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Using Custom Lists in Excel

Using Custom Lists in Excel

Do you ever find yourself typing out the same standard lists over and over again, such as lists of products, cost centers, projects or companies?  I do.  It is essential these lists don’t exclude any items and are presented in the same order each time.  Lists of 4 or 5 things are easy to remember, but my brain starts to struggle when there are 6 or more.  Plus, the time it takes to type those lists is a big waste of time.  So, I decided to stop remembering and let Excel do the remembering for me.

AutoFill Lists

Excel loves to remember lists, it even has some built-in as standard; the months of the year and the days of the week.  If you type ‘January’ into a cell, then drag that cell down/across Excel enters ‘February’ automatically, then ‘March’ and so on.

Custom List Fill Handle

Custom List Fill Handle Example 1

You could equally try the days of the week. ‘Monday’ will drag to become ‘Tuesday’, ‘Wednesday’ etc.

Excel doesn’t care where the list starts, type ‘Friday’ and it will populate the following days correctly.  It also includes abbreviations, so ‘Jan’ for ‘January’ and ‘Mon’ for ‘Monday’.  Try them, they will all populate correctly.

Custom List Standard Lists

You can type the case of the first item as you need and the others will be the same. So, if you type it in upper case all the following items will be in uppercase.

There are a few hidden lists too, such as the quarters of the year.

Custom List - Quarters

But you are not limited to the standard lists, Excel lets you can create your own.

Custom Lists

From the Ribbon, Click: File -> Options. 

In the Excel Options window, scroll all the way down to the bottom, until you reach the General section.  Click the Edit Custom Lists . . . button.

Custom List Excel Options

The Custom Lists window will open.  You can now see where the lists for the months of the year or days of the week are stored.

Custom Lists Window

To create your own lists, there are two methods of data entry:

Method 1 – Manual Entry

Click on NEW LIST in the Custom lists box [1].

Start typing the list in the List entries box [2].

Once complete click Add [3].

Custom List Window - Manual Add

That’s it, your list is now ready to be used in a worksheet.

Method 2 – Import

Click on NEW LIST in the Custom lists box [1].

Click on the Range Input icon from the Import list from cells box [2].

Custom List Window - Import Add

Select the location of the list [3], then click on the icon to return [4].

Custom List Window - Import Add Select Range

Back in the Custom Lists window, click Import [5].

Custom List Window - Import Add Final

That’s it, your list is now ready to be used in a worksheet.

Using your new Custom List

Click on a cell and type in the first item in your new Custom List, drag it down or along, just as you did for the months and days.  The cells will populate with your new Custom List.

You can also sort by your Custom Lists too.  In the Sort window select Custom List… from the Order drop-down box – simple.

Custom Lists - Sorty By

The Custom List only exists on your computer, it will not be available for others to use unless they create the same Custom List on their own computer.

Editing a Custom List

To edit a list, click on it in the Custom Lists window and change it.  Click Add to confirm the change.

Any Custom List which has been used on a worksheet is not linked in any way to the original list.  i.e. If you change the elements in the Custom List it will not change any lists already existing on your worksheets.

Managing Custom Lists with VBA

If you wanted to manage Custom Lists (creating, deleting, checking for existence etc.) then check out my VBA Code Snippets.

Headshot Round

About the author

Hey, I’m Mark, and I run Excel Off The Grid.

My parents tell me that at the age of 7 I declared I was going to become a qualified accountant. I was either psychic or had no imagination, as that is exactly what happened. However, it wasn't until I was 35 that my journey really began.

In 2015, I started a new job, for which I was regularly working after 10pm. As a result, I rarely saw my children during the week. So, I started searching for the secrets to automating Excel. I discovered that by building a small number of simple tools, I could combine them together in different ways to automate nearly all my regular tasks. This meant I could work less hours (and I got pay raises!). Today, I teach these techniques to other professionals in our training program so they too can spend less time at work (and more time with their children and doing the things they love).

Do you need help adapting this post to your needs?

I'm guessing the examples in this post don't exactly match your situation. We all use Excel differently, so it's impossible to write a post that will meet everybody's needs. By taking the time to understand the techniques and principles in this post (and elsewhere on this site), you should be able to adapt it to your needs.

But, if you're still struggling you should:

  1. Read other blogs, or watch YouTube videos on the same topic. You will benefit much more by discovering your own solutions.
  2. Ask the 'Excel Ninja' in your office. It's amazing what things other people know.
  3. Ask a question in a forum like Mr Excel, or the Microsoft Answers Community. Remember, the people on these forums are generally giving their time for free. So take care to craft your question, make sure it's clear and concise.  List all the things you've tried, and provide screenshots, code segments and example workbooks.
  4. Use Excel Rescue, who are my consultancy partner. They help by providing solutions to smaller Excel problems.

What next?
Don't go yet, there is plenty more to learn on Excel Off The Grid.  Check out the latest posts:

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