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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 · 1 years ago
    Why the dependent list doesn't change instantly?
    • To post as a guest, your comment is unpublished.
      Tang Kelly · 1 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 · 2 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 · 2 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 · 2 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.