Tom’s Tutorials For Excel: Validating an Entry as a Real Date

Tom’s Tutorials For Excel: Validating an Entry as a Real Date

One way to verify that a bona fide date is being entered into a cell is to use Data Validation.

In the pictured example, dates are being entered into a list in column E. The attempted entry in cell E6 is being rejected because it is not a date.

Step 1 of 4: Before you enter dates, set up your worksheet:
• Start by selecting the range where dates will be entered.
• Then, from your keyboard press Alt+D+L to show the Data Validation dialog box.

Step 2 of 4: In the Data Validation dialog box:
• Go to the Settings tab.
• Click the drop-down arrow for the Allow field.
• In the list of allowable settings, click to select Custom.

Step 3 of 4: Still in the Data Validation dialog box:
In the Formula field, enter your formula rule.
Notice the range being Data Validated (the selected range in Step 1) is E3:E16.
The Data Validation formula being used, with cell E3 as the active cell in that selection, is
=AND(ISNUMBER(E3),LEFT(CELL("format",E3),1)="D")

Step 4 of 4: Still in the Data Validation dialog box:
• Click onto the Error Alert tab.
• Click to select the option for (that is, click to put a check in the box next to) “Show error alert after invalid data is entered”.
• For the Style field, click the drop-down arrow and select “Stop”.
• In the Title field, enter a short headline such as you see here, and as you see in practice in the picture at the top of this tutorial.
• In the Error message field, enter an informative explanation as to why the attempted entry is being rejected, and what the user should do to correct that action.

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5 comments on “Tom’s Tutorials For Excel: Validating an Entry as a Real Date
  1. David says:

    Why not just pick the DATE option in the data validation menu; providing possible start and end dates that are well outside any possible dates one may enter?

    It only allows dates — no text, or dates that can’t exist like 2/31/2004

  2. John says:

    One reason not to use the date option in data validation is because you have to define a start and end date which can be problematic. So I like Tom’s way. I always wonder why MS made the date option like this and not just accept valid dates.

    • Teddy says:

      It is useful to have actual start and end dates for validation to prevent dates that, for instance, haven’t yet occurred from being entered in a date-sensitive context. Restricting the range of dates prevents awful mistakes with years, like 2061, or 2106 instead of 2016 (this I see regularly with my own eyes). A bit late replying here, but I just came across this site.

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