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: Limiting Entry of Names.

Limiting Entry of Names

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated January 16, 2014)

Using Excel for entering data is quite common. When you are entering information, you may want to limit what can be placed in a particular cell. For instance, you might be working on an employee register, and you need to make sure that you only enter each employee's name a single time in the worksheet.

One way to approach this challenge is to create a list of allowable names, either on another worksheet or in a different place on the same worksheet. Give this list of names a defined name, such as ValidNames. Then, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the cells where you will be entering employee names; the ones where you want to make sure you only enter each name once. (For this example, let's assume you select cells A1:A10.)
  2. Choose Validation from the Data menu. Excel displays the Data Validation dialog box.
  3. Make sure the Settings tab is displayed. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Settings tab of the Data Validation dialog box.

  5. In Allow drop-down list, choose Custom.
  6. In the Formula box (which appears when you complete step 4), enter the following formula:
     =AND(COUNTIF(ValidNames,A1)=1,COUNTIF($A$1:$A$10,A1)=1)
  • Click OK to close the dialog box.
  • This validation formula works because it checks the input range (A1:A10) and makes sure that no more than one name from the ValidNames list appears there. There are many other variations on this particular formula that can be used, since Excel does provide many different ways to accomplish the same task. An example of an alternate formula method is provided in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

    http://support.microsoft.com/kb/213185
    

    While the Knowledge Base article is specifically for Excel 2000, the formula that is at the root of the article (step 7) will work just fine in other versions of Excel.

    These formulaic methods work great if you are typing names into your input list. If you instead prefer to use a drop-down list to select names, there is a slick method presented at this Web page:

    http://www.contextures.com/xlDataVal03.html
    

    What makes it slick is that the drop-down list is dynamic. For instance, when you select a name to go into one cell, that name is removed from the drop-down list used to select names in other cells. Quite nice.

    ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2751) 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: Limiting Entry of Names.

    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. ...

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