Google Sheets – The basics

Google Sheets is a wonderful spreadsheet program which can make your working life so much easier. So, what can it be used for?

Calculations

The number one use is manipulating data. Data is entered and the program can then be set up to provide calculations automatically, saving you a lot of time and effort and provides you with possible insights into the data, you wouldn’t normally have with just a data set. This can range from simply adding numbers up to complex mathematical calculations.

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Charts

It’s not just about looking at numbers! It contains a full range of charts, which help you visualize your data, showing you trends, percentages, correlations, etc.

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Tables and forms

Apart from using it to crunch numbers, quite often it’s used as a convenient table, as all the information you add is in a grid format, which allows you to input information in a structured way, which visually can be better than, for example, in a word processing program like Google Docs or Word.

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Linked with this it’s easy to create forms, with cells that can easily be filled out.

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How to create a Google Sheet

In Google Drive, click on “New” and then “Google Sheets”.

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A blank spreadsheet will appear in a new window.

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Finding your way around a Google Sheet

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Menus

At the top of the screen, you have the menus like most programs. Plus you have the name of the spreadsheet. A new spreadsheet is called “Untitled spreadsheet”. To the right of the menus, where it says “All changes saved in Drive”, you also have the option of returning back to previous revisions of the spreadsheet.

Menu shortcuts toolbar

Just below you have various menu shortcuts on the toolbar, which contains the most common actions taken so you don’t have to go into the menus.

Formula bar

This is where you can enter data or formulas. By clicking on a cell, it also tells you what’s in that cell.

Cells

The big space in the middle is where the cells are on your spreadsheet page. Every cell has a location, a row number and a column letter. The cell highlighted in the picture above (the cell with a blue outline), is in B7. I know this as on the column references the letter B is highlighted in a darker grey, and on the left hand side, on the row references, the number 7 is highlighted.

Sheets

A spreadsheet is made up of one or more pages. A new spreadsheet only has one sheet called “Sheet 1”. You can see the name of the sheet at the bottom of the page, where it says “Sheet 1” on the tab. This area is where you can add more sheets, access other sheets, and move the sheets into a different order.

Comments and Share

In the top right of the screen, you have the option of adding comments and sharing the spreadsheet.


Adding data onto the sheet

So, let’s start off with the most basic thing to do, and that is adding data onto the sheet.

Here’s a GIF to show you the whole process:

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Here’s what to do:  1) Click on cell A1. Type in “Name”.

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2) Press “Enter” to finish adding information into the cell.

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The word has been added. By default, the cell below is now highlighted, i.e. it moves down one row. This is really useful when you are entering a set of data and every row is a new piece.

3) Now we’re going to add the names of some students. In cell A2, type “Fred” and press “Enter”, then type “Barney” and press “Enter. Do the same for “Wilma” and “Betty”. You should end up with one column with the names of the students and a title for the column called “Names”.

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4) Now let’s add some marks. I want to put them in the second column. I can either click on cell B1 and I can move the highlighted cell by moving the cursor keys one to the right and five upwards. First let’s give the column a title, so we know what the numbers are. Type “Marks” and press “Enter”.

5) You should now be in cell B2. Now let’s add the marks for each student. Type “76” and press “Enter” and do the same for each of the numbers, pressing Enter after each number.

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Adding data onto the sheet is as easy as that. Note, you don’t need to start in cell A1, you can write data in any cell, anywhere on the sheet.


Let’s finish by adding a simple formula to work out the average mark. In cell B6 type =average(B2:B5) and press “Enter”.

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Well done! You’ve entered your first formula. Formulas are one of the most powerful parts of Google Sheets and as you can see are easy to add.


eBooks available on Drive, Forms, Sheets, Docs, Slides, and Sheet Functions:

Baz Roberts (Flipboard / Twitter / Google+)


 

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