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In Excel 2010: Data Validation in Depth, author Dennis Taylor shows how to use the data validation tools in Excel to control how users can input data into workbooks and ensure data is entered consistently and accurately. The course covers creating dropdown lists, preventing duplicate entries, and controlling the format of numeric data, dates and times, and text entered into worksheets. Exercise files are included with the course.
Using Excel's data validation criteria, you can control the entry of dates. Take a look at column B here. You probably recognize that cell B2 contains an impossible date. The next date is okay. We want to have control over the date entries. Let's click column B and take a look at Data Validation. We find it on the Data tab. The Settings > Allow > Date, and in its basic form, we see we can control dates by keeping them within a certain starting and ending date timeframe, and the same choices that we see with values: not between, so not equal to a certain date, less than, and so on.
So there are all kinds of different scenarios here as to control dates, and, by the way, this feature will also trap those impossible dates, like the one we're seeing in B2. Now a reminder, too, when you do apply data validation--and let's say in this example here, we want all these entries to be within the year 2011-- the starting and ending dates are inclusive. So we'll put in 1/1/11, and then for the ending date, 12/31/11, and click OK.
Note that the entries that are already there are not flagged. However, it is worth pointing out in Excel, if the columns were wider, we'd see the bad date this way. But from now on, certainly in this column, if we do attempt to put in a date like that--and no matter how we type, it's going to catch this; this is an impossible date-- And we get the error message. As in prior examples, anytime you have these error messages, if you wanted to customize these, you certainly can do that. But ideally in the best of all worlds, we would get rid of this entry, and from now on of course, all of our dates are going to be accurate.
The feature is almost self- explanatory in terms of its options. Once again, under Data Validation for Date type choices in the example here, we're simply restricting them to a certain timeframe, but we've got those other choices as well. It's an easy-to-use feature, and it certainly makes data entry much more reliable when it comes to date type entries.
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