How to Create a Drop Down List Using Data From Another Sheet

An Excel list can pull data from a different worksheet

An image of a person checking lists in a spreadsheet

stevecoleimages / Getty Images 

Creating a drop-down list in Excel lets you enter data into a specific cell of a worksheet from a preset list of entries. Once the drop-down list is made, editing the entries is as easy as changing the cell data.

In this article, we've created an example of a drop-down list in Excel. Follow along to make a simple list of data and a menu that pulls the list data into a cell located on a different worksheet.

Note The instructions in this article apply to Excel 2019, 2016, 2013, and 2010; Excel for Mac 2019, Excel for Mac 2016, and Excel for Mac 2011.

Enter the Data

Excel Data Validation List

The first step to creating a drop-down list in Excel is to enter the data. Make an additional sheet in Excel if you don't already have one, and then follow these steps:

  1. Open Sheet1 and type Cookie Type: into cell D1. You're going to create a drop-down list in cell E1 on this sheet, right next to this entry.
  2. Open Sheet2.
  3. Type Gingerbread into cell A1.
  4. Type Lemon into cell A2.
  5. Type Oatmeal Raisin into cell A3.
  6. Type Chocolate Chip into cell A4.

These cells can be formatted however you wish. It won't interfere with the functionality of the drop-down list.

Name the List Data Selection

Excel Data Validation List

A named range lets you refer to the list data as a common name instead of as individual cells. To create a named range, select the cells that will be on the list and name the selection. Here's how:

  1. Select the cells used for the drop-down list. For this example, select cells A1–A4 on Sheet2.
  2. Select the Name Box above Column A and below the Excel menu. It might say A1 or A4.
  3. Type Cookies in the Name Box.
  4. Press Enter.​
  5. Cells A1 through A4 on Sheet2 now have the range name of "Cookies."

Named ranges have many uses in Excel. For example, named ranges make it easier to create formulas and charts.

Make the Drop Down List

Opening the Data Validation Dialog Box

The Excel drop-down list is created through the Data Validation dialog box. To create the drop-down list, select the List option and explain where the list data is located.

  1. Select E1 from Sheet1. (If you want your drop-down list located elsewhere, go to that cell instead.)
  2. Select Data.
  3. Select Data Validation in the Data Tools group and choose Data Validation or Validate, depending on the version of Excel you are using.
  4. Select the Settings tab.
  5. Select List from the Allow menu.
  6. Type =Cookies in the Source text box.
  7. Select OK.

A small arrow appears in cell E1 on Sheet1. Select this arrow to see the list items. Choose an item in the list to insert the data into the cell.

To delete the drop-down list, select cell E1, reopen the Data Validation dialog box, and select Clear All.

How to Edit the Drop Down List Items

Editing the Drop Down List Items

To keep the drop-down list up to date with changes in your data, change the choices in the list. Because this example uses a name range as the source for a list, changing the cookie names in cells A1 through A4 of Sheet2 immediately changes the names in the drop-down list on Sheet1. For example, if Oatmeal Raisin is changed to Shortbread, the drop-down list shows the new entry.

Options for Protecting the Drop Down List

Protecting the Drop Down List in the Excel

Since your data is on a different worksheet than the drop-down list, you have two options for protecting the list data.

  • If security is not a concern, hide the worksheet containing the list data. This makes it easier to update the list when needed.
  • If security is a concern, add a password to the sheet. Only people who have the password can edit the list.