Google Sheets is a free online program that allows you to organize large amounts of data. Like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets offers you a great, but easier, way to create new spreadsheets or copy and edit data from existing spreadsheets. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use this free online program.
Like all other Google programs, Google Sheets is a web-based program that you can access anywhere from any device at any time. It works from any device, including smartphones. It’s free to use and it’s connected with Google Drive so you can share your spreadsheets with team members, clients, or other people.
Step #1: Create a new document
Go to your Google Drive and open a new document by clicking on “New” > Google Sheets > Blank spreadsheet. If you haven’t got a Google account yet to access your Google Drive, create one at https://myaccount.google.com first.
Or, you can also go directly to Google Sheets via https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets and then click on the red circle + in the right bottom corner of your screen, or on “Blank” from the Template gallery to create a new blank document.
Make a file from a template
Either choose a template from the Template gallery at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets, or start from your Google Drive dashboard and follow these steps:
- Click on “New” to create a new document.
- Hover your cursor over the arrow from Google Docs and choose “From a template” instead of “Blank document”.
- This will show you the Template gallery.
- Choose a template to your liking.
→ You can also use templates when you’re in a file. Click on the tab “File” > New > From template.
Step #2: Understand the spreadsheet terminology
Here is an explanation of the most common terms used in Google Sheets to help you understand the spreadsheet terminology better.
- Cell: An individual square in your spreadsheet, which contains a data unit and is organized into rows and columns with number and letter IDs. Each cell should contain one value. It can be a number, word or other piece of data.
- Column: A vertical set of cells.
- Row: A horizontal set of cells.
- Range: A selection of cells extending across a row, column, or both.
- Function: A built-in operation from the spreadsheet app, which can be used to calculate cell, row, column, or range values, manipulate data, and more.
- Formula: The combination of functions, cells, rows, columns, and ranges used to obtain a specific result.
- Worksheet (Sheet): The named sets of rows and columns making up your spreadsheet; one spreadsheet can have multiple sheets.
- Spreadsheet: The entire document containing your worksheets.
Step #3: Adding data to your sheet
To add data to your sheet, simply start typing. As you open a new spreadsheet, Google Sheets automatically selects the first cell for you by outlining it with a blue frame. That’s where you see the data popping up as you type. If you want to use a different cell, just click on the cell that you want to fill in.
→ You don’t need to double-click on cells to add information. You don’t even have to use the mouse much as you can just use the arrows on your keyboard to shift between cells.
When you’ve finished entering the information into the cell, you can do one of these things:
- Press ENTER on your keyboard to save the data and move to the beginning of the next row.
- Press TAB on your keyboard to save the data and move to the right in the same row.
- Use the ARROW keys on your keyboard to move 1 cell in that direction (either left, right, up or down).
- Click on any cell with your mouse cursor to jump to that cell.
Copying data from one cell to other cells
Of course you can always simply copy-paste data from one cell to another cell. But, when you need to create a list of text data, or you want to copy the same value from one cell to other multiple neighbouring cells, you can do this very quickly without even having to copy-paste data into every new cell.
Simply click and drag the blue little square on the bottom right corner of the cell into the direction you want to copy the data to.
For example, we’ve typed “Blog title 1” into our first cell (A1). Now we want to copy that to the other columns, so to the right.
Because we used a number (1) after our words “Blog title”, Google Sheets automatically adds up +1 to the neighbouring cells. This way, we get a list of numbered items.
If you don’t insert a number, Google Sheets will only copy the word(s) you typed into the cell.
Step #4: Import data
When you want to import data from an existing file, follow the next steps (source: https://support.google.com/docs/answer/40608?hl=en&ref_topic=1361470).
- Open a new sheet in Google Drive or https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets
- At the top menu, go to the tab “File” > Import.
- Choose a non-password-protected file in one of these file types:
.xls (if newer than Microsoft® Office 95)
- Select an import option. Not all file types have all six options:
- Create new spreadsheet: Create a spreadsheet from the imported data in a new browser tab.
- Insert new sheets: Adds new sheets with the imported data to your existing spreadsheet.
- Replace spreadsheet: Replace the open spreadsheet with the data in your imported file.
- Replace current sheet: Replace the current sheet’s contents with the imported data.
- Append rows to current sheet: Adds the imported data to the current sheet after the last row with any data.
- Replace data starting at selected cell: Replace the data in a range of selected cells with the imported data.
- Click Import.
Copy-paste data from one sheet into a new sheet
- Select the data from one sheet by clicking on one cell and then dragging the mouse over the cells you want to copy.
- At the top menu, go to the tab “Edit” > Copy. Or, use CTRL + C or COMMAND + C (Mac) as as shortcut on your keyboard.
- Go to your new sheet, click on the first cell that you want to correspond with the first cell of the copied cells from the old sheet.
- At the top menu, go to the tab “Edit” > Paste. Or, use CTRL + V or COMMAND + V (Mac) as a shortcut on your keyboard.
