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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Add the Current Date When Data is Added to a Cell(Dynamic) – Google Sheets

A colleague of mine had recently asked me if there was a way to automatically display the day’s date when a cell has data in it without having to use Google Apps Script.

My answer: “Why yes, there is Jim.”

There are two really cool tools that you can use in Google Sheets to get the current date or time and date:

The NOW formula provides a date and time stamp at the time of execution or when the NOW() function is entered into the sheet.

NOW Google Sheets

The TODAY formula provides just the date at the time of execution or when the TODAY() formula is entered into the sheet.

TODAY Google Sheets

That’s all well and good but I want this formula to occur when a user enters something in a cell.

Done:

To achieve this, we can use an IF statement. First, we will state if the cell is empty, then no date should appear. However, if the cell has a value in it, then the date and/or time the value was entered will appear in the corresponding cell.

Here’s the formula:

=IF(A2 ="", "", TODAY())  <<Formula is celll D2

ِAs you can see in the  IF statement we are saying; if there is nothing in cell A2 then don’t do anything, otherwise if it contains a value then add today’s date in this cell, D2.

Now, if you want to have this ready for all rows for when a user adds to your data, then drag the formula all the way down to the bottom of the sheet.

Here is an example:

IF value DATE Google Sheets

Ready to add some data? Here is what is would look like:

Current Date Added When Cell is Entered

The NOW() and TODAY() functions are Dynamic. This means that they will update automatically. To keep these dates from changing, copy the cell and press <CTRL>+<SHIFT>+<V> or paste special> paste as value.

A Warning on NOW() and TODAY()

These two functions are Dynamic and will update constantly. If you are looking to get the date or time of something so that it does not update automatically then check out this tutorial :

Add the Current Date to a Sheet When Data Is Added So That The Date Does Not Change(Static) – Google Sheets

 

 

 

You can do exactly the same thing with the NOW formula. Give it a try.

Skewed Random Range in Google Sheets (RANDBETWEEN)

The Standard RANDBETWEEN

We can achieve a random range of numbers in Google Sheets by using the RANDBETWEEN formula. The formula is quite simple to use. Just add your start range and your end range:

=RANDBETWEEN(start range, end range)

For example, if I want to get a random number between zero(o) and 60 I would do the following:

=RANDBETWEEN(0,60)

The result will provide a whole random number somewhere between these two and including these numbers.

If I were to repeat this formula over a reasonable sample, say 300 times, we should see a fairly even spread of numbers occurring a roughly the same frequency, just like in the graph below:

But what if we wanted to have fewer random numbers in our list at the lower or upper end or on both ends?

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How do I Randomly Assign People to a Group Without Doubling Up on the Same Group in Google Sheets

Random Combinations Without Repetition Using Arrays, TRANSPOSE and Randomize Ranges

Say you have a list of  30 people and a 30 list of groups. After every half hour for six hours the people must change to another group, but they cannot go back to a group they have already been in.

How can we schedule 12 sessions where every person can randomly go to another group without going to the same group twice?

This is pretty much the same issue I face when scheduling my teachers to proctor exams randomly each quarter for different classes. The rules I need to follow are:

  1. No teacher should proctor the same class twice.
  2. Assignment to proctor a class should seem random.
  3. The teacher that teaches the class cannot proctor their own class.
  4. Each week has an exam over the term. The term runs for 8 weeks plus a final requiring a total of 9 proctor sessions.

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VLOOKUP Left in Google Sheets with INDEX and MATCH

Ever been faced with an issue where you can’t move your column to the far left in order to Vlookup? I just came across this issue recently.

The Problem – Vlookup

I needed to add teachers to a list of students who had to move into their class for two tests because their teacher (Hanna John-Kamen) would be absent on the test day.

Sheet: Hannah 302-15. Students split into other class sections.
Sheet: Hannah 302-15. Students split into other class sections.

 

Essentially, I was splitting the students into the remainder of the classes for that session time. In this student list sheet (Hannah 302-15) I had allocated the students new rooms and each room had a new teacher.

I couldn’t change the teacher proctors test list sheet ( Q2U1 Teacher) because the teachers who reference it would get confused. Unfortunately the teachers name I wanted was in column B and the reference (The Speaking classroom) was in column I.

