How to Search Data Validation Drop-down Lists in Excel

Bottom line: Learn a fast and easy way to search any data validation list or in-cell drop-down list with a free tool.

Skill level: Beginner


Data validation lists are a great way to control the values that are input in a cell.  These drop-down lists also allow us to choose options that can drive financial models, reports, or dashboards.

However, there is no built-in way to search the validation list in Excel.  It can be difficult to scroll through these lists when the drop-down contains a lot of items.  There are some really cool formula based solutions to this problem, but they require a lot of setup work for each validation list in your file.


So I developed a very simple add-in that helps solve this problem…

Video Overview of List Search

Download the Free List Search Add-in

Click the links below to jump down to the feature update videos.

Search Validation Lists with List Search

The List Search Add-in makes it fast and easy to search any validation list.  It also works with lists of data that do not contain data validation cells.

List Search Add-in Drop-down List Contains Data Validation List of Items

The List Search form contains a drop-down box that loads the selected cell’s validation list.  The drop-down box also functions as a search box.  You can type a search in the box and the results will be narrowed down as you type.  This is a Google-like search and the results will include any item that contains the search term.  The item does not have to start with the search term.


Once you have selected the item you are looking for, press Enter on the keyboard or press the Input Value button on the form to input the value in the selected cell.


List Search works on any cell in any workbook.  There is NO special setup required.  Simply select a cell, press the List Search button, and start searching the list.

List Search Options & Features

The List Search Add-in contains some features that make it super fast to do data entry and work with your lists.  Press the Menu button in the List Search window to see the options.


  • Select Next Cell – After pressing the Enter key or Input Value button, the cell below the active cell is selected.  This behavior can be changed in the direction drop-down menu.
    • Down – selects the cell below the active cell.
    • Right – selects the cell to the right of the active cell.
    • None – does not change the selection.
    • Close – closes the List Search window.
    • Paste – Copies the input value to the clipboard and pastes it to the active cell using the VBA SendKeys method.  The List Search Window closes.  This is the only option that retains the undo history in Excel.
  • Sort Order – The drop-down list can be sorted in ascending (A-Z), descending (Z-A), or original order by pressing the toggle buttons in the options menu.  This only sorts the list in the List Search window.  It does not sort the data validation list in the cell.
  • List Info – The Info button displays additional information about the drop-down list.  It currently displays the total number of items in the list.
  • Create List of Unique Values – A new button has been added that copies the contents of the drop-down list to the clipboard.  You can then paste the list to any range in the workbook.  This is a fast way to create a list of unique values when you use List Search on a cell that does NOT contain data validation.  You can also filter the list by typing a search, then copy the filtered list to the clipboard.

IMPORTANT Note: When inputting values to the active cell, the only way to retain the Undo History is by using the Paste option in the Select Next Cell drop-down list.  List Search uses macros to input the selected value, and macros typically clear the undo history in Excel when they modify the workbook.  The Paste option is a workaround that uses the SendKeys method to copy and paste the selected value.  This mimics what the user would do to copy/paste, and does NOT clear the Undo history in Excel.

Works on Lists Without Data Validation

List Search works on cells that do not contain data validation too.  If you select a cell that does NOT contain data validation and open List Search, the drop-down will be loaded with a list of unique items from the column of the selected cell.


This is similar to pressing Alt+Down Arrow in a cell to see a list of values in that column.  However, the list does not need to be contiguous.  Even if the column contains blanks, List Search will still load all the unique values in the current data region or list.

November 2016 Update

I published an updated version of the List Search Add-in with a few new features.  Here is a video overview of the new features.

Here is a list of the features.

  1. Added a “Paste” option to the directions list.  This will copy the input value to the clipboard and paste it to the activecell.  The Paste options uses the SendKeys method in VBA to perform the paste.  This means the Undo history will NOT be cleared when using the Paste Option.
  2. Settings for the Options Menu and Input Direction Drop-down are now saved to the registry.  Your preferences will be saved and loaded when you open Excel and the add-in again in the future.
  3. Added enhancements for Excel Tables. When the activecell is in a Table and the cell does not contain validation, a unique list of values will be loaded and exclude the Table headers and total row.
  4. Added Copy List feature that copies the contents of the drop-down list to the clipboard. This feature is used to create a list of unique values from a column/table when the activecell does not contain validation. It also works when the list is filtered with a search term to only copy filtered results.

April 2017 Update

Based on your awesome feedback and requests, I’m excited to publish another update with new features.  I share the new features in the following video.

Here is a list of the new features in the April 2017 update.

  1. Added the Auto Open feature to automatically open the form when a cell that contains data validation is selected. This option can be toggled on/off with a toggle button in the options menu.
  2.  The add-in now works with data validation created by formulas (OFFSET & INDEX) and comma separated lists.  It should work with all types of data validation lists.
  3. Updated Escape Key behavior to close the List Search window.  If there is text in the search box, then Escape clears the search box.  If the search box is empty, then Escape closes the form.