Step #5: Add rows, columns, and cells
You can add rows, columns, and cells by following these steps.
- Select a cell or a block of cells.
- At the top menu, click on the tab “Insert” and choose where to add the row, column or cells. With columns, you can also move your cursor over the letter of the column that you want to add a column to, and then you’ll see a little grey arrow to the right of the letter. Click on it and choose “Insert 1 left” or “Insert 1 right”.
- To delete or hide rows and columns, right-click the row number or column letter and select “Delete” or “Hide”.
- To delete a cell or a block of cells, select the cells that you want to delete and then click on “Edit” at the top menu and Delete.
- To move a row or column, click the row number or column letter to select it. Then, drag it to a new location.
- You can also freeze a header row or columns. This will keep the data in the same place as you scroll through the rest of your spreadsheet. At the top menu, click on the tab “View” > Freeze and choose the row or column you want to freeze:
Step #6: Edit and format your data
You can edit the data in a cell so it’s a little bit more visually appealing than the default layout.
- Open a spreadsheet.
- Click a cell that’s empty, or double-click a cell that isn’t empty.
- Start typing.
- Optional: To add another line within a cell, press COMMAND + Enter on a Mac or CTRL + Enter on Windows.
- When you’re done, press Enter.
Format one or more cells
- Open a spreadsheet.
- Click a cell, then drag your mouse across nearby cells you want to select, or hold COMMAND on a Mac or CTRL on Windows and click another cell.
- To format text or numbers in a cell, use the options in the toolbar at the top.
Format your data
Here are some options for formatting your cells or text. You can find these options above the document. In order to format part of the content in a cell, double-click the cell, select what you want to change and then select on of the formatting options.
Step #7: Use the SUM formula
There are many different formulas you can use in Google Sheets. But the most common one is the SUM formula. This adds up values in different cells so you don’t have to do it yourself.
→ To select a block of cells, click the first cell and then hold SHIFT and click the last cell in the block. E.g. if you want cell A1 to A10, click A1, then hold SHIFT and click A10.
- Select the block of cells that you want to use the SUM formula for. In our example above, you see that we selected cell B2 to B7. We want to add the number from those cells using the SUM formula.
- Go to the “Functions” ∑ symbol on the far right of the formatting options menu. Click on it and then click on “SUM”.
- You’ll see a formula (=SUM(<selected cells>) pop up in the cell under your selected cells.
- Press ENTER.
- This will add up the data from your selected cells and you’ll see the result in the cell under your selected cells instead of the formula:
Step #8: Work with multiple sheets
You can work with multiple sheets. To add a sheet, click the + sign on the left bottom corner of your screen. When you hover your mouse over the + sign, you’ll see “Add sheet”. This will add a sheet to the right of your current sheet. You can name your sheets by double-clicking on the default name (Sheet1).
To delete or copy a sheet, click on the down arrow of the sheet tab on the bottom of your screen (e.g. Sheet1). You’ll see different options and you can select “Delete” or “Duplicate”.
Step #9: Share your document
Just like other Google programs like Google Docs, your Google Sheets are private by default, so they are only visible to you. By sharing your sheet, other people like your colleagues or clients can view, edit or comment on your work.
Sharing by invites
Go to your sheet, and click on the blue “Share” button in the top right corner of your screen. This makes a window pop up where you can fill in the email addresses of the people you want to share your work with.
Sharing by sending people a link
You can also click on “Get shareable link”, which copies an URL to your clipboard (or just copy it yourself). You can share this link with people anywhere (e.g. via email, Facebook or other channels), which gives them access to that specific document.
You can specify who can see the sheet as well as who can edit it. Or change people’s access by clicking on the link next to their names.
- View: People can see, but can’t change or share the file with others.
- Comment: People can make comments and suggestions, but can’t change or share the file with others.
- Edit: People can make changes, accept or reject suggestions, and share the file with others.
Stop sharing a file
- Open Google Drive or Google Sheets.
- Select the document you want to stop sharing with someone else, and open it.
- Click on the blue “Share” button in the right top corner of your screen.
- At the bottom right of the “Share with others” window, click “Advanced”.
- Next to the person you want to stop sharing with, click “Remove”.
- Click on “Save changes”
Step #10: Add comments and replies
You can ask other people to leave comments and feedback on your sheet. Or you can add a comment yourself to other people’s work.
- Select a cell.
- At the top menu, click “Insert” > Comment.
- Add your notes and click Comment.
When you’re done with a comment, click Resolve.
Step #11: Download or print your data
To download your file into a format that is compatible with programs such as Microsoft Excel, click on the tab “File” and then hover your cursor over “Download as”. Choose the format that you need. This will download the file to your computer in the format that you chose.
You can also print your file if you have a printer installed. Click on the “File” tab and select “Print”. Choose your print settings and specify which pages you need to print, or select all of them. When you click on “print”, a print preview pops up and you can select your printer by clicking the “change” button.