Count the Occurrence of a Selection of a Cell in Google Sheets with Apps Script

Count occurrences of a selection in a cell Apps Script

A mate reached out to me last week asking if there was a way to monitor the times any article in a Google Sheet list goes through an editing stage before being published. From there, he wanted to report the number of edits on the article in an adjacent cell.

Take a look at the example:

As you can see in the example, whenever “NEEDS EDIT” is selected from the dropdown menu, then the counter column for the selected row item is updated automatically.

In this tutorial, we will cover how to create this for a single Google Sheet tab or for multiple selected tabs. I’ll also wrap up with a script to calculate just the aggregate count of changes to all the rows in the selected range and report it in a single cell.

Check out the video tutorial that covers the basics and grab the Starter Sheet to play along:

The Video

Scheduled release 6 Dec 2022 9am GMT+10

Generally better to view it from YouTube.

Starter Sheet

Here is a link to the starter sheet copy the sheet and head to Extensions > Apps Script in the menu.

Starter Sheet

The onEdit(e) Simple Trigger

Everything starts with the onEdit(e) simple trigger. This is a special trigger in Google Apps Script called a Simple Trigger that will run every time you edit your Google Sheet. If Apps Script sees the onEdit() function in your project it runs automatically.

Every time onEdit() is executed, it will retrieve an event parameter that is commonly referenced as "e" (onEdit(e)). The event object can return things like:

  • The current value
  • The previous value
  • The edited range
  • The source spreadsheet
  • The trigger id
  • The authorisation mode

We will be using a few of these in our code below.

Unless you have a very short coding task, it is generally good practice to reference another function that will be executed when onEdit() is run rather than coding directing within the onEdit() function.

Take a look at the three examples I added for my test project for this tutorial:

You can see that each one of these functions will be run one after the other when a cell is edited and calls onEdit().

Count Every Time The Cell Changes

In this example, we add a count to our adjacent counter cell each time the cell is edited.

Note that we take the event (e) as our parameter for our countEveryTimeCellIsChanged(e) function.

Set the Variables

First, let’s assign all our variables at the top of our function to make it easier for us to change should we need to down the track.

We have 3 variables that we need to include here. They won’t change so we will make them a constant variable:

  1. tgtSheet – This is the target sheet tab name. For our example, this is assigned to “Single List”.
  2. tgtCol – This is the target column or the column that has the values that will need to be monitored for changes. In our example, this is the status column, column 3.
  3. counterCol – This is the column where we display our change count. For us, this is column 4, but it could be any selected column in the sheet.
Numbers correspond to the points above.

You can stop here if you want to copy and paste the script into your own project and update the variables for your own purposes. Or continue to learn how it all works.

Looking to learn more about Google Apps Scripts in a more structured format? Udemy has some great courses that can get you from the basics to a real Google Apps Script pro.

Got a more specific problem you need help with, but don’t have the time to develop the skills? Make an enquiry on my 'Hire me!' page. I occasionally pick up projects. Alternatively, Fiverr’s your best bet to find a skilled Google Apps Script developer to solve your problem quickly and professionally. *

*The above affiliate links have been carefully researched to get you to what you specifically need. If you decide to click on one of these links it will cost you just the same as going to the site. If you decide to sign up, I just get a little pocket money to help pay for the costs of running this website.

Get the Correct Sheet Tab and Column

Lines 33-38

We don’t want to end up counting the wrong column or updating a completely different sheet tab by mistake. This means we need a way to check if we are in the right spot.

The first thing we need to do is check the range we are currently editing. This can be done by grabbing the range object in our event parameter. Line 33

We now have access to the Google Apps Script range class. From this class, we can get the sheet class and also the range column numberLine 34-35

Using the JavaScript ‘if’ statement we first check that the sheets name (sheet.getName()) is equal to our assigned target sheet name and if it is, then check that the selected column is equal to the target column. Line 38

Update the Counter Cell

Lines 40 – 48

We need to update the adjacent counter cell in the same row that was changed when edited.

We can use the range class again with the getRow() method. This will give us a row number. Line 40

const row = range.getRow();

Next, using the sheet variable we created earlier we can call the getRange() method to get the counter cell. For a single cell, this method can take two variables the row and the column number. Here, we add in these two variables we collected earlier.

const counterCellRange = sheet.getRange(row, counterCol);

Now we need to add one to the current count in our counter cell. This means that we first need to collect the current value in the cell, which we do with the getValue() method.

