How to Change Drop-down Width and Font Size in Excel

Bottom Line: Learn how to change the drop-down box width and font size for data validation lists in cells.

Skill Level: Beginner

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Widening Drop-down Lists

When working with drop-down lists, one common question I get is “How do I make it wider?” That's because oftentimes users are unable to read the longer selections in the drop-down menu. The length of the drop-down box is not big enough to display the entire text.

Drop-dowm box size is not long enough

The simple solution is to widen the column that the drop-down box is in.

You can adjust the column manually by dragging the border of the column header. If you want to auto-fit the column, however, you should check your source list to see which entry is longest, then choose that entry in the drop-down, and then auto-fit by double-clicking the border of the column header.

Widen the drop-down list by widening the column

Merge & Center Your Drop-down List

Sometimes simply widening the column is not a good solution because it may mess with the format of cells further down the worksheet. For example, in the form below, widening the column for the drop-down list changes the size of other form fields.

Widening drop-down list not effective for this form

A workaround/alternative for this problem is to use the Merge & Center feature. I can select one or more of the cells adjacent to the drop-down cell and then select Merge & Center on the Home tab. In my example, I am merging B7, C7, and D7.

Merge and center to widen dropdown list.

By merging the cells together, you've basically created one really long cell to fit the text of your longer drop-down entries.

Merge and center to widen dropdown list

You can change the alignment back to the left if the centering doesn't work well for your form.

Align text left

Note: Even though you have merged and centered cells, you are still able to resize the columns as needed. The merged cell will adjust as you resize.

Some people strongly dislike using Merge & Center because it can cause issues in other areas. If you are one of those people, feel free to comment why specifically it gives you headaches. Perhaps we will make a post about the pros and cons of Merge & Center using your feedback.

Increasing the Font Size of a Drop-down List

Confession: the heading above is a little misleading because technically you cannot change the font of a drop-down list. However, we can make the menu bigger and easier to read using a workaround.

The solution for increasing the readability of drop-down text is to change the zoom level on the sheet.

Increase zoom level
Click to enlarge

To adjust the zoom level, you can:

  • Use the slider in the bottom right-hand corner of the your worksheet.
Zoom level slider
  • Hold Ctrl and scroll your mouse wheel.
  • Click the Zoom button on the View tab. (Or the 100% button to bring it to 100% zoom.)


I hope these tips have been helpful. Here are a few related posts that you might be interested in reading:

How to Create Drop-down Lists in Cells (Data Validation Lists)

Drop-down List Arrow Always Visible for Data Validation

How to Create Dependent Cascading Drop-down Lists

In addition, I've got a really handy tool called the List Search Add-In that helps you search the contents of any drop-down list. This is especially helpful when your drop-down list is quite extensive. Click here to download the List Search Add-in.

If you have any questions or feedback about increasing the width or font of the drop-down menus you create, be sure to leave a comment!


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  • Great info. Thanks!

    It would be nice if Microsoft made the default Merge button to be just Merge and not Merge and Center.

    I also wish they would make the “Center across Selection” format a default button on the toolbar. This format is much more user friendly when selecting columns for sumifs, vlookups, index/match, etc.

    • I totally agree with you regarding a simple merge (and retain existing format) button. 90% of my merges require me to change the alignment after merge and center.

    • Great idea, Charles! I agree it would be nice to be able to choose the default button in the Merge split button. One workaround is to add the Merge Across button to the Quick Access Toolbar. This would save a click or two and you could press it with the Alt+Number keyboard shortcut. Here is a screenshot.
      Merge Across - Add to Quick Access Toolbar in Excel

      I also agree it would be nice to have Center Across Selection on the Home tab. Keep your fingers crossed (but not merged) that our wish comes true. 😛

      Thanks again and have a good one!

  • Hi thanks for these tips. I am an avid user of merge & centre & often setup my sheets with column widths as small as 20 wide in size & rows heights of 20. Basically picture a piece of graph paper.

    I then found of the hard way that when using “sumifs” that all my criteria columns containing merged cells had to be the exact same amount of merged cells per column of data.

    If I had 8 cells merged in one column & 9 cells merged in another column – “Sumifs” bombed out. It took me ages to work out Excel was counting the original individual cells within a merged cell.

