How to Create a Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets

A drop down list in Google Sheets can be used when you want to show a list of options and the user can select from it. It helps in speeding up data entry and makes it more reliable.

In real life, there would be a need to create a dependent drop down list where the once you make a selection in a drop-down menu, the next drop down only shows relevant options based on the first selection.

Below is an example of a dependent drop down list in Google Sheets:

Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - Demo

In the above example, you can see that the options in Drop Down 2 changes based on what is selected in Drop Down 1. It happens as Drop Down 2 is dependent on Drop Down 1.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to create a dependent drop down list in Google Sheets (also called conditional drop down list).

Related: Creating a Dependent Drop Down List in Excel.

Creating a Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets

Below is the dataset that I will use to create a dependent drop down list:

Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - Dataset

Here are the steps to create a dependent drop down list in Google Sheets:

  • Select the cells that have the fruits (A2:A5).
  • Go to Data –> Named Ranges.Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - named ranges
  • In the Named ranges pane, enter the name for this named range. Note that the name needs to be exactly the same as it’s parent category. In this case, it would be ‘Fruits’.Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - Fruits NR
  • Click on Done. This will create the first named range with the name ‘Fruits’ that would refer to the cells that have the fruit names.Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - Fruits Done
  • Now click on the Add a range option and use the same steps shown above to create a named range for Vegetables. You need to create as many named ranges as many options you want to show in the first drop down list.Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - Vegetables NR
  • Now it’s time to create the first drop down list that shows Fruits/Vegetables as the options. Select the cell where you want to create it and go to Data –> Data Validation.Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - Data Validation
  • In the Data Validation dialog box, select the ‘Criteria’ as ‘List from a range’ and specify the cells that contain the names (Fruits/Vegetables).Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - DV Criteria
  •  Make sure ‘Show dropdown list in cell’ is checked and click on Save.Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - DV Done
  • This will create a drop-down list in cell D3.Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - DD1
  • Now before we create the second drop down, go to any empty cell in the worksheet, or create another worksheet if you want, and enter the formula =INDIRECT(D3). This would list all the items from the category selected in Drop Down 1. This is dynamic and if you change the drop down in cell D3 from Fruits to Vegetable, the list would change and show the list of vegetables.
    Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - Indirect
  • Now the last step is to create a drop down list in E3 (which is our Drop Down 2). To do this, select cell E3 and go to Data –> Data Validation.Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - DV
  • In the Data Validation dialog box, select the ‘Criteria’ as ‘List from a range’ and specify the cells that contain the result from the INDIRECT function. It is possible that the number of items in different lists are different (for example ‘Fruits’ category has 4 items and ‘Vegetables’ has 10 items). To handle this, select an appropriate cell range that should suffice all the categories. For example, in this case, I select 10 cells in case the list grows in future.Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - DV criteira
  •  Click Save.

Now when you make a selection is Drop Down 1, you will notice that the items in Drop Down 2 changes accordingly.

Important Notes While Creating a Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets

Here are a couple of important points to note while creating a dependent drop down list in Google Sheets:

  • The named range could only be a single word. In case it more than one word, use underscore to join the words while creating the named range. For example, if the category is ‘Seasonal Fruits’ instead of ‘Fruits’, when you create a named range, name it Seasonal_Fruits.
  • While I create the Indirect formula right below the list, as a best practice, create it in a different worksheet. You can then hide the worksheet if needed.
  • When you select a category and an item within it (for example you select Fruits and then Mango), and then you change the Main category (for example selecting ‘Vegetables’), the dependent drop down list wouldn’t change. This means that it can happen that Drop Down 1 shows ‘Fruits’ as the category and Drop Down 2 has a vegetable name in it. However, Google Sheets will warn you by showing a red triangle at the top right of the cell. If you hover the cursor over that cell, you will see the warning as shown below:Dependent Drop Down List in Google Sheets - warning

Hope you found this tutorial useful.

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