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: Single-Use Drop-Down List.

Single-Use Drop-Down List

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 26, 2016)

One of the really cool uses for the data validation feature in Excel is the ability to create a single-use drop-down list. This list allows users to select the cell and then select from a list of pre-defined values for that cell. Once the user makes a selection and moves to a different cell, the arrow for the drop-down list disappears.

Start by creating a list of the values that you want available in the drop-down list. You can create this list almost anywhere, but for design purposes it is a good idea to put the list on a different worksheet than the one where the data entry will be.

For example, let's say that you want a list of employee names. On a new worksheet, enter the employee names in any manner desired. (You probably will want to sort them in some manner.) Select the list and give it a name such as Employees. (To define a name use Insert | Name | Define.) Now, back on the main worksheet, follow these steps:

  1. Select the cell where you want the drop-down list to appear.
  2. Choose Validation from the Data menu. Excel displays the Data Validation dialog box, with the Settings tab visible.
  3. Using the Allow drop-down list, choose List. (See Figure 1.)
  4. Figure 1. The Data Validation dialog box.

  5. Make sure the In-Cell Dropdown check box is selected.
  6. In the Source box, enter =Employees. (This is the name you earlier gave to the employee list.) Don't forget the equal sign; it is very important.
  7. Click OK.

Now, whenever someone selects the cell you used in step 1, they'll see a drop-down list arrow to the right of the cell. Clicking on the list provides a drop-down listing all the employees. The user can select one of the employees, but cannot enter a different name. When they move to a different cell, the drop-down list disappears, but the selected value remains visible.

As a side note, if you don't want to place your data list in a worksheet, then you can enter the choices directly into the Data Validation dialog box. In step 5 (the Source box), leave out the equal sign and just enter the choices. Separate them by commas, and those are the choices that will be available to the user.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3182) 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: Single-Use Drop-Down List.

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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