An Easier Method: Build Dependent NetSuite Filtered Dropdowns

This article is relevant if you are seeking an easier way to understand how to build a two level dropdown list and related dependent dropdown list to drive your NetSuite forms.


During a recent client implementation, one of our senior consultants needed to satisfy a client requirement while designing a refined Returned Authorization process.  The client wanted to be able to select a primary reason for the customer return and a secondary related reason.

This pattern comes up frequently.  I like to call it the filtered dependent dropdown challenge.  NetSuite has discussed methods of doing this in the past using multiple tables.  NetSuite has a SuiteAnswer article called Multiple Dependent Dropdown Lists.    When I review the article, I find it challenging to follow.

In our consultant’s mind, he saw the problem in a simple manner. ¬†He wondered why we couldn’t have a single dropdown using a hierarchical outline. ¬† ¬†Indeed we can model the problem using a single list; yet the client did not want a dropdown with a long list of options. ¬†The client preferred two short dropdown lists versus one long list element. ¬†Nonetheless, our consultant knew that the way he wanted to organize the data was the correct relationship. ¬†Recognizing that NetSuite now supports hierarchical custom records, he saw a different method which I believe, and I hope you will as well, is very intuitive.

Setting up a NetSuite Dual Dropdown Lists using a Single Hierarchical Custom Record

There are three simple structures you need here:

  1. Hierarchical Custom Record
  2. Main Dropdown List
  3. Dependent Dropdown List

Create Hierarchical Custom Record

In our case, all we needed is a simple list.  As soon as we check the record option to indicate that the list is hierarchical, the concept of a parent pointer is automatically added.  This kind of pattern is common in entity relational modeling.  A record that points to itself represents an opportunity to go to unlimited depth.  In our assumptive case, we are going down one level from the top.  Yet, the pattern can go as deep as we desire.

Produce the Main Dropdown List

The next task is to produce the main drop down list which is the custom form field that should be selected first. ¬†In our client’s case, they wanted the first dropdown list to be the primary reason for the product return. ¬†Set the filter criteria option to ensure that the Parent reference is empty. ¬†See image.

Produce the Dependent Dropdown List

The final task is to produce the second dropdown list which is the field that is selected after the first field is selected.  Here, we want the sub reason why the product was returned.  Set the filter criteria option to  make the parent value equal to the value in selected in the Main Dropdown list.  See image.

Intuitive Setup and Easy Maintenance

As soon as our senior consultant offered his thinking on this approach, I recognized its value. ¬†So little had to be said about how it works — likely because I seem to see information relationships in parent / child hierarchies and outlines every where I go. ¬† ¬†My hope is that this approach is much easier to understand, and thus implement, than previously offered techniques. ¬† If you find that you too think in hierarchies, you value inventing and this is why you love NetSuite, perhaps we can have a conversation about how to align our interest?


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Marty Zigman

Holding all three official certifications, Marty is Southern California's NetSuite expert and leads a team of senior professionals at Prolecto Resources, Inc. He is a former Deloitte & Touche CPA and has held CTO roles. For over 25 years, Marty has produced leadership in ERP, CRM and eCommerce business systems. Contact Marty to set up a conversation.

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| Tags: , , | Category: NetSuite, Technical | 11 Comments


  1. rgama
    Posted June 9, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Very Nice Marty. Is there way not to show the hierarchy in the value?

    For example, I set this up to test with some test data and the records show:
    ‘Test Company : FedEx – Ref# 55555, Account: 1234567’

    There are options in preferences to show the last entity or item but not sure if that is possible with these types of values.


  2. rgama
    Posted June 9, 2016 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I should add that the 2nd value is ‘FedEx ‚Äď Ref# 55555, Account: 1234567’

  3. Kevin
    Posted June 13, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I am looking for a similar dependent dropdown list but for using in a saved search – in the available filter section. Within the saved search the user could select the Account Manager (custom field) and based on that Account Manager, they can then select an item (that is assigned to them). Instead of showing all of the items listed in Netsuite, the list would only show items that the Account Manager is assigned to. I have not been able to figure out a way to do this – if it is even possible?

  4. Posted June 26, 2016 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi Robert,

    Based on the way these new fields work, it reveals the hierarchy. I would have to play with it but I don’t think so. My intuition is to go to script but that certainly does not make it “easier”.


  5. Posted June 26, 2016 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Hello Kevin,

    This should be possible. Are you able to at least create a custom field that references the item as a list and then filters based on the Account Manager using the point-and-click customization?

    Also, where are you trying to use this? In the item filter definition of a custom transaction form?


  6. rgama
    Posted June 27, 2016 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the reply Marty.

  7. Kevin
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Mary,

    I am trying to do this in the available filter section of a saved search. The challenge is, the item list shows everything that is an item, fixed assets, etc and I would like it to show just the items that are associated with the account manager.

    I cannot seem to figure out if it is possible to have an available filter in a saved search pull from another saved search as opposed to the entire item list.

  8. Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Did you try to use the available filters in the field definition to limit the kinds of data returned?


  9. Posted August 20, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I just learned that 2016.2 appears to have an option to turn off or on the hierarchy. display That should be a welcome switch.


  10. Posted October 5, 2017 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Hi Marty,

    Congratulations for another great tip for doing things faster and easier on NetSuite.

    I have successfully used this technique to build dependent filtered dropdowns (including three level ones). The only issue I am having is with translation. Although all record values have all the translation variants, they show only in the default language my company is configured to, no matter which language the user selects.

    I think this is a NetSuite bug, but wanted to double check with you first to see if I might be missing something…

  11. Posted October 8, 2017 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Hi Edson,

    I think it may make sense to go to NetSuite Support on this. I don’t have specific thinking.


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