Maintain Consistency in Data Collection with Dropdown Columns

You can use the Single Select and Multi Select dropdown column types to standardize the collection of key information:

  • Allow collaborators to select one or more values that apply to them
  • Easily track and report on the standardized values collected

Who can use this capability

Permission requirements icon Licensed users with Owner or Admin permissions to the sheet can add or modify columns. Licensed users with Editor-level sharing permissions or higher can modify dropdown list values in cells within unlocked rows and columns.

Plan availability iconAvailable on all plan types.

Set up a dropdown column in your sheet

To create a Dropdown List column:

  1. Click the dropdown arrow below a columns header and select Insert Column Right or Insert Column Left, depending on where you want to place the additional dropdown column.

    The Insert Column window appears.

    Insert Column window
  2. Type the name of the column in the Name box.
  3. Select the Dropdown (Single Select) or Dropdown (Multi Select) column type.
  4. Type the values that you want to appear in the list under Values.  (You can separate each list value onto a new line by pressing Enter or Return.)
  5. To restrict users from entering free text values, check Restrict to dropdown values only.
  6. Click OK.

NOTES:

  • Values in Dropdown cells are ordered based on their order of appearance in the values list.
  • Values may contain punctuation, letters, numbers, and emojis.
  • If the text equivalent of a hyperlink is inserted under Values, it will appear as plain text in the values field, but is a clickable hyperlink when selected from the dropdown.
  • Email addresses under Values will appear as plain text in the dropdown.


That’s it! The Single Select or Multi Select dropdown column is inserted into your sheet. Now you can start collecting standardized values from collaborators.

Edit Dropdown column properties

If you want to add or remove values from the dropdown list, you can do so by editing the dropdown column properties.

To edit the column properties:

  1. Click the dropdown arrow below a column's header and select Edit Column Properties.

    The Edit Column Properties window appears.

    Edit Column Properties window
  2. Modify the values listed under Values.

    To remove a value from the dropdown list, select it and then press Backspace or Delete.

    NOTE: Values in a Single Select or Multi Select dropdown field on a form will need to be modified in the Edit Column Properties window.

  3. Click Save.

Note the following if you decide to switch between column types:

  • When switching between Single Select and Multi Select dropdown column types, the values listed under Values in the column properties will remain the same. The only difference is that Single Select allows you to select a single value from the dropdown list, while Multi-Select allows you to select multiple values.
  • When switching from a Single Select or Multi Select dropdown column type to a non-dropdown column type, any cells that contain a single dropdown value will be shown as text, and any cells that contain more than one dropdown value will be shown as line-delimited text.
  • When switching from a non-dropdown column type to a Single Select or Multi Select column type, the entire content of each cell will be captured and added as one value in the Values section of the dropdown column properties.
  • When switching from or to single-select or multi-select column types, reports containing those columns will need to be updated.

Choose the right dropdown column type

When you select values from dropdown columns on the sheet, the dropdown list will appear differently based on the dropdown column type selected.

The Single Select dropdown column will allow you to select a single value from the dropdown list:

Single-select dropdown list choose value
The Multi Select dropdown column will allow you to select one or more values from the dropdown list by checking the checkbox next to each value:

Each value selected from a Multi Select dropdown will be captured in the cell.

Multi-select dropdown list choose value
To remove captured values from cells, double-click the cell and click the X next to the captured value you want to remove, or uncheck the checkbox next to the value in the dropdown list.

Tips and best practices for working with dropdown columns

Keep the following in mind when modifying cells in dropdown columns:

  • If the dropdown column has not been restricted to list values only, you will be able to enter a free text value in the cell by double-clicking the cell and typing the value. These free text values will be added to the dropdown list in the cell it has been added to, but will not be added to the Values section of the dropdown column properties. 
  • In Multi-Select dropdown columns, free text values are saved alphabetically at the end of the cell they are added to.
  • There’s no limit to the number of values that can be selected in a Multi-Select dropdown column (up to normal cell character limits).
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