    Once I figured this & settled on the same amount of merged cells per column of data the sumifs worked.

    So I had to compromise with some columns having plenty of space – for example when a column criteria is only an abbreviation to another column barely fitting the width of the data.

    • I’ve found that you can specify the columns manually even if you select them as part of creating the formula.

      Example: If you have a merged cell in A1:C1, it only gets treated now as A1. B1 and C1 are considered empty.

      So in your sumifs formula, you can select column A and it will automatically select columns A:C. But if you modify the formula and make it A:A (or $A:$A), it will work correctly if your sum range or criteria is just in A and not B or C.

      It’s annoying to have to modify the formulas so that’s why I use the “Center across selection” alot instead of merged cells.

      “Center across selection” still recognizes each cell as independent and will not cause the problem above.

  • By way of an alternative, you could fashion a drop-down menu via the Combo Box option, which enables you to modulate typeface size as well as the font. It also exhibits an auto-complete feature. The Combo Box does not lock itself into a cell, though.

    • I thought of this as well. I do wish we could lock the combo box and other form objects to cells. That would be a huge improvement.

  • Hi Jon
    Thanks for the insight, some good tips.
    Although I try to stay away from merged cells altogether, they just cause too many hassles elsewhere, Pivot Tables being one.
    They great for templates and making things look cosmetically noce, but for me that’s where it ends.
    I try where possible to use tables, which actually does not allow one to merge cells.

  • I’ve been working in Excel since (ahem) 1993 and Merge is the biggest pain in Excel if you have to copy & paste. I don’t know why they can’t fix it, they’ve had enough time to add pivot tables, data models, odbc. But copy & paste a merged cell? Why is it that difficult?

    Case in point, last job, got sent a model with 50 supplier tabs that needed copying and pasting to a model for a different division in a slightly different format. Time limit – 2 hrs. Couldn’t Copy tabs due to power queries. They all had merged cells used liberally and randomly, so spent most of the 2hrs noting where they’d been merged, unmerging, copying and remerging. Why couldn’t I just copy & paste? Just give me a box saying pasting merged cells might cause problems and let me decide instead of just flipping the bird at me

  • Rather than using “Merge & Centre”, it is much better to use [Ctrl+1], [Alignment], and, using the Horizontal drop-down, select [Centre Across Selection]. This actually does not merge cells and authorizes Excel to expand to the right. You can now copy cells without fearing the message alerting that this action cannot be performed because of merged cells.

  • I’m often presented with a workbook where the interface has been designed by someone else. My job is to add some automation to this workbook. The designer has used merged cells extensively, and it looks nice, but it is a real nightmare when these cells need to be manipulated with VBA routines.

  • Hello and thanks for your tips. I have a similar problem with my tablet, I can adjust the column width to a drop down list on my laptop, but it doesn’t work on mobile devices, it doesn’t matter how width I set a column, the drop down list size doesn’t change. Is there any option to fix this problem? Thanks in advance!!

  • Having to increase the zoom size to change the font size of the dropdown list text is unfortunately an inferior solution.

  • While zooming the drop down displays the right most texts only. left side portions are hidden as the drop down extends towards left. is there any work around to fix it?

  • I’ve tried all of the solutions above by widening columns well beyond the widest text, merging columns, and changing zoom levels, and in all instances, my drop down list never changes width…am I doing something wrong or is there a setting somewhere that I need to change to get this to work without resizing the drop down list every single time?

  • I guess the real question is why ANY of these workarounds should be necesaary when in Excel for MAC (I use both windows and mac) the drop down menu width is defined by the max text length and so you can always read the entire line

  • Nice clickbait title. I was hoping you would show me how to actually increase the font size in the drop down making it easier to read when looking at the sheet as a whole. Increasing zoom is the most obvious solution that someone with a brain defect could figure out.

  • This would be something Microsoft should consider especially when the younger folks like us are making the systems for older folks who have vision problems. Even with glasses, my counterpart cannot read the screen. I’m 30 and even I’m squinting to see the screen when working with a dataset that has multiple variables.

  • The list is only limited to 8 rows.
    Is it possible to enlarge this to 20 or so?

    Is it also possible to scroll with the scroll wheel in the list itself instead with the mouse sliding in the side?

    Kind regards,

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