Ignore Blank Problems in Excel Data ValidationBy Debra Dalgleish, on August 11th, 2010 In Monday's blog, you saw how to make simple dependent data validation drop down lists.
Today you'll see a couple of problems that can occur when you refer to other cells in your data validation, and those cells are blank. If you create a data validation formula that refers to another cell, and that cell is empty, users might be able to type invalid entries in the cell. To prevent people from entering invalid data when the cell referred to is empty, you can open the Data Validation dialog box, and remove the check mark from the Ignore Blank setting.
With the Ignore Blank setting turned off, users will see an error message if they try to enter invalid data.
I always turn off the Ignore Blank setting when using dependent data validation drop down lists, as I described above.
When the Ignore Blank setting is turned off, Excel treats empty cells as invalid data, when you run the Circle Invalid Data feature. To remove the circles, use the Clear Validation Circles command on the Excel Ribbon's Data tab.
Despite extensive experiments, I couldn't find a formula that would prevent invalid entries in a dependent data validation cell, where the referenced cell is empty, without turning off the Ignore Blank setting. In the meantime, I'd rather prevent invalid entries, than catch them later, so I'll stick with that setting change. To see the steps for turning off the Ignore Blank setting, and the problems that can occur, please watch this Ignore Blank Problems in Excel Data Validation video. One way you can avoid the circles problem is by prefilling all the data validation cells with default values.

Hello - (In reponse to data validation) I want the users of my spreadsheet to be able to choose from the selections in the dropdown box or be able to type something in a blank cell. I'm a lifestyle journalist and I've been writing about office productivity software for a long time. Google Docs has the ability to use data validation to automate and manage data entry into cells in a spreadsheet. Now, when you enter data into any of the cells in the range you have configured this data validation rule for, you will see a dropdown indicator appear to the right of the cell. You can force a user to comply with the data validation rules that you have created or allow them to enter an “invalid” value but warn them that they are about to enter data that doesn’t comply with the rule.
These data validation tools available in Google Docs are similar to those that you’ll find in other spreadsheet applications such as Excel.
After creating the drop downs, you added some flexibility by using the IF function in the data validation formula. However, last week I heard from Paul, who uses the Circle Invalid Data feature in one of his workbooks. That's a helpful feature when you don't want to allow empty cells, but not very helpful in this case. It doesn't work for all layouts, but whenever possible, I like to put a default value in the cell. Here you'll find handy hints, tips, tricks, techniques and tutorials on using software as diverse as Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access and Publisher from Microsoft and other applications that I love.
One way to do this is to limit the data that can be entered into a cell to a selection from a list that you create.

You can limit a cell entry to a number which meets certain criteria or to a text entry that contains or does not contain certain text or which is a valid email address or URL.
As you can see in the list in cell B5, that isn't one of the cities allowed when the adjacent cell in column A is empty. The user isn't filling a blank cell, rather they're selecting a different entry from the list. This data is entered into the cell in the same way as any data would be entered so you can, for example, use it in calculations by referring to the cell contents. You can also require that a date is entered within a certain range of dates or before or after another date. It also introduces the problem of the user forgetting to change it and having valid, but ultimately incorrect, data in the cell. In the example worksheet shown, a formula is used the cells in column C to calculate the converted value by checking what currency has been chosen and then multiplying the value in column A by the appropriate conversion rate. Make sure the “Show list of items in a drop-down menu” is checked and if you don’t want a user to select anything that’s not in the list, then disable the “Allow invalid data, but show warning” checkbox.

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