In the video I also showed some cells with drop-down button icons next to them, even though the cell was not selected.  Check out my article on how to make the validation list drop-down buttons always visible to learn more about this technique.

Download the List Search Add-in (it’s Free!)

The List Search Add-in is free to download and use.  The VBA code is also open source so you can modify it for your needs.  This is also a great way to learn how macros and add-ins work if you are learning VBA.

List Search Add-in Free Download 640x360

Click here to download the List Search Add-in

Note: You will create a free account for the Excel Campus Members site to access the download and any future updates.

The download site also contains installation instructions and videos.

How Can My Co-workers Use List Search?

The List Search Add-in is installed on your computer, and only you will be able to see the XL Campus tab and use List Search.  If you want your co-workers to be able to use List Search there are two ways to go about it.

  1. Send them a link to this page to download and install List Search on their computer.  They will be able to use List Search on any Excel file they have open on their computer.
  2. Import the List Search userform to the VB Project in your Excel file.  You can add the List Search form to any of your workbooks.  This must be a macro enabled workbook.  You will also need to create or import the code module that contains the macro to open the List Search userform.  Then add a button to the worksheet or ribbon that opens the form.

How Can We Make List Search Better?

I hope the List Search Add-in saves you some time searching data validation lists.  The ultimate goal is to make it faster to find the value we are looking for in long lists of data.  Please leave a comment below with any questions or suggestions.  Thank you! 🙂

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Jon Acampora

Welcome to Excel Campus! I am excited you are here. My name is Jon and my goal is to help you learn Excel to save time with your job and advance in your career. I've been an avid Excel user and VBA developer for 10+ years. I am also a Microsoft MVP. I try to learn something new everyday, and want to share this knowledge with you to help you improve your skills. When I'm not looking at spreadsheets, I get outdoors and surf. :) more about me

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 127 comments
noha anber - February 21, 2018

Is it working with Google sheet and if not,, is there are any other solutions to have a searchable drop-down list of Google sheets ?????

Renaud - February 8, 2018

Hi Jon,

Fabulous tool you have there! Fills a huge gap in Excel functionality. Great work and would be glad to contribute.



MOHAMMED - January 16, 2018

Thank you so much ,, its great job

been trying to solve this issue for couple of days


Mike - January 7, 2018

It’s a great program but is there anyway to permanently leave it open in the ribbon?

andi - December 22, 2017

this amaizing add in,, make easy to work with data validatin list,, need little bit fix,, when i chose select right in cell active,, this made error, and must be reinstal the add ins… best for EC

Odehe - December 6, 2017

the searchable list add inn is throwing an error, it says run time error ’13’
type mismatch

Leon - December 1, 2017

Just noticed that it doesn’t work with subcategories drop down list.

ramin - November 3, 2017

This is a perfect program . It works very well on my computer . But I need to cancell it for small list (for example less than 15 row list ) but it wake up for all list . please sned me a solution .

Jacob Pobstman - October 27, 2017

the searchable list add inn is throwing an error, it says run time error ’13’
type mismatch

KM - October 20, 2017

This works great- thank you! I would like to know how to skip to the next row without selecting anything if I don’t find results I want in the list. EG when you select from the search results and click the arrow key it goes to the next cell but what if I don’t want to search in that cell? Is there a way to make is skip down again?

GAURAV GOEL - October 13, 2017

MICROSOFT VB SHOWN “Can’t execute code in break mode

GAURAV GOEL - October 12, 2017

unable to download The List Search add in

Dainius - October 4, 2017

That is one amazing ad-in. Is there a way to use this on Mac? I’ve managed to install the add-in and it comes in a new XL Campus tab but when I try using it, excel does not allow me to use mouse and constantly makes error sound even when pressing on empty cells.



aijaz - October 1, 2017

Thank you so much sir that is exultant drop down list I am looking for log log time this kind drop down list finlly I find in thanks you

Bob Kleeman - September 28, 2017

I recently got Formatting Shortcuts and List Search. I use a number of Excel 2016 properties. They show up in Excel, but now they are blank using (win 10) windows explorer. Any thoughts?

Anil Prasad Shrestha - September 21, 2017

Thanks for LIST SEARCH FORM.I use it to fill up my RECIPE COSTING FORM in EXCEL.I have to fill up two column. One is ITEMS and another is QTY.I could fill up ITEM column by LIST SEARCH FORM. But it doesn’t allow me to type in another column, when LIST SEARCH FORM is active. I have to every time ESC it, then fill up the QTY column, after that active it. Would you make it easy please !

    andi - December 22, 2017

    put the settup in close after fill in data in cell,,,

zaim - August 29, 2017

i got runtime error and type mismatch notification after go to next cell, that is right cell.

Lucky Gupta - August 23, 2017

wow, wow and wow!!!!
I cant believe….it works perfect…such an amazing feature….
Thanks a lot Mr.Jon….
Microsoft should have included this feature…
cant explain in words..again Mr.Jon thank you very much….
“I am loving it”

Bhatt K V - July 15, 2017

This add inn deserves to be part of the next version of excel.

Thanks for developing and maintaining this blog

Bhatt K V


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