Google Sheets NOW Function in Date and Time Calculations

Add the current date and time in Google Sheets

Working in Google Sheets: add date and time

Lucian Novosel / Unsplash

 

Depending on your needs, you can use a date function in Google Sheets to return, among other things, the current date or the current time.

Date functions work in formulas to subtract dates and times, such as finding dates that are a certain number of days in the future.

Google Spreadsheets NOW Function

One of the better-known date functions is the NOW() function. Use it to add the current date — and time, if necessary — to a worksheet, or it can be incorporated into a variety of date and time formulas.

NOW Function Syntax and Arguments

A function's syntax refers to the layout of the function and includes the function's name, brackets, comma separators, and arguments.

The syntax for the NOW() function is:

=NOW()

There are no arguments — the data normally entered inside the function's round brackets — for the NOW() function.

Entering the NOW Function

Because NOW() takes no arguments, can be entered quickly. Here's how:

  1. Select the cell where the date or time will be displayed, to make it the active cell.

  2. Enter the formula:

    =Now()
  3. Press the Enter key on the keyboard. The current date and time should be displayed in the cell where the formula was entered. If you select the cell containing the date and time, the complete function appears in the formula bar above the worksheet.

Shortcut Keys for Formatting Cells for Dates or Times

To display just the current date or time in the cell, change the format of the cell to either the time or date format using keyboard shortcuts.

  • The format date shortcut (day/month/year format) is Ctrl+Shift+#.
  • The format time shortcut (hour:minute:second AM/PM format) is Ctrl+Shift+@.

Formatting the NOW Function Using the Format Menu

To use the menu options in Google Sheets to format the date or time:

  1. Select the range of cells you want to format or modify;

  2. Select Format > Number to select one of the most-commonly-used formats, or select Format > Number > More Formats > More Date and Time Formats to open a dialog box to specify a precise format.

    Custom date-and-time format box in Google Sheets.
  3. Verify that the cells match the format you intended.

The formats applied to dates and times using this method are the same as those applied using the formatting shortcuts.

The NOW Function and Worksheet Recalculation

The NOW() function is a member of Google Sheet's group of volatile functions, which, by default, recalculate or update every time the worksheet in which they are located recalculates.

For example, worksheets recalculate each time they are opened or when certain events occur — such as when data is entered or changed in the worksheet — so if the date or time is entered using the NOW() function, it continues to update.

The spreadsheet settings, which are located under the File menu in Google Sheets, offers two additional settings for when a worksheet recalculates:

  • On change and every minute
  • On change and every hour

There is no option within the program for turning off recalculation of volatile functions.

Keeping Dates and Times Static

If having the date or time continually change is not desirable, use a shortcut option for entering static dates and time include typing the date or time manually or entering them using the following keyboard shortcuts:

  • The static date shortcut is Ctrl+; (semi-colon key)
  • The static time shortcut is Ctrl+Shift+: (colon key)