Excel Tutorial: How To Make Drop Boxes In Excel


Are you looking to organize and input data more efficiently in Excel? Drop boxes, also known as dropdown lists, are a great tool for achieving this. They allow you to create a list of options for users to select from, making data input simpler and more accurate. In this tutorial, we will provide step-by-step instructions for creating drop boxes in Excel, so you can take your data organization to the next level.

Key Takeaways

  • Drop boxes, or dropdown lists, are an efficient tool for organizing and inputting data in Excel.
  • Data validation in Excel allows for the creation of drop boxes to ensure accurate data input.
  • Creating a separate list for the drop box options is important for easy editing and updating.
  • Customizing drop boxes with input messages and error alerts can enhance user experience.
  • Testing, using, and troubleshooting drop boxes are essential steps for proficiency in Excel.

Understanding Data Validation

Data validation is a feature in Excel that allows you to control the type of data that can be entered into a cell. This can help ensure the accuracy and consistency of your data.

A. Explain the concept of data validation in Excel

Data validation allows you to create rules or criteria for the data that can be entered into a cell. This can include setting a specific range of values, creating a list of options, or restricting the type of data that can be entered.

B. Discuss the benefits of using data validation for creating drop boxes

Using data validation to create drop boxes can help streamline data entry and reduce errors. It provides a list of predefined options for users to choose from, which can improve accuracy and consistency in data entry.

C. Provide examples of when drop boxes can be useful in data validation
  • When collecting survey responses, using drop boxes can ensure that respondents choose from a predetermined list of options, making it easier to analyze the data.
  • In a spreadsheet tracking project statuses, using drop boxes can standardize the input of statuses and make it easier to filter and organize the data.
  • For inventory management, using drop boxes can help ensure that only valid product names or categories are entered, reducing mistakes and discrepancies in the data.

Creating a List for the Drop Box

When creating drop boxes in Excel, it’s important to start by creating a list of options for the drop box.

A. Explain how to create a list of options for the drop box

  • Start by determining the options that you want to include in the drop box.
  • Ensure that the list is comprehensive and includes all possible options that you want to offer in the drop box.

B. Show how to input the list into a separate section of the Excel sheet

  • Input the list of options into a separate section of the Excel sheet, such as a new tab or a specific range of cells.
  • Organize the list in a logical manner for easy reference and updating.

C. Highlight the importance of keeping the list separate for easy editing and updating

  • Keeping the list separate from the rest of the data in the Excel sheet makes it easier to edit and update the options as needed.
  • It also ensures that the list is easily accessible when creating or modifying drop boxes in the sheet.

Applying Data Validation to a Cell

Creating drop boxes in Excel can help organize and streamline your data entry process. To add a drop box, you will need to apply data validation to a cell. Here's how:

A. Select the cell where the drop box will be located

To begin, click on the cell where you want to add the drop box. This is the cell where users will be able to select from a list of options.

B. Steps for applying data validation to the selected cell

To apply data validation to the selected cell, follow these steps:

  • 1. Click on the "Data" tab in the Excel ribbon.
  • 2. Then, click on "Data Validation" from the "Data Tools" group.
  • 3. In the "Data Validation" dialog box, select "List" from the "Allow" dropdown menu.
  • 4. In the "Source" field, enter the list of options that you want to appear in the drop box, separated by commas.
  • 5. Click "OK" to apply the data validation to the selected cell.

C. Tips for customizing the drop box

After applying data validation to the cell, you can further customize the drop box by adding input messages or error alerts.

  • 1. Input Messages: To provide a prompt for users when they select the cell, you can add an input message. To do this, go to the "Input Message" tab in the "Data Validation" dialog box and enter a title and input message text.
  • 2. Error Alerts: If you want to notify users when they enter invalid data, you can add an error alert. Go to the "Error Alert" tab in the "Data Validation" dialog box and select the style of alert (Stop, Warning, or Information), then enter a title and error message text.

Testing and Using the Drop Box

When working with drop boxes in Excel, it's important to ensure that they are functioning correctly and to understand how to effectively use them to input data into cells. Here's how to test and use drop boxes in Excel:

A. Share how to test the drop box to ensure it is functioning correctly
  • Step 1: Click on the drop box to see if the list of options appears.
  • Step 2: Select a different option from the drop box to verify that it updates the cell with the new selection.
  • Step 3: Test the drop box on different cells to ensure it works consistently.

B. Discuss the process of using the drop box to input data into the cell
  • Step 1: Click on the cell containing the drop box.
  • Step 2: Click on the drop box to display the list of options.
  • Step 3: Select the desired option from the drop box to input the data into the cell.
  • Step 4: Press "Enter" or click away from the cell to confirm the selection.

C. Offer additional tips for working with drop boxes in Excel, such as using keyboard shortcuts
  • Tip 1: Use the "Alt + Down Arrow" keyboard shortcut to open the drop box without using the mouse.
  • Tip 2: Press "Tab" to move to the next cell after selecting an option from the drop box.
  • Tip 3: Use the arrow keys to navigate through the options in the drop box.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

When working with drop boxes in Excel, you may encounter a few common issues that can be frustrating to deal with. Here are some tips for identifying and resolving these problems.

A. Identify common problems that may arise when creating drop boxes in Excel
  • 1. Drop box not displaying properly

    - One common issue is that the drop box may not display properly, or the options may not be visible to the user.
  • 2. Options not being saved

    - Another issue is that the options selected in the drop box may not be saved, causing data to be lost.

B. Provide solutions for issues such as the drop box not displaying properly or options not being saved
  • 1. Check data validation settings

    - Ensure that the data validation settings for the drop box are correct and that the source for the drop box options is properly defined.
  • 2. Clear formatting issues

    - Sometimes, formatting issues can cause the drop box to not display properly. Clear any formatting that may be interfering with the drop box display.
  • 3. Verify cell protection settings

    - If options are not being saved, check the cell protection settings to ensure that the cells containing the drop box are not locked.

C. Offer resources for further troubleshooting if needed
  • 1. Excel help and support

    - The official Microsoft Excel support website offers a wealth of resources for troubleshooting common issues with drop boxes and other features in Excel.
  • 2. Online forums and communities

    - Joining online forums or communities dedicated to Excel users can provide access to a network of experienced users who may be able to offer assistance with troubleshooting.


In conclusion, creating drop boxes in Excel is a valuable skill that can greatly improve your ability to organize and input data efficiently. By following the key points outlined in this tutorial, you can easily create drop boxes in your spreadsheets. We encourage you to practice this skill to become more proficient in using Excel. The usefulness of drop boxes in Excel cannot be overstated, as they offer a streamlined method for data entry and organization.

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