Google Apps Script: 3 Google Sheets Custom Functions to Allocate Items from a Column and Spread Them Out into a New Column N Times

Google Apps Script, Google Sheets, Javascript: Spread operator, fill, new Array, forEach, isArray, flat, every, slice, length, typeOf

Imagine if you have a set of data, say, Cat, Dog, Goat and you want to create a new column where each item is repeated 3 times.

Spread by number google sheets

Essentially what we are doing here is spreading out our original list of numbers in multiples of 3.

What if we wanted to specify how many times each item will be spread out into our new column? For example, maybe we want cat to repeat 2 times, dog to repeat 4 times and goat to repeat 3 times. Something like this:

Spread by value google sheets

Finally, what if we want to evenly assign our list of cat, dog and goat to another list? Imagine we have a bunch of people wanting to pet an animal. We need to evenly assign our animals to the list of people.

Spread by range google sheets

There is no real easy approach to do these things with the standard Google Sheets Formulas (Known as Functions in Google Sheets). Fortunately, we can create custom functions with Google Apps Script to do the job.

In this post, I will go over the 3 custom functions that I created to solve these three problems. I’ll then provide a quick-use guide if you just want to dive in and get started using them. Finally, I go over some of the interesting parts of the Google Apps Script code for those of you who wish to learn more about creating your own custom functions.

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Running Google Apps Script for the First Time: What’s with all the Warnings!

Google Apps Script

You’ve probably landed on this page because, like most of us, the first time we ran a Google Apps Script we came across a gauntlet of ever-increasing warnings asking us if we truly want to run this script. That’s cool. This is just Google trying to protect users.

Unfortunately, it does make things a little confusing for the first time Google Apps Script coder.

So what’s happening?

When we run a Google Apps Script code it often needs access to read, edit or write in certain locations, like your Google Drive, Google Sheets, Google Docs, etc. Each action that impacts you the user requires certain levels of authorisation from you to access it.

Because giving this authorisation to your code can make changes to your Google environment, Google provides a slew of warnings to ensure you are confident in what you are doing.

Sure, this is annoying for the regular Google Apps Script developer, but it is an important protection for the everyday user.

Check out the video below for a walkthrough on how to run complete the authorisation process and run your code for the first time:

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Google Apps Script: Automated PDF Certificated Creator That Is Emailed to the Attendee

Google Apps Script: DriveApp, PropertiesService, SpreadsheetApp, GmailApp, SlidesApp. Google Slides, Google Sheets.

Have you ever wondered how people create certificates en mass and send them out automatically? You are in the right place.

In this tutorial, we are going to:

  1. Create Certificates of Attendance for multiple attendees using Google Slides and a list of attendees in Google Sheets.
  2. Send those certificates as an attached PDF to the attendees.

We’ll set it up so it is super user-friendly with a handy menu in your Google Slide template so that all you have to do is to update your Google Sheet of names each time you run the course and then click a few buttons.

Google Apps Script Menu Items in Google Slides

Also, we will run an example so you can see how it all works and what you need to do to set it up.

For the coders out there, I think I have documented the Google Apps Script code enough for you to figure out how to quickly implement your own project. However, I have also added a smalls discussion of some parts of the code at the end.

This is a standalone tutorial. However, it draws from two main tutorials if you want to explore those first (Though it is not essential):

Let’s get cracking.

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Google Apps Script: Create multiple versions of a document based on Google Sheet Data and a Google Doc Template (Mail Merge)

Google Apps Script: SpreasheetApp, DocumentApp, DriveApp; Google Sheets, Google Docs

If you have ever worked in LibreOffice or Microsoft Excel you will probably be familiar with the mail merge. Traditionally, mail merge is used to create multiple versions of a document and snail-mail them to someone.

These days, we don’t often use the snail mail approach, but it is a regular occurrence for us to need to produce multiple versions of reports based on a data set usually from a spreadsheet.

In this tutorial, we will create a document merger that will create new Google Documents based on a dataset from a Google Sheet using Google Apps Script.

If you want to quickly jump into your own project with our script, I’ll provide you with a quick-use guide.

Then, we will set up a template for our Google Doc and generate our Google Sheet data (don’t worry, I’ll share the document so you can follow along).

Finally, we will jump into the breakdown of the code for those legends who are learning how to create their own Google Apps Script.

Let’s get started:

Note: As always, take what you need and don’t worry about the rest. 

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Google Apps Script: Extract Specific Data From a PDF and insert it into a Google Sheet

Google Apps Script: DriveApp, Advanced Drive Service, SpreadsheetApp,  DocumentApp Javascript: spread operator, map, regex

Ah, bureaucracy at its finest.  Have you ever asked for a list from a client, another department or agency and instead of saving into a file that might even be considered marginally useful, they give it to you as a pdf. A… p…d…f.

Gee, thanks.

After some prostrations to the great Google Apps Script gods, I had a though.

“Hey, can’t we convert a PDF to a Google Doc with just a click of the button? Surely the great Google Apps Script devs have made it so we can do it programmatically too.”

And you know what? They bloody well did. The big legends.

The Scenario

I’ve just received a bunch of PDFs. The PFDs are all labelled by the class number. Take a look at the files in my Google Drive:

PDFs of sections in Google Drive

Each PDF file contains a list of student IDs that I need to extract and put into a Google Sheet.

PDF file with student IDs

The aim is to have a list of student IDs in column A and their corresponding sections in column B.

As you can see, we have some pretty standard text in the PDF that should be easy for Google to recognise so that we can extract the IDs.

The list of names in the demo sheets were randomly generated by AI!

NOTE! As always, I have tried to create this tutorial for varying levels. Feel free to follow along, or just grab what you need and get stuck into your own project.

If you are playing along, you can find a copy of the PDF files below. Simply add them to your own Drive before you get started:

PDF files by Section.

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