Create a drop-down list in Excel

Save time by avoiding repetition and errors

Excel is great for lists; sales figures, staff rota’s, stock control, to name a few. But an easy trap to fall into is repetitive error prone data-entry that leads to inaccurate business reporting and lost time in troubleshooting.

If you create a drop-down list in Excel, you can avoid all of this. Imagine the time saved short and long term especially if multiple people are using the same spreadsheet.

How to create a drop-down list in Excel

Here’s one we made earlier

Step 1 Assign the values for your drop-down list. In a new worksheet, just start your list and order it if you wish (better now than later!)

advanced Excel courses

Step 2 Now select the data and right click, select Define Name.

Step 3 In the New Name dialogue box you need to give your data name (this is a named range), making sure not to have any spaces in the name. Example, Commute

Name the range

Step 4 Now go to the worksheet where you wish create a drop-down list in Excel, and click a cell. Go to the Data tab and select Data Validation

select data validation

Step 5 In Settings tab we need to do the following:

Select List from the Allow box.
Ensure In-cell dropdown is ticked. If you are okay for blank entries to be made just leave the Ignore blank ticked.
In the Source box we need to type in the name of our list making sure to start with an =. In this case, =Commute

data validation options

Now click OK, your drop-down list is ready to go. You may have noticed two other tabs within the Data Validation box. The Input Message and Error Alert give you even more options to control how data is entered and also what messages appear to users when they have not entered data correctly.

To create a drop-down list in Excel is pretty straight forward giving us some major advantages in saving time from data entry as well as data error. Data validation in it’s own right can really help businesses adopt more consistent and efficient use of Excel spreadsheets.

More related information:

Excel data validation in business

A real world example of assigning values to a drop-down list in Excel

A further look at Input Message & Error Alert



How to share files in Excel

Improve collaboration and save time

It is not uncommon with Excel to have multiple people requiring access to the same file. Whether the file in question is a sales report, marketing budget, or time-sheet for example. This is where the Share Workbook feature in Excel comes in handy, here we’ll look at how to share files in Excel and things to watch out for.

The big incentive for sharing an Excel file amongst people is that there is just a single version in use. Not taking this approach entails all sorts of challenges, from having to manage multiple (and ever changing) versions of the same file through to organising how to merge all the data into a single file. By sharing, everyone is on the same page/workbook!

Step 1 Create or open an existing spreadsheet that you wish to share.

Step 2 Once open, go to the Review tab and select the Share Workbook.

how to share files in Excel
In the Review tab select the Share Workbook

Step 3 Now the Share Workbook dialogue box will be open. Make sure the Editing tab is open and then click on the box to “Allow changes by more than one user at the same time” (this is where you will also be able to view who else is using the shared file). Finally click OK to save the changes.

Select to share a workbook

Step 4 The file then needs to be saved to a location that others will be able to access. This could be a shared folder, network drive, or even a OneDrive (for Excel 2013 users).

About advanced sharing features

You may have noticed the Advanced tab on the above Share Workbook dialogue box. Here is a quick overview on what these advanced features do:

Advanced options for sharing a workbook

Track changes: If you wish to track revisions then select the Keep Change History option. The fewer days that you select the smaller the size of the change log.

Update changes: If the Excel file in question is in regular use it makes sense to set up an automatic save. You can even be notified of what changes are being saved.

Conflicting changes between users: Take an instance where the same cell has been changed by two users, you can either have the option to decide which change gets saved or simply set it so that only saved changes have final say.

Include in personal view: An option to include any set filter and print views that other users may have applied.

Sharing does limit Excel features:

When sharing you can: When sharing you can’t:
Insert columns/rows Create a table
View existing charts Can’t create new charts
Use existing conditional formating but not edit Merge cells or split merged cells
View existing Macros with limitations Group or outline data


The Share Workbook feature in Excel is a really useful way to easily collaborate between different users and not have the headache of managing multiple file versions. Yes it does need some consideration in terms of certain limitations of Excel features and ensuring everyone can access the file. It may not be a bad idea to actually keep a spare sheet in the workbook with some sharing guidelines for all users.
With Excel 2013 the options to share are even more varied considering that you can share a file for access across multiple platforms and devices (such as iPads).

More resources on how to share files in Excel

How to share a file in Excel 2010.
Read more

How Getting Together Is Now Even Easier With Excel.
Read more

Use a shared workbook to collaborate.
Read more