When creating a drop-down list in Excel, it takes a range of cells as input and shows it as a list. There is not much you can do with how your list looks in the drop down. For example, you can not give a background color or change font color, font type, font size, etc. Despite these limitations, there are a couple of things you can do in a drop down list. Here are some of the tutorials I wrote long back:

Display the main category and sub-category in a drop down list in Excel. Disguise numbers as text in a drop down list.

In this tutorial, I will show you how to show symbols in drop down lists in Excel.

Inserting Symbols in Cells

To use any symbol in a drop down list, we first need to get it in a cell. Here is how you can insert symbols in excel cells:

Select a cell (let’s say A1). Go to Insert –> Symbols –> Symbol. In the Symbol dialog box, select the font from the drop down. An excel drop-down list displays the content in Tahoma font (info credit: Debra Dalgleish). Any symbol you use from Tahoma font also usually works with other regularly used fonts such as Arial, Calibri, Trebuchet MS, Verdana, etc. However, you should test this in case you are using symbols from other fonts. In the Symbol dialog box, select the symbol you want to insert and click on Insert. This inserts the selected symbol in the cell. Select another cell to insert another symbol. 

Now we can use these symbols in cells (as shown above in the pic) to create a drop down list.

Creating a Drop Down List

Once you have the items you want to show in a drop down list, here are the steps to create it:

Examples of Symbols in Drop Down Lists in Excel

You can use only symbols in the drop down list or you can combine symbols and text. Here are some examples of some common symbols that can be used.

Using Symbols Only

Upward and Downward arrows to show increase/decrease. Upward/Downward/No change arrows.

Using Symbols and Text

You can also combine symbol and text and show it in the drop down list. Suppose you have the symbol in cell A1, use the following formula in cell B1: =A1&” Increasing”

You can replace the word ‘Increasing’ with any text or cell reference. Here are some examples to show how this combination of text and symbols can be used in the drop downs.

Less-than/Greater-than symbols with text. Upward and Downward arrows with text. Using Bullets (to show main category and sub-category). To Insert a bullet: Go to the cell and double click (or F2) to get into edit mode. Press Alt + 7 or Alt + 9 from your numeric keypad. If you don’t have a numeric keypad, activate the NumLock and follow the above steps. To get the indentation, as shown above, simply use the space character.

In this tutorial, I have shown some of the examples of how you can use symbols in a drop down lists in Excel. I would love to know how you use it in your work. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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