HOW TO SET A CUSTOM ERROR & INPUT MESSAGE FOR A WORKSHEET OR CELL IN MS EXCEL

Before an error message whether customized or default can be displayed, you must restrict what goes into a cell in your worksheet, so that when it is violated, the error message will be displayed. You should also set a custom input message for the cell or column to tell he user the type of data or number of characters to enter in that cell. In this tutorial, I will explicitly explain step by step with screenshots, how you can set a custom error message, input message and error alert for a cell, group of cells or column in MS Excel.
guides on how to set up a custom message for a cell in ms excel
For example, as an MS Excel spreadsheet manager, you might want to design a product stock system for one of your clients. The system will have a PRODUCT DESCRIPTION column in which the number of characters for the description of each product must not be more than 50 characters. You will need to add a custom error message for that column through the Data Validation feature in Microsoft Excel. You can also set up input message to tell the user the type of data he or she is required to enter in that cell or column.

This is part 4 of chapter 7 of the Free Online Excel Tutorial Series at Microsoft Tutorial website. In the previous part (part 3), I explicitly explained how to create a dropdown menu list in MS ExcelAlso see the full tutorial course content of this Microsoft Excel Tutorial Series.

To Set a Custom Error Message for a Column in your Excel Worksheet:

1. Prepare your worksheet like the one shown below.
The product stock system for the custom error message illustration
2. Highlight the entire column C by placing your cursor on the “C” label and clicking when you see the down pointing arrow.

3. Click the Data Validation drop down arrow located in the Data tools group under the Data tab. Then click Data Validation from the resulting dropdown menu option. This prompts the Data Validation dialogue box.

4. Under the Settings tab, click the Allow: drop down arrow and select Text Length from the resulting options. This activates the Source text box.

5. Select between from the Data drop down menu list.


6. Since the character should not be more than 50, type 0 in the Minimum text box and type 50 in the Maximum text box as shown below.
Specify the minimum and maximum allowed characters
You have restricted the number of characters that each cell under the PRODUCT DESCRIPTION column will accept. But if the specified number of characters are exceeded, MS Excel will pop up a default error message dialogue box that warns the user about wrong entry without telling the user how to correct the mistake. 

So you need to set an input message that displays beside the selected cell and tells the user the type and number of characters accepted in that cell. But it is optional.
Then you need to customize the error message to advise the user on what to do.

To Set a Custom Input Message for a Cell or Column in Excel:

1. Highlight the desired cell or entire column and call up the Data Validation dialogue box using the above specified procedure.

2. Click the Input Message tab and ensure that the “Show input message when cell is selected” check box is checked.

3. In the Title text box, type some text for the title of your input. For example, you can type: Number of Characters Should Not Exceed 50!

4. Click inside the Error Message field (also optional) and type some text for the main body of your input message as shown below. This explains more about what you wrote in the title text box.
Type in the title and body of your custom input message
5. Click OK to close the Data Validation dialogue box.

So once the user selects any cell under the DESCRIPTION column in the above worksheet, MS Excel displays your customized input message beside that cell as shown below.
Input message sample in MS Excel

To Set a Custom Error Alert for a Cell or Column in Excel:

1. Highlight the desired cell or entire column and call up the Data Validation dialogue box using the above specified procedure.

2. Click the Error Alert tab and ensure that the “Show error alert after invalid data is entered” check box is checked.

3. You have three options to choose from the Style drop down menu: Stop, warning and information, you can select any of them. But I prefer using the Warning style.

4. In the Title text box, type some text for the title of your error message depending on the option you selected under the Style drop sown menu. For example, you can type: Too Many Number of Characters!

5. Click inside the Error Message field and type some text for the main body of your error message as shown below. This explains what the user did wrong and the user can correct can correct the error.

Type in the title and body of your custom error message
6. Click OK to close the Data Validation dialogue box.

Now, you can test your custom error message by typing a description more than 50 characters in any of the cells of the PRODUCT DESCRIPTION column. Press Enter on your keyboard. Your customized error message should pop up as shown below.
Custom error message dialogue sample

This is the end of part 4 of chapter 7 and the end of this online Microsoft Excel tutorial series. 

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