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Google Sheets 101: complete guide to getting started with Google Sheets

Google Sheets 101: complete guide to getting started with Google Sheets

min read

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on Google Sheets, the versatile and user-friendly spreadsheet program that forms an integral part of the Google Workspace. Whether you're a first-time user or simply want to refresh your knowledge, this post is designed to help you navigate and optimize this powerful tool.

<a href="#what-is-google" class="anchor-link">What is Google Sheets?</a>
<a href="#key-features" class="anchor-link">Google Sheets key features</a>
<a href="#how-is-google-used" class="anchor-link">How is Google Sheets is used</a>
<a href="#getting-started" class="anchor-link">Getting started with Google Sheets</a>

  1. <a href="#create-new-sheet" class="anchor-link">How to create a new Google Sheet</a>
  2. <a href="#add-enter-data" class="anchor-link">How to add and enter data</a>
  3. <a href="#search-data" class="anchor-link">Search for data</a>
  4. <a href="#clear-cells" class="anchor-link">Clear cells</a>
  5. <a href="#find-replace-data" class="anchor-link">Find and replace data</a>
  6. <a href="#alphabetize-data" class="anchor-link">Alphabetize data</a>
  7. <a href="#insert-delete-rows" class="anchor-link">Insert and delete rows</a>
  8. <a href="#merge-cells" class="anchor-link">Merge cells</a>
  9. <a href="#freeze-unfreeze-rows" class="anchor-link">Freeze and unfreeze rows</a>
  10. <a href="#format-numbers" class="anchor-link">Format numbers as currency or percentages</a>
  11. <a href="#split-text" class="anchor-link">Split text into separate columns</a>
  12. <a href="#share-collaborate" class="anchor-link">Share and collaborate</a>
  13. <a href="#use-offline" class="anchor-link">Use Google Sheets offline</a>
  14. <a href="#import-contacts-deals" class="anchor-link">Import contacts and deals into your CRM</a>

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What is Google Sheets?

a sample google sheet spreadsheet

Google Sheets is an online spreadsheet app that allows users to create, format, and work on spreadsheets simultaneously with their team. Its cloud-based nature allows real-time collaboration, making it an ideal choice for a variety of applications such as project management, data analysis, budgeting, and even planning events.

At first glance, Google Sheets may appear as a simple grid of cells. However, its true potential unfolds as you delve deeper. From basic data input to the application of formulas that perform automatic calculations, it allows a range of functions to efficiently process your data.

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Google Sheets key features

Google Sheets has several key features that make it a versatile and powerful tool for handling data. These features, combined with the fact that Google Sheets is free for personal use, make it an incredibly useful tool for anyone needing to work with data. Here are some of the main features that make Google sheets such a popular tool:

Real-time Collaboration

Multiple users can access and edit the same spreadsheet simultaneously, with changes reflected in real-time. This facilitates teamwork and ensures everyone has the most up-to-date version of the document.

Cloud-based Access

As part of Google Workspace, Sheets is hosted in the cloud. This means you can access your spreadsheets from any device with an internet connection and don’t have to worry about losing your work.

Basic to Advanced Calculations

Google Sheets supports a wide array of formulas, from simple arithmetic calculations to complex functions. This allows for versatile data analysis.

Data Visualization Tools

Google Sheets comes with built-in tools to create charts and graphs, making it easier to visualize and present data.

Conditional Formatting

This feature allows you to automatically apply formatting such as colors and fonts to cells based on the data they contain.

Import and Export Capabilities

Google Sheets is compatible with many file formats. You can import and export data to and from Excel, CSV, and other popular formats.

Integration with Google Workspace

Google Sheets is integrated with other Google Workspace applications like Google Docs and Google Slides, allowing for seamless data transfer and collaboration across platforms.

Version History

Google Sheets automatically saves your work and keeps a record of all changes made to a document, allowing users to view or revert to earlier versions.

Add-ons and Extensions

Google Sheets supports a variety of add-ons and extensions for enhanced functionality, from automating tasks to integrating with third-party services.

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How is Google Sheets commonly used?

Google Sheets is extremely versatile and can be used for a wide range of business and personal cases.

Data Management and Analysis

Google Sheets is a powerful tool for storing and analyzing data. It supports a variety of functions and formulas that can perform calculations, manipulate text, and analyze complex datasets.

Budgeting and Financial Planning

Many people use Google Sheets for personal and professional budgeting. You can track expenses, income, investments, and all kinds of financial data.

Project Management

Google Sheets can be used to create project timelines, track progress, and collaborate with team members in real time.