We need a way to check if the value in the counter cell is empty. If it is then we want to give it a value of 1 otherwise we want to add 1 to the current value.

const counterCellVal = counterCellRange.getValue();

This can be achieved with a ternary operation. Think of a JavaScript ternary operator as a single line if statement in a way.

The ternary operator below states that if the value is less than zero (empty) then add one otherwise add one to the counter cell value.

const updateCounterCell = (counterCellVal < 0)? 1 : counterCellVal + 1;

Finally, we update the counter cell:

counterCellRange.setValue(updateCounterCell);

Done!

 

The following scripts will modify this code. We will touch on the changes only in the code discussion of each script.

Count Every Time The Cell Changes To the Selected Value

In this scenario, we only want to count when a cell changes to a specific value. For our example, this value is  “NEEDS EDIT”.

First off, we need to store a target value that we want to monitor for and if that value appears add one to our counter cell. Here on line 29, we set our target value to “NEEDS EDIT”. 

const tgtVal = "NEEDS EDIT"

You can change this to the value that you need for your project.

Next, we need to check if the cell that was edited was edited to the new target value before we update the counter cell.

To do this we first get the value of the selected range (Line 42):

const cellVal = range.getValue();

Then we create an if statement checking that the cell value matches the target value on line 43 and closes on line 54.
if(cellVal === tgtVal){

Apply The Script to Multiple Selected Google Sheets

What if we have different editorial teams or genres handled by different editors? We might want to put the data for each team in a different sheet tab to make it easy for monitoring. Here we will need to check all the selected sheets for any changes.

In our example now we want the “Team 1” and “Team 2”  sheet tabs. Both tabs are identical in format.

Monitoring multiple sheet tabs for changes to a cell value onEdit in Google Sheets with Apps Script

Let’s see how our code works now:

Two changes need to be made to the script here.

On line 25, we need to change the tgtSheet variable to tgtSheets and include an array of all the Google Sheet tabs we need to monitor with our Apps Script code.

const tgtSheets = ["Team 1", "Team 2"]; // The sheet names the data is on.

Then on line 38, we need to replace the first part of the if statement with a way that will look through our array of sheets and check if the current sheet contains the selected name.

This can be achieved with the JavaScript includes function. This function appends a selected array (In our case, the target sheets array) and takes a target value as an argument. Our target value is the select sheet that this being edited.

... tgtSheets.includes(sheet.getName()) ...

Get the Aggregate Count of the Changes

This final script checks all the cells in the target column in a single Google Sheet tab and checks if they have been changed to “NEEDS EDIT”. Then records the aggregate count of all the cells in a single counter cell in a separate sheet tab.

In our example, we will monitor the “Single  List” sheet tab for our desired change and record the total count of changes for all rows in the “Aggregate” sheet tab.

Calculate the aggregate of all changes to cells to the target value in Google Sheets With Apps Script

Check out the code:

First, we have replaced the counterCol variable with the counterCell variable and set that to cell A2 of the ‘Aggregate’ sheet tab.

const counterCell = 'Aggregate!A2'; // The column to update the counter.

Next, we don’t need to get the row number this time so we have deleted this variable.

Lastly, on line 44, we use the source property of the event (e) object to grab the current spreadsheet. This allows us to use the getRange() method to select our counter cell.

Conclusion

There should be enough samples there for you to work out your own combinations. If you want to test your new skills out, try to:

  1. Create an aggregate count of multiple sheet tabs.
  2. Move the counter column to another location in the sheet.
  3. Check for different target values in different sheets with different locations.

If you get stuck check out some of the other popular tutorials on using onEdit():

It’s always nice to hear how people use these scripts in their own projects and it can be inspiring to share your use cases with others. Feel free to share your experience and examples in the comments below.

Finally a big thanks to Mike Kanert for the inspiration for this post. Editor, writer, artist, actor, educator, polymath and all-around nice fella, you can find Mike on Instagram @Unremarkable_Us for his latest comic series made by parents for parents:

Unremarkable Us

If you have found the tutorial helpful, why not shout me a coffee ☕? I'd really appreciate it.

~Yagi

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