How to Add Google Docs In-cell Dropdown and Validation in Spreadsheets

922094 How to Add Google Docs In-cell Dropdown and Validation in Spreadsheets

Adding dropdown lists and data validation in Google Sheets can help ensure accurate data entry and make your spreadsheets more user-friendly. Here is a step-by-step guide to adding these useful features.

What is a Dropdown List?

A dropdown list allows you to provide a preset list of options that users can select from when entering data in a cell. When the cell is clicked, a dropdown arrow appears that shows the list of options. Selecting an option enters that value into the cell.

Dropdowns are useful when you want to:

  • Provide recommended options for data entry
  • Limit data entry to specific predefined options
  • Standardize data formats, like state abbreviations
  • Make data entry simpler by showing available options

What is Data Validation?

Data validation allows you to set rules that restrict what can be entered into a cell. For example, you can:

  • Require a number to be within a certain range
  • Limit text length to a certain number of characters
  • Allow only specific text options
  • Require a date

Data validation helps prevent incorrect or invalid data from being entered, ensuring accuracy.

Adding a Dropdown List

To add a dropdown list:

  1. Select the cell(s) where you want the dropdown
  2. Click Data > Data Validation
  3. Under Criteria, select List from a range
  4. Enter the cells that contain the list options (e.g. A1:A10)
  5. Click Save

The cell(s) will now show a dropdown arrow that displays the options when clicked.

You can also right-click the cell and select Data Validation > List from a range to add the dropdown.

Adding Data Validation Rules

To add a data validation rule:

  1. Select the cell(s)
  2. Click Data > Data Validation
  3. Under Criteria, select the type of rule
  4. Enter any additional details required for that rule type
  5. Click Save

For example, to allow only whole numbers between 1 and 100:

  1. Select Number under Criteria
  2. For Minimum, enter 1
  3. For Maximum, enter 100
  4. Click Save

You can customize the error alert message shown if invalid data is entered.

Formatting the Dropdown Appearance

You can customize the appearance of dropdowns:

  • Show dropdown list in cell: Shows the dropdown arrow icon in the cell
  • Display style: Changes dropdown icon visual styles
  • Input message: Shows a custom helper message in empty cells

Data Validation Rule Types

Google Sheets supports many rule types including:

  • Number: Specify allowed number range
  • Text length: Set min and max text length
  • Date: Require date or date range
  • List: Allow only options from a preset list
  • Custom formula: Validate based on formula output

Use Cases

Dropdowns and validation rules have many helpful uses:

  • Standardizing state abbreviations: Dropdown list of two-letter state codes
  • Limiting responses: List of pre-approved responses for surveys
  • Validating emails: Require properly formatted emails
  • Restricting numbers: Allow only valid ID numbers
  • Preventing errors: Show warning for invalid inputs


  • Start small and add more cells after testing
  • Allow warnings instead of rejections to avoid data loss
  • Link cells to dynamically update dropdowns
  • Require certain inputs using data validation
  • Make use of available templates


Adding dropdown lists and data validation rules to Google Sheets can save time, reduce errors, and improve spreadsheet usability. Use them to guide data entry, restrict inputs, and ensure data accuracy. With some customization, they provide a simple way to enhance your spreadsheets.

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