Inventory Management

Businesses often use Google Sheets for tracking inventory, sales data, and customer information.

Scheduling and Planning

Google Sheets can be used to create schedules for teams, plan events, or even manage your own personal time.

Collaborative Work

Because it's a cloud-based tool, Google Sheets allows for real-time collaboration, making it useful for teamwork on any of the above applications and more.

Creating Forms and Surveys

Combined with Google Forms, Sheets can be used to collect survey responses or form submissions and analyze the results.

Education and Training

Teachers and trainers often use Google Sheets to track grades, attendance, and other student/trainee data.

Reporting and Dashboards

By utilizing data visualization features like charts and conditional formatting, Google Sheets can be used to create reports and dashboards.

These are just a few examples, and the possibilities are virtually limitless depending on your creativity and specific needs.

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Getting started with Google Sheets

In this blog post, we will explore essential Google Sheets functionalities and share valuable tips to enhance your productivity. 

By understanding these foundational aspects, you will be better equipped to harness Google Sheets' capabilities to meet your specific needs - and start using some of the more advanced features!

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How to create a new Google Sheet

create a new google sheet
  1. Open a new tab in your browser and navigate to the Google Sheets homepage:
  2. Click on the "+ Blank" button in the top left corner.

That's it! You now have a new, blank Google Sheets document ready to use.

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How to add and enter data

Depending where your data currently lives and how you want to get it into Google Sheets, there are a few different ways to approach data entry with Google Sheets.

Manual input

  1. Click on a cell to select it.
  2. Type your data into the cell and press Enter or Tab to complete.

Copy and paste

  1. Copy the data from its source (this could be another spreadsheet, a webpage, a text document, etc.)
  2. Open your Google Sheets document.
  3. Click on the cell where you want to start the paste operation.
  4. Right-click and select 'Paste' or use Ctrl + V or Command + V on a Mac.

Importing data

  1. Click on 'File' in the top menu, then select 'Import.'
  2. Choose 'Upload' and then select a file from your computer, or choose 'Drive' to select a file from Google Drive. You can import CSV, XLSX, and other supported file types.
  3. Follow the prompts to finalize the import settings.

These methods should cover most scenarios when adding data to your Google Sheets document.

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Search for data

The search function in Google Sheets allows you to quickly find and navigate to specific content in your spreadsheet.

search in a google sheet
  1. Press Ctrl + F on your keyboard if you're using Windows or Command + F if you're on a Mac. A search box will appear on the top right corner of your screen.
  2. Type the text or number you're looking for into the search box.
  3. As you type, Google Sheets will highlight all instances of your search term in the sheet. Use the arrows in the search box to navigate between instances.
  4. To close the search box, click on the 'x' on the right or press Esc on your keyboard.

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Clear cells

clear cells in a google sheet
  1. Select the cells you want to clear by clicking and dragging your mouse over them.
  2. Type the "delete" key.

The content within the selected cells will be erased, but the cells themselves will remain.

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Find and replace data

find and replace in a google sheet

The find and replace function allows you to update or correct certain data throughout your Google Sheet quickly and efficiently. For example, if a product's name has changed or an error was made during data entry, this tool can correct all instances at once, saving you from the tedious task of manually searching and editing each one.

  1. Press Ctrl + H or Command + Shift + H on a Mac to open the 'Find and replace' dialog box.
  2. In the 'Find' field, type the text you want to find.
  3. In the 'Replace with' field, type the text you want to use as the replacement.
  4. Click 'Replace all' to replace all instances, or use 'Find' and 'Replace' to do it one at a time.

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Alphabetize data

alphabetize data google sheets

Alphabetizing your spreadsheet can help you digest data and find specific data points more easily.

  1. Click on the arrow next to the lettered header column of the data you want to alphabetize.
  2. In the drop-down menu, select "Sort sheet by column, A → Z" to sort in ascending order, or "Sort sheet by column, Z → A" for descending order.

Your data will now be alphabetized according to your chosen column. Remember that this will reorder all rows based on the alphabetized column, maintaining the relationship between data points in each row.

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Insert and delete rows

insert rows in google sheets

Inserting rows:

  1. Right-click on the numbered header of the row below where you want to insert a new row.
  2. Select "Insert 1 above" or "Insert 1 below" from the drop-down menu.

Deleting rows:

  1. Right-click on the numbered header of the row you want to delete.
  2. Select "Delete row" from the drop-down menu.

Remember, these actions will affect all cells in the row across all columns.

