Google Apps Script – How to create Javascript and CSS files for a Sidebar Project in Google Apps Script

Google Apps Script-templates, Javascript, CSS

So, I started working on a larger Google Sheet Sidebar project in Google Apps Script recently and I quickly realised that it was going to be a mess if I didn’t separate my Javascript, CSS and even some of my HTML into separate files. However, if you have ever noticed in the script editor that there is no way for you to add script or style files to the code. Your only two options are Google Script files *.gs and Html files *.html.

Project File Types - Google Apps Script

Then, what’s the trick?

The trick is to create separate html files for your CSS and Javascript and include or import them into your main html file. Unfortunately, you can’t do this with the standard:

HtmlService.createHtmlOutputFromFile(filename)

Instead, we will need to use the templating method:

html = HtmlService.createTemplateFromFile(filename)

We will  get into a little more detail on templates later in this tutorial.

My main reference for this was the Google Apps Script UI best practice guide, and you will see code snippets of the first example there that I have modified for my own example.

The thing is, the explanations were a bit vague for me to work out clearly so I really needed to create an example of my own to work through how to use it. The example below breaks down the steps to create file relationships to make your code look neater. It also dives into some uses of template statements in html.

The Final Result

The goal of our little sidebar project will be to display a sidebar with colored paragraph text, a list generated with Javascript and a randomly assigned body page the contain the text “Body 1” or “Body 2”.

Take a look at the demo:

Sidebar Example - Google Apps Script

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Google Apps Script – How to Alternate Colors in an Ordered List by Column Category. 

Google Apps Script and Google Sheets

Imagine that you have a Google Sheet that you have sorted by a certain column. You might be sorting by the surname of your sales team, class sections or regions. To make the sheet easier to read for your team, you want to alternate the background colors after each category in your sort column is complete.

The Example

I have the following list of numbers in column 1 and 2. I have sorted these numbers by my Grouping Column of planets in column 3. After each grouping, I have alternated the background color to make the transition easier to read.

Alternating color by section - Google Apps Script

The Code

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Google Apps Script – Get the Start Row and Length of Each Category in an Ordered Column in Google Sheets

Google Apps Script and Google Sheets

Quite often I will need to get the range of each category in an item and do something with it in Google Sheets. For example, I work in education, I will often have rows of students that are categorized by class sections. I will then be asked to do something like those sections like put each section of students in their own sheet or set alternating colors for each section to make the sheet easier to read.

Alternatively, you may want to grab sales data by region or sales items by a particular category and work with them in Google Apps Script.

The Example

Let’s say we want to get the range values of the follow sheet by planets. We will be categorizing our data by the Grouping, column C.

Grouping By Planet - Google Apps Script

First we don’t want to take into account the headers on the first row. Our first grouping will be Mars, followed by Jupiter, Uranus and Mercury. We want to know which column that each category starts on and how many of that category there are.

The Code

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Set the Paper Size and Orientation in a Doc Using Google Apps Script

Sometimes you need to prepare a Google Doc’s paper size and orientation programatically using Google Apps Script.

Unfortunately, you can’t just call for say, A4 in Landscape. Okay, not until now (see my code below).

Google Apps Script does provide a way to set the dimensions of your page  in the body class by using:

  • setPageWidth(pageWidth)
  • setPageHeight(pageHeight)

The page widths and heights are measured in PostScripts Points which is a bit of a pain too.

Here is an example of setting and A3 paper size in Landscape.

Ugh. What a chore. You need to find the dimensions of the paper in points.

Enter this little nifty function and your life will be so much easier:

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How to Get Something from Google Sheets and Display it in the Sidebar in Google Apps Script

What if you want to get a value or a range from Google Sheets and show it in your sidebar using Google Apps Script?

First you will need to get the value or range by using Googles server-side script. Then you will have to display it client-side in your HTML document.

Documentation on getting the server-side and client-side talking nicely to each other is a little vague. Hopefully, this very basic tutorial will help clear things up.

In this tutorial I will also be using Jquery.

Let’s get started.

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Google Apps Script – Iterating Through Ranges in Sheets the Right and Wrong Way

I was trying to rush out some Google Apps Script code to deal with a task on Google Sheets recently. Basically, I had to search through a heap of data and find certain values and do something too them.

My column was reaching across the page to something like Column BK and my rows were over 1000 deep. Running this code was taking forever!!!

My immediate instinct was:

What have I done wrong?

…and my instinct was right.

The Good and Bad Way to Search Through Code

So after looking at my code again, I discovered that for some reason I go it into my head that I should be searching each cell for the value I needed and then doing something with it.

Sounds logical right? It’s sorta what you are meant to do.

The problem is that I was calling the sever and asking for the range in each cell as I was looping through the entire document. This is super costly and inefficient in terms of time.

Google talks about this in their Google Apps Script Best Practice page under Batch Operations.

Also, if you do run a costly code like this, then you will get a little red light in your Script tool bar that represents your Execution Hints:

Google Apps Script Execution Hints

Clicking on Execution Hints and expanding the side bar with provide you with a far-too-deserving-polite dressing down about your slow and server costly code.

Method Range.getValue is heavily used

The Good

So instead of calling the server for each cell I need to get the full range of the data I am working on, search through it client-side to find what cells require modifying and then invoke the modifications.

Let’s look at a simple example:

Example

In this example I want to search through all the results over multiple quizzes and if there is a dash “-” or a zero “0” change the background accordingly.

Yeah! Yeah! I can do this with conditional formatting, but this is an example, damn it, Jim!!!

Below is a sample of the data I will use and here is the link.

Both Good and Bad examples have the same end result. The result should look like below:

First let’s set up the Google Apps Script code file by calling the user interface, sheet and range of data. (Lost? Create your first Apps Script)

Hopefully everything is self-explanatory here. We call the spreadsheet first and then look for the active sheet. Inside the active sheet we want the range of the data (rangeData) which will contain all the data in the range. We will use that data to get the last row and column number of the data. Finally we will call the server to get he range we want to work with (searchRange).

Once done, we will create our function, onOpen(). When it is called it will create a menu called Checker with the sub menu Bad Way and Good Way. This isn’t necessary, but it might be easier for you to physically test the difference in the slow method versus the fast (correct) one.

The Bad Way

As mentioned above in the Bad (slow) Way we call the server each time to look at what is in a cell.

As I loop across the columns and then the rows, I am using my search range to get the value of the cell in Line 25. This means I am contacting the server a total for 436 times. This significantly slows things down.

The Good Way

 

In the preferred approach I am taking the array that I created from searchRange.getValues() in Line 36  and searching through it before I make my calls to change the background when a dash or a zero occurs.

Why is this better?

I only make server call to collect the range data once. Then client-side (on my computer in this instance), I do all my searching before calling Google who collects all the changes in a cache until the loops are done before creating background colors all at once.

Super fast.

Speed comparison. 

Take a look at the speed differences over ten tests:

The Good Way is the clear winner. You can try it out for yourself if you have been playing along by going to <View><Execution Transcript> in the Script

Take Home

The take home from this is that, make as little calls to the server as possible. It significantly improves your speed.

The Full Code