controls

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Using List Box Controls.

Excel allows you to define graphical controls within your worksheet. Buttons and other controls are placed in your worksheet using the Forms toolbar. If this toolbar is not visible, use the Toolbars option from the View menu to display it.

One of the controls you can place in your worksheet is called a list box. This is a scrollable list of options from which the user can choose. You might use these in a worksheet if you have a group of options from which you want the user to choose. For instance, let's assume you have a worksheet that provides a price quote and the price is contingent on which color of widget the user wants. Having the users type the name of a color is open to error. For instance, they might enter the name of a color you don't carry, misspell the color name, or refer to a color as "gray" when your terminology is "slate." Rather than have them type a color in, you can present the various colors in a list from which they can choose.

To place a list box control in your worksheet, click on the List Box tool on the Forms toolbar and then use the mouse to define the rectangle that will hold the list box and the scroll bar at the right side of the box.

To use a list box effectively, you have to link it to two separate areas on your worksheet. The first is called an input list, and represents the options in the list. The second is the cell link, which contains the currently selected option. To set these areas, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the list box control (the one you placed on your worksheet) by clicking on it once.
  2. Click on the Control Properties tool on the Forms toolbar. Excel displays the Format Control dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Control tab is selected.
  4. In the Input Range field, supply the name or address of the cell range that contains the options to be included in the list box.
  5. In the Cell Link field, specify the cell that will contain the value indicating which option is selected.
  6. At the bottom of the dialog box you can specify how many options in the list can be selected at the same time. When you use list boxes on a regular Excel worksheet, it is important to leave this option set to Single. The other options only have meaning if you are creating a custom dialog box.
  7. Click on OK.

You should note that the Cell Link setting specifies a bi-directional relationship between the cell and the control. This means that a change in the selected option will change the value in the cell, but a change in the cell value will also change which option is selected in the list box. The value stored in the linked cell indicates the number of the option selected in the list. Thus, if you have a list of seven options and the second option in the list is selected, the value in the linked cell will be 2.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2918) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Using List Box Controls.

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