Create a Drop Down List With Symbols

To make data entry easier, you can create a drop down list in an Excel cell, using data validation.


This works well with a list of words, but the list doesn't show symbols if you create the list in a font such as Webdings. In the example below, I entered 5, 0, and 6 in cells B2:B4 and formatted the cells with Webdings.

The drop down list shows the number values, instead of the formatted symbols.


Use Built-In Symbols

You can’t create a drop down list of symbols based on formatted cells, but you can use some well-hidden symbols instead.

In the screen shot below, cells B2:B4 are formatted in Tahoma font, which is the same font used in the drop down list.


  • To create the Up Arrow in B2, I pressed the Alt key, and typed 30  on the number keypad.
    • NOTE: You have to use the number keypad – not the numbers at the top of the keyboard.
  • Then, use the same technique in cells B3 and B4, with numbers 29 and 31.

Watch the Video

This video shows you the steps for creating a drop down list, to show a selection of symbols.

Download the Sample File

To download the sample file, please visit my Contextures website: Data Validation Tips and Quirks.


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6 Responses

  1. John says:

    Thanks for this tip Debra. I have always been amazed that Microsoft never allowed dropdowns of other fonts like a tick in a validation dropdown would be so useful in many situations. This symbol “√” is the closest I have found. A Tick and a cross (OK X will do for this) is not much to ask is it?

  2. Helen says:

    Hi Debra,

    I have tried using the ‘ALT 251’ in my cell so that I can get a ‘tick’ showing in my drop down list – but this does not work. I’m working on a file that is an Excel 2013 workbook.

    Would you let me know how this can be done (or if it can not be done).

    Kind Regards

  3. VM says:

    Thank You very much. It worked for me. Initially I am trying with Arial font, it did not worked. But when I use Tahoma font on the cell and used the trick ( holding ALT+ typing 251 from the number keypad) worked great.

  4. Alex says:

    I have created a calendar in excel, I want to create a drop down box that will let me change the background color of a cell. the calendar uses individual cells for each date or day of the month. I want to be able to click on the cell and have a drop down show me five different colors that I can select. each color represents a function – Like Holiday, so that I can select the days that I will be on Holiday? How can I create this drop down feature?

  5. Tim says:

    I too have tried to use the ALT + 251 to have something akin to a “checkmark” appear in my dropdown list. It didn’t work for me either. I’m also using Excel that came as part of MS Office 365…the most recent version of Excel. If anyone knows the correct typing to create this checkmark that would be appreciated!

  6. Alex says:

    For those having difficulty with symbols:
    1) Make sure you are using the number pad, not the numbers on the keys at the top row. It does not work with numbers on the top row of the keyboard. Most laptops do not have a number pad separately so you’ll not be able to use it. Also, make sure Num Lock is on.
    2) If this doesn’t work, just use Insert > Symbol and look for the symbol you are after.

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