How to Use Google Sheets

A beginner's guide to Google's spreadsheet system

Google Sheets is a powerful cloud-based spreadsheet application you can use for free so long as you have a Google account. It gives you mostly all of the functionality you'd find in other paid spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel or WPS Office. In this guide you'll learn the basics about how to use Google Sheets.

How to Open Google Sheets

To get started with Google Sheets, you'll need to sign up for a free Google account, and access Google Drive where you can create and organize your spreadsheets.

Google Drive is where you can create, store, and organize all of the Google Sheets spreadsheets that you work with.

  1. Visit the Google Account signup page and work through the wizard to create your free Google Account.

    Screenshot of Google Account signup
  2. Once you have your account ID and password, connect to Google Drive and sign in using your new Google account.

    Screenshot of Google Drive sign-in page
  3. If you want to organize multiple spreadsheets into a single folder, just select New in the upper left of the Google Drive window, then select Folder. Using folders is a great way to organize all of your Google Sheets spreadsheets inside of Google Drive.

    Screenshot of creating a folder in Google Drive

If you add a new spreadsheet in your main Google Drive account, it'll place it outside of all folders. Once you accumulate a lot of files there, those spreadsheets can be hard to find. It's always a good idea to organize spreadsheets inside of folders in your Google Drive account.

How to Create a Spreadsheet in Google Sheets

There are a few ways to create a new spreadsheet in Google Sheets. You can either create a blank spreadsheet, or you can start with a template to save time. Whichever method you use to create a new spreadsheet, it'll open a new window where you can start working inside that spreadsheet.

Creating a Black Spreadsheet

The first method to create a blank spreadsheet in Google Sheets is to select New in the upper left corner of the Google Drive window, then select Blank spreadsheet. Alternatively, you can right-click anywhere inside a folder, then select Google Sheets > Blank spreadsheet.

Screenshot of opening a blank spreadsheet in Google Drive

Using a Spreadsheet Template

If you want to save some time, you can start with a spreadsheet template. To do this select New > Google Sheets > From a template. This opens a Template Gallery where you can select pre-formatted spreadsheets to get started.

Screenshot of the template gallery in Google Drive

Pre-formatted templates include:

  • Calendars
  • To-do lists
  • Budgets
  • Travel and wedding planners
  • Time sheets
  • Financial statements
  • Much more

How to Edit Google Sheets Data

Editing data in a Google Sheets spreadsheet is very easy. However, there are a few important tips to keep in mind. These tips include how to edit cell data and how to add or delete rows and columns, adding new sheets, and adding charts.

  1. Edit Cells: Select any cell and start typing to enter data. Don't forget to create headers to better identify columns of data. To edit any data already in a cell, just double-click the cell and place the cursor where you'd like to edit.

    Screenshot of editing cell data in Google Sheets
  2. Move Cells: To move multiple cells, select the first cell, then drag to the bottom of the range you want to copy. Press Ctrl+C to copy the highlighted cells. You'll see a dotted blue line appear around the range of cells. Select any other cell where you want to place the range and press Ctrl+V to paste them.

    Screenshot of selecting and copying cells in Google Sheets
  3. Insert Rows or Columns: To add or delete a column or row, right-click the number or letter of the row or column you want to add or remove, then select one of the following options:

    • Delete row or Delete column: This will remove the row or column and shift cells up or left to fill in the gap.
    • Insert 1 above or Insert 1 below: This will insert a new row above or below your selected row.
    • Insert 2 left or Insert 1 right: This will insert a new column to the left or right of your selected column.
    Screenshot of deleting or inserting a row in Google Sheets

    If you select multiple cells or columns, you'll see the option to insert or delete columns or rows change to delete or insert the number of columns or rows you've highlighted.

  4. Add new sheet: You can add a new sheet to your Google Sheets spreadsheet file by selecting the + icon at the lower left corner of the window. This will add a new sheet tab to the bottom.

    Screenshot of adding a new sheet tab in Google Sheets

    You can rename your new sheet by selecting the down arrow to the right of the sheet tab name and selecting Rename.

  5. Add charts and graphs: You can add charts or graphs to your spreadsheets by highlighting the range of cells you want to chart, then select Insert Chart in the ribbon. Google Sheets will auto-select the type of chart that makes sense for the data you selected, but you can select the three dots in the upper right corner of the chart to change this and edit the chart.

    Screenshot of inserting a chart in Google Sheets

Using Formulas in Google Sheets

In Google Sheets, you have access to a library of spreadsheet functions that's just as extensive as anything you'll find in Microsoft Excel.

Using Google Sheets functions, you can average entire rows or columns of cells, find max or min values, or even import data from web pages just by using functions.

  1. To insert a formula in a Google Sheets spreadsheet, just type = (the equal sign) followed by the formula. When you start typing the name of a function, you'll see a dropdown list of all available functions that start with those letters.

    Screenshot of using functions in Google Sheets

    You'll see a definition of what the first function does. If you want to see a definition for any of the others, just hover over them with the mouse pointer.

  2. When you type the first opening parenthesis for a function, you'll see a list of parameters for that function and their explanations. This can help with understanding how to use new functions.

    Screenshot of function parameters in Google Sheets
  3. Once you type the closing parenthesis for the function, press Enter, then you'll see the results for that function appear in the cell.

    Screenshot of function results in Google Sheets

How to Share a Spreadsheet

Once you've created your first spreadsheet, you may want to share it with others. There are a few ways to share a Google Sheets spreadsheet.

  1. If you already have a spreadsheet open, just select File > Share.

    Screenshot of sharing a spreadsheet in Google Sheets

    Another way you can share a spreadsheet in Google Sheets is to right-click the spreadsheet file inside of Google Drive, then select Share.

  2. This opens the Google Sheets Share with others window. If you don't want to have to name specific email addresses to share the spreadsheet with, just select Copy link. This will let you provide the link to someone via email, instant message, or anywhere else.

    Screenshot of Share with others window in Google Sheets

    If you leave the default settings for sharing, anyone who has the link to the spreadsheet will be able to view it. If the data is sensitive or you prefer to keep it private, it's better the change this setting and share the spreadsheet with specific people.

  3. To set the spreadsheet as private and share only with specific people, select the dropdown arrow next to can view, then select OFF - only specific people can access.

    Screenshot of Google Sheets sharing privacy setting
  4. Next, in the People section, type the email addresses of the people you want to share the spreadsheet with. Select the dropdown arrow next to the pen icon, then determine what shared users can do with the spreadsheet. Select Can edit, Can comment, or Can view, then select Send when you're done.

    Screenshot of share settings in Google Sheets
  5. When you share a spreadsheet, Google Sheets will send emails to all of the people you've shared the sheet with, including the link where they can access it.