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How to quickly create dynamic drop down list in Excel?

Most of us may be can create a drop down list by using the Data Validation function in Excel, but sometimes we need to a linked or dynamic drop down list, it means when you choose a value in dropdown list A and you want the values to be updated in dropdown list B. In Excel we can create dynamic drop down list with the Data Validation feature and the INDIRECT function. This tutorial will describe how to create dependent drop-down lists in Excel.

Create dynamic drop down list in Excel

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arrow blue right bubble Create dynamic drop down list in Excel

Supposing I have a table of four columns that indicate four types of foodstuff: fruit, food, meat and drink and below them are the specific food name. See the following screenshot:

Now I need to create one drop down list that contains the foodstuff, such as fruit, food, meat and drink and the second dropdown would have the specific food name. If I select food, the second drop down will show rice, noodle, bread and cake. To do this, please apply the following steps:

1. First, I need to create some range names for these columns and the first categories row.

(1.) Create a range name for the categories, the first row, select the A1:D1, and type the range name Foodstuff into the Name Box, then press Enter key.

(2.) Then you need to name the range for each of the columns as above step as shown below:

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2. Now I can create the first drop down list, please select a blank cell or a column that you want to apply this drop down list, and then click Data > Data Validation > Data Validation, see screenshot:

3. In the Data Validation dialog box, click Settings tab, choose List from the Allow drop down list, and input this formula =Foodstuff into the Source box. See screenshot:

Note: You need type in the formula what you named your categories.

4. Click OK and my first drop down list have been created, then select the cell and drag the fill handle to the cell that you want to apply this option.

5. Then I can create the second drop down list, select one blank cell, and click Data > Data Validation > Data Validation again, in the Data Validation dialog box, click Settings tab, choose List from the Allow drop down list, and input this formula =indirect(F1) into the Source box, see screenshot:

Note: F1 indicates the cell location for the first drop down list I have created, you can change it as your need.

6. Then click OK, and drag the cell content downwards, and the dependent drop down list have been created successfully. See screenshot:

And then if I choose one type of the foodstuff, the corresponding cell will only display its specific food name.

Notes:
1. The drop-down arrow is visible only when the cell is active.
2. You can continue going deeper as you like, if you want to create the third drop down list, just use the second dropdown as the Source of the third dropdown.


Demo: Create dynamic drop down list in Excel

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Related article:

How to insert drop down list in Excel?


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  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Ferat · 2 years ago
    Why the dependent list doesn't change instantly?
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      Tang Kelly · 2 years ago
      Hi Ferat,
      Have you followed the tutorial to create your dynamic drop down list? If followed the tutorial, the dependent list will change immediately as the main choice (in Cell F1) changes.
      More detailed information can help me understand your problem. If possible, upload some screenshots will be helpful!
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Vup · 3 years ago
    So I tried this with dynamic ranges. It's a no go. It does work with static ranges though.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Rahul · 3 years ago
    I understand but how can I repeat the dropdown formatting in all rows of excel
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      H · 3 years ago
      Have you received an answer to your question? I'm wondering the same thing..
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Andy · 3 years ago
    Lara, you are probably missed the second half of ste p 4.

    4. Click OK and my first drop down list have been created, then select the cell [u][b]and drag the fill handle to the cell that you want to apply this option[/b][/u].
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Lara · 4 years ago
    I keep getting an error that says " the source currently evaluates to an error", any reason why? I followed the steps above. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Sattam · 4 years ago
    Hi,
    I am looking to do something similar but the only problem being my dynamic parameter and value combination list is structured as below

    Parm_nm Val_list
    Parent1 Item01
    Parent1 Item02
    Parent2 Item01
    Parent2 Item03
    Parent2 Item11
    Parent3 Item32
    Parent3 Item02
    Parent4 Item09
    Parent4 Item01

    And I want to choose appropriate drop down depending on the header definition
    Eg: If the header definition is Parent3 then the drop down for the cells under the column should have Item32 and Item02. If the header is changed to Parent02 then the drop down list becomes Item01, Item3 and Item11. It is exactly what is being done here apart from the fact the source data structure is completely different and I do not have freedom to restructure it. In such a scenario I am not being able to [i][b]Name the range[/b][/i] of the second level list as I cannot just select and name them. Any help in this regard will highly appreciated.
    Regards,
    Sattam
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    mayank · 4 years ago
    in case the second drop down has to pick a list that is Dynamic, then how will this work. As in if fruit food meat and drink is for month one and the names for month two changes to fruit2 meat2 food2 and drink2 along with the selection below this headings then how do we use thius formula.
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    Sundar · 5 years ago
    Thank you it worked like a magic
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Bob Frinder · 5 years ago
    When I create a drop-down list using data validation, how can I select the valid entries from the keyboard, I want to type the number and have it auto-populate.
    Data Validation List looks like this :
    1_Ready
    2_On Hold
    3_ Rejected
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    PradeepRS · 5 years ago
    Quite useful. Thank you.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Shafeeq · 5 years ago
    This is great. I also wanted to know how to add a dynamic list through Offset or other function.
    What exactly I am looking for is, if I add "Fried Rice" under Food column below Cake, it should automatically need to considered.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Cindy J · 5 years ago
    Great explanation and example, thank you - but I'm having a problem. Using the example above, you select "Meat" and then select "Chicken" from the dependant drop-down list. If you change "Meat" to "Fruit", "Chicken" is still displayed. Is there a way to invalidate the "Chicken" selection and force you to re-select from the "Fruit" drop-down list?
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      Marc A · 5 years ago
      Hello Cindy,

      Did you ever get a response to your question? I am wondering the same thing.

      Thanks!
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Bean Counter · 5 years ago
    Best tutorial of this I have found yet.

    Thank you!
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Vishal Chauhan · 5 years ago
    Hi Team,

    It's perfectly working.

    :-)

    Thanks
    Vishal
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Manjunath N · 5 years ago
    Hi Team,

    Thank you so much, its working. :-)

    Regards,
    Manjunath N
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Emilykells · 5 years ago
    Hi how can I delete the columns that I used to create my drop downs from my sheet that way I only have the dropdown lists.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Neha · 5 years ago
    i tried this & working... :D
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    Jeffrey · 5 years ago
    I tried this on my 2013 Excel and its not working. Help
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      Wyman · 5 years ago
      Hi,

      I think the error sign was referring to "This current selection evaluates to error... " ???

      Just click Ok and ignore the error sign.
  • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
    David Amble · 5 years ago
    Steps 5 through 6 produced an error. No link. It gave me a drop down cell with nothing in it.
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      Raiez Moideen · 5 years ago
      I think error can happen in the following cases(from my experience)...

      1)if you use simply "indirect(F1)" in Source box, instead of the cell location for the first drop down list...

      2)The name putting for each ranges in the Name box for the items in Second drop down list must exactly match the items in the first drop down list...
      • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
        Johnathan Dunker · 5 years ago
        Also, make sure that the drop down list that the indirect list is pulls data from has something selected.
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      Natalia · 5 years ago
      I was getting an error too but then I figured out that I can't have two words, I was using "Home Improvement" and I had to change to "HomeImprovement" also make sure your "F1" cell es the cell you need (Mine would be B37)
      That's all I know