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: External Data Validation.

External Data Validation

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated August 2, 2014)

The data validation feature of Excel is quite handy. You can use the feature to specify a range of values that are considered acceptable for user input. Normally, Excel expects you to specify your validation range as being on the same worksheet where you are defining the validation rule. If you try to enter a range that is on another worksheet or in another workbook, Excel balks and gives you an error message.

What if you want the validation range to be on another worksheet, just so you don't clutter up the current worksheet with extraneous data? The easiest way to do that is to follow these general steps:

  1. Select the range of cells you want to use as your data validation values.
  2. Choose Name from the Insert menu, and then Define from the submenu. Excel displays the Define Name dialog box.
  3. Enter a unique name for your data validation range, such as MyValRange, then click on OK.
  4. Select the cell for which you want to define a validation rule.
  5. Choose Validation from the Data menu. Excel displays the Data Validation dialog box.
  6. Use the Allow and Data drop-down lists to specify how you want Excel to validate the data. Depending on your selections, you will see a Value, Minimum, or Maximum boxes appear in the dialog box.
  7. In the appropriate boxes (Value, Minimum, or Maximum), specify the name you gave your data validation range, in step 3. For instance, you could enter MyValRange.
  8. Click on OK.

This approach works great if the data validation range is in the same workbook. What if you want to use a data validation range that is in a different workbook entirely? You can trick Excel into accepting your external reference if, in step 7, you enter a formula such as the following:

=INDIRECT("[Book2]Sheet1!D6")

This formula uses the INDIRECT function to return the value at a cell on another worksheet, and the data validation feature will accept it with no problems. In this case the cell being checked is at cell D6 on Sheet1 of Book2. In order for this to work, you will need to make sure that Book2 is open at the same time that your main workbook is open.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2813) 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: External Data Validation.

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. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Sorting Data on Protected Worksheets

Protect a worksheet and you limit exactly what can be done with the data in the worksheet. One of the things that could be ...

Discover More

Exporting Latitude and Longitude

A handy way to store latitude and longitude values in Excel is to treat them as regular time values. When it comes around to ...

Discover More

Printing Only Selected Pages

I often need to print only select pages of a document, rather than the whole thing. Word makes it easy to be judicious in ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

MORE EXCELTIPS (MENU)

Using Data Validation

Want to control what users put into a cell? It's easy to do using a feature called data validation, as described in this tip.

Discover More

Limiting Entries to Numeric Values

When creating a worksheet, you may need to limit what can be entered into a particular cell. Using data validation you can ...

Discover More

Limiting Entry of Names

When inputting information into a worksheet, you may need a way to limit what can be entered. This scenario is a prime ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments for this tip:

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the menu interface (Excel 97, Excel 2000, Excel 2002, or Excel 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.

Links and Sharing
Share