Allow only predefined entries in an Excel cell

Posted on 2014-01-27
Last Modified: 2014-01-27

Is there a way to allow only predefined entries in an Excel (2013) cell?

For example, suppose you wanted to configure Cell B2 so that it would accept only the following three entries:


Question by:Steve_Brady
LVL 50

Accepted Solution

Ingeborg Hawighorst earned 500 total points
ID: 39814041
Hello Steve,

yes, this is called Data Validation.

Select the cell. On the Data ribbon select Data Validation. In the dialog, select "List" in the "Allow" drop-down.

In the Source field, either enter the permitted values, separated with a comma, or use a range reference or a defined range name.

If the "In-cell dropdown" box is ticked, the user will see a dropdown arrow when the cell is selected. A value can be typed or selected from the dropdown. Error alerts can be configured to fine tune the user experience.

Data validation can be very powerful if you use dynamic range names that automatically grow and shrink with the number of rows in a range.

In Excel 2010 and later, a cell reference may point to a different sheet. In earlier versions you need a range name if the data for the list of permitted values sits in a different sheet.

cheers, teylyn
LVL 18

Expert Comment

by:Steven Harris
ID: 39814042
Data Tab > Data validation > List
LVL 52

Expert Comment

by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39814049
Hi Steve,

This is known as a list of values or a drop-down list. The instructions for doing it in Excel 2013 are here:

However, EE is now discouraging "blind links", and one of the very good reasons for this is that a link can always be taken down or moved so that the answer in the PAQ is no longer valid for EE members who may be looking for the same solution in the future. So I have also attached the answer as a PDF file. Regards, Joe
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Author Comment

ID: 39814057
teylyn, what a treat to see your name! I hope you & yours are doing well.

Thanks for the reply. As always it's complete and easy to follow — and just what I was looking for.  :)

Author Comment

ID: 39814061
Thanks Joe. teylyn provided the answer and I closed the thread just before reading your post. Thanks for the PDF. It will make a good reference. :)
LVL 52

Expert Comment

by:Joe Winograd, EE MVE
ID: 39814089
You're welcome. Always happy to help. As you know from my past answers, I like screenshots, as I think they are helpful in guiding someone through a solution. I usually capture them myself, especially when the situation is unique, but that's always time-consuming (in this case, someone at Microsoft already did the work for me). This wasn't the first time, and won't be the last, that an answer was already accepted before my post – usually happens when I hit the Submit button in a non-refreshed browser tab. :)  All of that said, teylyn's answer was perfect – well-stated and inline, with no external reference needed. I would have closed it then, too! Regards, Joe
LVL 25

Expert Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 39814246
It depends on what the application is.  For example, I use a table lookup for mileage to cities I travel to normally.  I type in an abbreviation for the city in one column and get a predefined value for the mileage in the adjacent column.  You didn't say how you were going to force any of the predefined values to "happen".

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