Excel Tutorial: How To Make Dropdowns In Excel


Excel is a powerful tool for organizing and analyzing data, and one of its most useful features is the ability to create dropdown menus. Dropdowns can help streamline data entry, ensure consistency, and make your spreadsheets more user-friendly. In this tutorial, we will cover the step-by-step process of creating dropdowns in Excel, including how to set them up and make them interactive.

Key Takeaways

  • Dropdown menus in Excel can help streamline data entry and ensure consistency.
  • Creating dropdown lists involves using the Data Validation feature and inputting the list of options.
  • Customizing dropdown options allows for adding or removing options, changing the order, and using dynamic dropdowns based on another cell.
  • Dropdowns can be used in formulas and functions such as VLOOKUP, INDEX/MATCH, and conditional formatting.
  • Best practices for using dropdowns include keeping lists updated, limiting options, and providing clear instructions for users.

Benefits of using dropdowns in Excel

Dropdowns in Excel offer several benefits that can greatly improve the efficiency and accuracy of your spreadsheet. Here are some of the key advantages:

A. Streamlining data entry
  • Efficiency: Dropdown menus allow users to select from pre-defined options, eliminating the need to manually type in each entry.
  • Reduced errors: By restricting input options to a predefined list, dropdowns can help prevent data entry mistakes and ensure that the correct information is entered.

B. Ensuring data consistency
  • Standardization: By providing a set list of options, dropdowns help maintain consistency across different entries, ensuring that data is entered in a uniform manner.
  • Data integrity: With dropdowns, you can control the type of information that can be entered, reducing the risk of inconsistencies or inaccuracies in your dataset.

C. Making the spreadsheet user-friendly
  • Easy navigation: Dropdowns make it easier for users to input data, as they can simply select options from a list instead of having to type out each entry.
  • Clean interface: By using dropdown menus, you can declutter your spreadsheet and provide a more organized and user-friendly interface for data entry.

How to create a dropdown list in Excel

Creating a dropdown list in Excel can help streamline data entry and ensure consistency in the information being entered. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to create dropdowns in Excel.

A. Selecting the cells for the dropdown

Before you can create a dropdown list, you need to select the cells where you want the dropdown to appear. These cells will be where users can select from a list of predefined options.

B. Using the Data Validation feature

Once you've selected the cells, you can use Excel's Data Validation feature to create the dropdown list. This feature allows you to set specific criteria for the data that can be entered into the selected cells.

  • 1. Select the cells where you want the dropdown list to appear.
  • 2. Go to the "Data" tab in the Excel ribbon.
  • 3. Click on "Data Validation" in the "Data Tools" group.
  • 4. In the Data Validation dialog box, choose "List" from the "Allow" dropdown menu.

C. Inputting the list of options for the dropdown

After selecting the "List" option in the Data Validation dialog box, you can input the list of options that you want to appear in the dropdown. This list can be typed directly into the "Source" field in the Data Validation dialog box, or it can be a range of cells within the workbook.

Once you've inputted the list of options, click "OK" to apply the dropdown list to the selected cells. Users will now be able to select from the predefined options when entering data into those cells.

Customizing dropdown options

Dropdown menus in Excel are a great way to create user-friendly and interactive spreadsheets. One of the key benefits of using dropdowns is the ability to customize the options available in the list. Here are a few ways to customize dropdown options in Excel:

A. Adding or removing options from the list

Once you have created a dropdown list in Excel, you may want to add or remove options from the list. To add an option, simply select the cell containing the dropdown list, then click on the "Data" tab and choose "Data Validation." Under the "Settings" tab, you can add a new option to the "Source" field. To remove an option, you can simply delete the option from the "Source" field.

B. Changing the order of the options

If you want to change the order in which the options appear in the dropdown list, you can simply reorder them in the "Source" field under the "Data Validation" settings. Excel will automatically update the dropdown list to reflect the new order of options.

C. Using dynamic dropdowns based on another cell

Another way to customize dropdown options is by creating dynamic dropdown lists based on the value of another cell. This can be done using Excel's "INDIRECT" function. By using the "INDIRECT" function in the "Source" field of the "Data Validation" settings, you can create a dropdown list that changes its options based on the value of another cell.

Using dropdowns in formulas and functions

Dropdowns in Excel can be a powerful tool for creating dynamic and interactive spreadsheets. In this tutorial, we will explore how to use dropdowns in formulas and functions to enhance the functionality of your Excel spreadsheet.

A. Referencing dropdown cells in formulas
  • Creating a dropdown list

    To reference a dropdown cell in a formula, you first need to create a dropdown list using Excel's data validation feature. This can be done by selecting the cells where you want the dropdown to appear, then going to the Data tab and choosing Data Validation. From there, you can specify the list of items for the dropdown.

  • Using the dropdown in a formula

    Once you have your dropdown list set up, you can reference the selected item in a formula by using the cell reference of the dropdown cell. For example, if your dropdown cell is A1, you can use =A1 in a formula to refer to the selected item in the dropdown list.

B. Using dropdowns in VLOOKUP and INDEX/MATCH functions
  • VLOOKUP with dropdowns

    You can use a dropdown list as the lookup value in a VLOOKUP function to dynamically retrieve data based on the selected item. This can be useful for creating interactive dashboards or reports.

  • INDEX/MATCH with dropdowns

    Similarly, you can use dropdowns in combination with the INDEX/MATCH functions to look up and retrieve data from a range based on the selected item in the dropdown list.

C. Leveraging dropdowns for conditional formatting
  • Highlighting cells based on dropdown selection

    Dropdowns can also be used in conjunction with conditional formatting to automatically highlight cells based on the selected item. This can help visually identify trends or patterns in your data.

  • Dynamic formatting based on dropdown values

    By using dropdowns in conditional formatting rules, you can create dynamic formatting that changes based on the selected item in the dropdown list. This can be particularly useful for creating visually appealing and informative reports.

Best practices for using dropdowns in Excel

Dropdown lists in Excel can be a useful tool for data entry and organization. However, it's important to follow best practices to ensure that they are effective and user-friendly.

Keeping dropdown lists updated

  • Regular review: It's important to regularly review and update the options in your dropdown lists to ensure that they remain relevant and accurate.
  • Data validation: Use data validation to create a dynamic dropdown list that automatically updates as new options are added or existing ones are removed from the source data.

Limiting the number of options in a dropdown

  • Relevance: Only include options in your dropdown list that are relevant to the data entry task at hand. Having too many options can overwhelm users and make it difficult to find the right choice.
  • Categorization: Consider categorizing your dropdown options to help users narrow down their choices and find the option they need more easily.

Providing clear instructions for users

  • Labeling: Clearly label the cell or cells where the dropdown list is located to indicate to users that a dropdown selection is required.
  • Instructions: Provide clear instructions either within the spreadsheet or separately to guide users on how to use the dropdown list effectively.


A. Using dropdowns in Excel can greatly improve the efficiency and accuracy of your data entry and analysis. It helps to maintain consistency and reduces the chances of errors.

B. We encourage you to practice and explore further with dropdowns in Excel to discover the full range of possibilities and benefits they can offer. The more you experiment with them, the more you’ll see how they can streamline your workflow and improve your productivity.

C. We invite feedback and questions from our readers. Let us know your thoughts on using dropdowns in Excel and any challenges you may be facing. We’re here to help!

Excel Dashboard

ONLY $99

    Immediate Download

    MAC & PC Compatible

    Free Email Support

Related aticles