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How to create a drop-down list in Google Sheets

It's easy to create a drop-down list in a Google Sheets cell to help make data input more efficient. We'll show you how.
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Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer on
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Do you fancy yourself a Google Sheets power user? If so, you might have encountered an occasion or two where a handy drop-down list was necessary. This is especially so if you're building a spreadsheet that requires selecting from several options over and over. It's one thing if you have to type something a couple of times, but when you have to type those same items repeatedly, that repetition adds up. 

Or maybe you're sharing the new Sheet with other users, and you want to simplify the data entry process as much as possible. 

Ergo… drop-downs.

I want to show you how to create a drop-down in Google Sheets. It's actually much easier than you might think, thanks to a handy, built-in GUI.

And thus, without further ado, let's get to creating.

Requirements

The only thing you'll need to follow along is a Google account and the ability to create a new Sheet within either Google Drive or Google Docs. That's it, let's get to work.

Creating your first Sheets drop-down

1. Open a new Google Sheets document

Log into your Google Account and head to Google Drive. Click New > Google Sheets to create the spreadsheet.

2. Select a cell and open the GUI tool

Click on the cell in the spreadsheet you want to house the drop-down, then click Data > Data Validation (Figure 1).

The Google Sheets Data menu.

Figure 1: The Data menu within Google Sheets includes the tool we need to create a drop-down list.

Image: Jack Wallen

3. Create the drop-down list of details

In the Data Validation window (Figure 2), you'll want to select List of Items from the Criteria drop-down and then enter the items (separated by a comma) in the text field to the right of that.

The Google Sheets Data Validation window.

Figure 2: Creating the new drop-down list in Google Sheets.

Image: Jack Wallen

You might also check the box associated with Show Validation Help Text, as that will give the user help; should they input invalid data, they will get a warning.

After configuring your drop-down list, click Save to save the information. 

Using the drop-down list

After creating the drop-down list, it'll appear in a sheet with a downward-pointing arrow. All a user has to do is click the drop-down and select from the options you've made available (Figure 3).

An example of a Google Sheets drop-down list.

Figure 3: Our new drop-down list in action.

Image: Jack Wallen

You might also consider adding a cell either above or directly to the left of the drop-down and add content to that new cell indicating what the drop-down is used for (Figure 4).

An explanitory cell added for a Google Sheets drop-down list.

Figure 4: Add a cell that explains the contents of your drop-down to make it easier for users.

Image: Jack Wallen

And that's all there is to adding a drop-down list in Google Sheets. And here you thought it was going to be a complicated task. Next time around, we'll learn how to add conditional formatting to your drop-down lists for even more spreadsheet fun.

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