I can not really get my head on when to use these 2 options:-

  1. create a lookup column on a list. and set it as single selection.

  2. create a choice drop down column.

now both will render a drop down list. but the first approach allow non-admin users to add new choices, by adding new items inside the source list. while the second appraoch only allow site owner with full permission (who have permission on the site columns ) to modify the choices.

so can anyone advice what should govern which approach to go with ?


3 Answers 3


Besides your details descriptions in your question , The following points will let you know when you can use lookup field VS choice field ,

For a lookup field,

  • You can manage permission at its list per list item to show and hide specific items at a lookup field based on user permission .

  • Also, Look up field used when you need to make a relationship between two lists as one to many relationships.

  • Use lookup field if you have many choice items .

For choice field

  • You can use Allow 'Fill-in' choices: to let the users add values that not included in list

  • You can show values as Radio Buttons and Checkboxes (allow multiple selections) beside the drop down list.

  • You can build Column Validation and default value

  • i have not set the "Allow 'Fill-in' choices:" before,, so who will be able to add new choices ? contributor or only site owners (who can access site columns)?
    – John John
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 14:25
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    This option allows the end user who has permission to add item to the list so when he try to add new item if he can't find his value in the choice field , he can add it for his row only Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 14:28
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    this what I have mentioned in my previous comment :) , and in my answer I listed to you the difference between lookup field VS choice field as you request in your question ! and you always the decision owner to use what is useful for you based on your requirements :) Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 14:34
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    so seems lookup column is a way better,, and more flexible,, also i can chose to allow multiple selections
    – John John
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 14:41
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    you alright but if you have a little static choice like High Medium Low , in this case , it's suggested to use the choice field as a simple and can show it as a radio button or check box Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 15:26

If you detach permissions on the source list, end users (contributors) will not be able to edit it, but only select the item from the drop down if you set them as readers.

I would select the 'choice' feature when the list is fairly simple and the choices are not many (can be 3 to 50). One of the downsides of choice is that you must keep them in alphabetical order since the system will not sort them for you.

I would select the 'separate source list' option when the items are many (above 50).

  • yes i know this.. but this is a general answer, i am asking when to chose each appraoch .. thanks
    – John John
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 13:57
  • I have edited my original answer
    – susan
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 14:15
  • so seems the most important differences are the ones i already mentioned in my question?? is this correct :) ?. that using choice column will only allow site owners to add new choices, while in the lookup column i can control who can add new items based on the source list permission..
    – John John
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 14:34

I came across this page on Microsoft TechNet that has some more things to think about when making this decision:


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