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Merge cells

merge cells in google sheets

From format menu

  1. Select the cells you want to merge by clicking and dragging your mouse over them.
  2. Click on the "Format" menu at the top.
  3. Hover over "Merge cells" and select one of the options: "Merge all," "Merge horizontally," or "Merge vertically."

From the toolbar

  1. Select the cells you want to merge by clicking and dragging your mouse over them.
  2. Click on the "merge cells" icon in the toolbar at the top of your spreadsheet.

Your selected cells will now be merged according to your choice.

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Freeze and unfreeze rows and columns

Freezing a row in Google Sheets keeps it visible at the top of the sheet when you scroll down. This is useful for keeping headers in view at all times. You can freeze as many rows as you like. Unfreezing rows returns them to their normal state, where they scroll up and out of view as you scroll down.

freeze and unfreeze rows to keep them visible in google sheets

To freeze rows in your Google Sheet:

  1. Look for the thick, light gray bar that's located right below the formula bar (where the letter for each column is displayed). It separates the row numbers and column letters.
  2. Click and hold this gray bar, then drag it down. As you move it, you'll see a darker gray line appear, indicating which rows will be frozen.
  3. Release the mouse when you've selected the number of rows you want to freeze.

These rows will now remain visible at the top as you scroll through your spreadsheet. To unfreeze, just click and drag the gray bar back up to the top.

You can do the same thing for columns by dragging the gray bar to horizontally to the right.

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Format numbers as currency or percentages

format numbers as currency or percentages in google sheets
  1. Select the cells you want to format.
  2. Click on "Format" in the top menu.
  3. Hover over "Number" to display the format options.
  4. From the dropdown, select the format you want to apply. For instance, you can choose "Currency" to format the numbers as monetary values, or "Percent" to display the numbers as percentages.

This process will format the numbers in your selected cells according to the option you choose.

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Split text into separate columns

A GIF showing how to split text into separate columns

Splitting text into different columns can be particularly helpful if you have first and last names in a single column, and you need them separated so you can import them into a CRM or use just a first name as a variable in a mail merge. It's also useful if you have a comma-separated list of items or data and you want each item or datapoint to be in a separate column.

  1. Select the cells with the text you want to split.
  2. Click on "Data" in the top menu.
  3. Select "Split text to columns..."
  4. A separator menu will appear at the bottom of the sheet. Choose the correct separator for your data. In case of splitting first and last names, you'll likely want to choose "Space."

You'll also find common formatting options in the toolbar at the top of your spreadsheet.

The text in your selected cells will be split into separate columns based on the separator you chose.

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Share and collaborate

the share button in google sheets lets you collaborate
  1. Click the "Share" button in the top-right corner.
  2. Enter the email address of the person you want to share the sheet with, or copy the link provided and share it directly.
  3. Choose their level of access: 'Can edit', 'Can comment', or 'Can view'.
  4. Click "Done."

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Use Google Sheets offline

Google Sheets has an offline mode that allows you to access and edit your spreadsheets without an internet connection. With offline mode enabled, you'll be able to view and edit your Google Sheet without an internet connection. Any changes you make in offline mode will sync automatically once you connect to the internet.

This does require installing a Google Chrome extension.

  1. Install and enable the Google Docs Offline extension for Chrome.
  2. Open Google Sheets in your Chrome browser while connected to the internet.
  3. Go to the "Settings" menu (three vertical dots) in the top-right corner.
  4. Enable the "Offline" option.
  5. Your sheets will be available offline.

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Import contacts and deals into your CRM

Google sheets is great for data collection and analysis, and can often serve as a basic contact list. However, customer relationships management tools (CRMs) offer tools and features that allow you to manage a more complex process like closing sales deals, hiring candidates for a job, or raising funds for a startup.

Some features that a CRM offers - and Google Sheets doesn't - include: 

Fortunately, it's usually simple to import your data into a CRM if you've outgrown Google Sheets as a tracking tool. Many CRMs, like Streak, allow you to customize your pipelines and workflow to create and track the exact process you need.

Build your Google Sheets foundation with basic functions

Mastering the essential functionalities of Google Sheets, such as searching, formatting and collaborating empowers you to efficiently organize and analyze data with your team.

These skills not only streamline your workflows and boost accuracy but also foster seamless collaboration with others. With the power of Google Sheets in your hands, you can confidently navigate through your data, make informed decisions, and unlock the full potential of your spreadsheets.

So go ahead, dive in, and embrace the magic of Google Sheets in your own unique way!

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