 

Just like Zoolander, I can't Vlookup Left
Sheet: Q2U1 Teacher. Just like Zoolander, I can’t Vlookup Left

I need to put my first Vlookup in M2 of the Hannah 302-15 sheet.  If I tried to Vlookup it might look like this: =VLOOKUP(L2,‘Q2U1 Teacher’!B:I,8,False). Where L2 is the class I am searching for in the Hannah 302-15 sheet. ‘Q2U1 Teacher’!B:I is the range where B is the name column and I is the Class number. is clearly wrong. Vlookup will not accept a negative reference (It’s stupid, I know). False: because the list was not sorted. 

So what to do.

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Spacer – Free Google Add-On That Spaces Row by Column Category

What is Spacer?

Spacer is a Free Google Add-On that creates row spaces by column categories.

I use it as an academic administrator to create a space or two at the end of each class section to create a visual break between sections. This makes it easier for my staff to quickly identify class sections.

You can find Spacer at the Google Chrome Webstore.

Chrome Web Store Badge

What can Spacer do?

Spacer can:

  • Automatically detect the width of your columns.
  • Allow you to select a column with the categories you want to use to space your data.
  • Set the height of your header – so that is not spaced too.
  • Set the thickness of your spaces.
  • Set the color of your spaces
  • Set starting and end position of your color filler.

How to use Spacer

After Installation

Before You Start:

  1. Before you start, create a Google Sheet with the data in it you want to space.
  2. Select All the data.
  3. Go to the menu bar and select: Data>Sort Range...   and select the column you want to sort by. This will be the column you will use to space your data by the categories in that column.
Running Spacer:
  1. In a Google Sheet, select the Add-Ons menu.
    Google Sheets Add Addon
  2. Select: Spacer>Create SpacesOpen Spacer for Google Sheets
  3. sidebar will appear to the right.
    spacer sidebar for Google Sheets
  4. Choose the column you want to use to Space your data.
  5. Choose how high your header is.
  6. Chose how thick or deep your want your header to be.
  7. If you want a color, select a color that you want to add to your spaces.
  8. Select where you want to start the color and end the color.
  9. Click: Submit
  10. If you are not happy with the color, space, color width or made a mistake, simply click: UNDO
Troubleshooting

I keep getting the following popup:

troubleshooting Spacer

This is because the starting value of your Color Width is greater than your End value:

Spacer RightSpacer Wrong

An Example

I have a list of people with their favorite color and fruit. Let’s say I want to sort the Google Sheet by favorite color (Fav Color) and put a space at the end of each color category to make it easier to read.

My data looks like this:

Favorite Data Example

To space this data we must do the following:

  1. Select all the data: ctrl+shift + a
    Select Data
  2. Sort the data by column B. Select: Data> Sort range
    sort data select range
  3. Click the: Data has a header row  tick box. Select the column: Fav Color. Then click the Sort button.
    Sort Range by column
  4. Your data is now sorted by favorite color:
    sorted by fav color
  5. Time to use the Spacer. Select: Add-ons > Spacer > Create spaces
    execute spacer
  6. Spacer will open at Sidebar on the right:
    spacer sidebar for Google Sheets
  7. We want to space our data by Fav Color which is column B. For Column, select: B
    Spacer Select Column
  8. We have a single Row Header so we can leave the header selection at 1:  Spacer header height
  9. We want to give our spaces a thickness of 2 rows:
    Spacer Thickness
  10. Next, we choose a color. Let’s choose purple. A color picker will pop up (the picker may vary depending on your system) select the color and click: OK:                             Spacer color
  11. This is the result:
    Spacer color result
  12. Now choose where to start and finish the color fill for the space. I’ll start it at column A and end it at column E.
    Spacer start and finish color
  13. Finally click Submit:
  14. This will be the result:
    Spacer result

 

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How do I lock certain cells in a formula in Google Sheets?

You know, I’m pretty confident in my use of Google Sheets. I use a lot of it’s advanced features and formulas in my daily work.

But one thing was bugging me. Every time I created a formula and then grabbed and dragged (or double clicked) that little box in the bottom right of the cell to have it repeat, the cells would change.

The little square down the bottom of the cell

This normally is great, because it moves by a cell each time and makes my life easier.

What if I want to keep a certain cell constant in a formula?

Enter the Absolute Reference.

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