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Data Validation List Tips

Updated on March 14, 2011

This hub will look at how you can get more from your Excel drop down lists created using Data Validation. We will look at a variety of techniques such as using source data from another worksheet, hiding the list and allowing valid entries.

Copying the List

The same list can be used on other worksheets or workbooks by copying the data validation criteria.

  1. Select a cell containing the list you want to copy
  2. Press Ctrl + C to copy the cell data
  3. Select the cell, or range of cells, where you want to apply the list
  4. Click Edit > Paste Special in Excels 2003, or click the Home tab, Paste Special and then select Paste Special  from the menu in Excel 2007
  5. Select Validation
  6. Click Ok

Copying Data Validation using Paste Special
Copying Data Validation using Paste Special

Create a List Using Data from another Worksheet

You can create a drop down list using data on a separate Excel worksheet. However to do these in Excel 2003 and previous versions, you need to have a named range set up.

Excel 2007 allows the use of referencing a cell range in another worksheet without the need for a named range.

  1. Select the range of cells you want to apply the drop down list to
  2. Click Data > Validation in Excel 2003, or click the Data tab and then Data Validation from the Data Tools group in Excel 2007
  3. Click the Settings tab, if necessary
  4. Select List from the Allow: drop down list
  5. Type = followed by the name of the range in the Source: box. For example, if we had a named range of Fruit, we would enter =Fruit
  6. Click Ok

Using Data Validation to reference a list from a different worksheet
Using Data Validation to reference a list from a different worksheet

Allow Invalid Entries

It is possible to turn off the validation aspect of the Data Validation tool. This is useful if you want to use a drop down list to speed up data entry, but do not want to use the validation aspect. This will allow users to type any entry.

  1. Select the cells where the Data Validation is applied
  2. Click Data > Validation in Excel 2003, or click the Data tab and then Data Validation from the Data Tools group in Excel 2007
  3. Click the Error Alert tab
  4. Uncheck the Show error alert after invalid data is entered box
  5. Click Ok

Turn off the error alert to allow invalid entries
Turn off the error alert to allow invalid entries

Ignore Blank Cells

If the source list is a named range and contains blank cells, users will be able to type any entry. To prevent this:

  1. Select the cells where the Data Validation is applied
  2. Click Data > Validation in Excel 2003, or click the Data tab and then Data Validation from the Data Tools group in Excel 2007
  3. Click the Settings tab, if necessary
  4. Uncheck the Ignore blank checkbox
  5. Click Ok

If the source list is entered as a cell range, it will block invalid entries whether Ignore blank is turned on or off.

Related Links

Create dependent drop down lists in Excel

A popular question for people who use Data Validation in Excel to create drop down lists, is whether it is possible to create a second drop down list that is dependent on the first. This tutorial will show you how.

Software training videos

Online training videos for Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Flash, JavaScript and much much more..

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