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Reduce tedious data entry and the risk of errors by creating custom lists in Microsoft Excel. By setting up a list ahead of time, you can use autofill or add a drop-down selection for the items, saving you time.

Microsoft Excel comes with a few custom lists of its own. These include things like the days of the week and months of the year. This is what makes a feature like autofill so convenient. You simply enter one word, like Sunday or January, and drag the fill handle to complete the list.

A custom list that you create works the same way. So once you enter the list items, you can simply type one and use autofill to fill in the rest.

Plus, you can reuse your custom lists across other Excel workbooks.

Create a Custom List of Items in Excel

A custom list in Microsoft Excel can contain any items you like. For business, it’s great for a list of products, product attributes, employees, or locations.  But you can also use a custom list for personal items, like a list of payees for your bills, food items for meal planning, or products for your shopping list.

With your list of items in mind, open your Excel workbook and access the settings.

On Windows, go to File > Options. Select “Advanced” on the left and scroll down to the “General” section. Click “Edit Custom Lists.”

On Mac, go to Excel > Preferences. In the “Formulas and Lists” section, click “Custom Lists.”

Make sure that “New List” is selected in the “Custom Lists” box. Then, enter your list items in the “List Entries” box. Hit the “Enter” or “Return” key after each so that every item appears on a separate line.

Click “Add,” and you’ll see your list items appear in the “Custom Lists” box. If you’re finished, click “OK” on Windows, or on Mac, simply close the Custom Lists window.

Added custom list entries

Import a List of Items From Cells

If you already have your list of items in the spreadsheet, you can turn it into a custom list using the Import feature. Then you can reuse the list wherever you need to without reentering the items.

If you’ve closed the Custom Lists window, head back to it using the instructions above. Enter the cell range containing the list items in the “Import List From Cells” box. Alternatively, you can use your cursor to drag through the list of cells for the range to populate automatically. Click “Import.”

Drag through the list items to import them

You’ll then see the imported items appear in the “Custom Lists” box.

Imported List Entries

Click “OK” on Windows, or click the red “X” on Mac to close the window.

Use Your Custom List

The nice thing about creating a custom list in Microsoft Excel is that you can use it in any Excel spreadsheet or workbook. Head to a spot where you want to add the list items and type in one of them. Use the fill handle to complete the list.

Drag the fill handle to complete the list

You can also follow our tutorial for adding a drop-down list based on a custom list for easier data entry.

Edit or Delete a Custom List

You may need to change a custom list that you create by adding or removing items from it. On the other hand, you might want to simply delete a list you never use. Go back to the Custom Lists section for both of these actions.

To edit a custom list, select it in the “Custom Lists” box. Make your changes in the “List Entries” box and click “Add.” This will not create a new custom list; it will simply update your existing one.

Edit list entries

To delete a custom list, select it in the “Custom Lists” box and hit “Delete.” Confirm this action by clicking “OK.”

If you find yourself repeating a list of items in your spreadsheets, make your data entry a bit easier by creating a custom list in Microsoft Excel. And for more help with lists, take a look at how to create a checklist in Excel.

Profile Photo for Sandy Writtenhouse Sandy Writtenhouse
With her B.S. in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She learned how technology can enrich both professional and personal lives by using the right tools. And, she has shared those suggestions and how-tos on many websites over time. With thousands of articles under her belt, Sandy strives to help others use technology to their advantage.
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