Multiple Cell Data and Formula Reference With Find and Replace – Google Sheets

One of my biggest regrets when I first got started with Google Sheets and spreadsheets in general, was not taking full advantage of Find and Replace.

Find and Replace is the penicillin of the the Spreadsheet world. It can rapidly cure all sorts or issue with a simple set of commands. It is seriously amazing stuff.

Yeah! Yeah! We all know about Find and Replace.

I know! I thought so too, but then I started to really use and identify how I could use it to quickly:

  • Change template sheets.
  • Fix bulk errors in formulas.
  • Change parts of cells.
  • Replace values in the whole spreadsheet, one sheet or a selected range.

Before we get started, you need to know the short cut for the Find and Replace tool. This will come in handy in all sorts of programs and apps.

  • PC – Ctrl + H
  • Mac – CMD (⌘) + H

I’m going to go ahead and continue the examples using PC, because, you know, Mac.

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5 Easy Shortcuts That Will Save you Heaps of Time – Google Sheets

It’s time to get evangelical peep! Release yourself from the yolk of the menu bar and it’s insidious demands on you coordination and time!

Break free from the right click menu! For is it not anything more than a proxy menu bar?! A veritable wolf in sheep’s clothing with no other design but to bring you back to the fold of the menu-using, mouth-drooling reprobates  who stand in the way of efficient progress! Can I get an Amen! I said, can I get an Amen!

No? Fair enough…

Let’s just get on with it then, shall we? After all, this is about efficiency, right?

Here are the 5 main shortcuts that I use in Google Sheets each and every day to save me a tonne of time. I’m going to give you a bit more than just the Keyboard Shortcut, I’m going to demonstrate how I use it with some clear examples.

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Google Sheets – How to Separate the First Name from a Full Name Cell

left, right, find, length

Every academic quarter I receive a list of students by their full name in one cell that I need to split into a cell for the first name and then a cell for the middle and last names combined. 

This fairly simple process can be achieved with the Google Sheets formulas left, right and find. 

If you are in a hurry, here are the formulas below: 

First Names

To get the first name we do the following: 

=LEFT(A2,FIND(” “,A2))

Where ‘A2’ is the cell that we have our full name in – in our case Vasco Nunez de Balboa.

When you have multiple formulas in a cell it’s often best to go from the inside out. So let’s first look at what FIND does. 

FIND looks inside the cell for the first value that we want to search for. For us, it’s an empty space, ” “. Find then returns the numerical position of that found item.  To do this FIND takes two arguments: 

=FIND(the item we are searching for, the cell or string the item is in)

For example if we are searching for the location of the space in
 Vasco Nunez de Balboa  which is in cell A2,  we would do the following:

=FIND(” “,A2)

Which would give the result: 6

There are five letters in the first name Vasco the the space would be position 6. 

Now that we have the position  of the space, lest just grab everything in the cell to the left of that space. We do this with LEFT

LEFT also take two values. The first is cell location and the second is the number characters we want to take from the left hand side. 

LEFT(cell location, number of characters from the left)

Now that we know the first space is character 6, the formula would look like this:


We then replace the 6 with our FIND formula and we are good to go.

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Google Sheets – Remove The Lowest Grade for Each Student on a Course


In the region of the world that I work in, it is a pretty common occurrence for university courses to run weekly assessment. At the end of the course all the weekly assessment is then added together minus the lowest piece of assessment.

For lecturers with small course sizes this is a pretty simple task that you could simply eyeball if you have a small enough group, but what if your course runs into the thousands with half a dozen tests to choose from. Eyeballing is just not going to do it.

Recently I was asked to do the same thing for the program that I manage. Over an 8 week term, we run 7 assessment at the end of each week for our students.  My job was to find the lowest grade out of the 7 assessment and drop it, taking note of the assessment unit that I dropped for each student. 

I use Google Sheets for this purpose for it’s ease of use and sharability.

This is an example dataset of the 7 assessment (in this case, weekly tests) in Google Sheets. We need to remove the lowest grade from each student. As you can see not all students have their lowest grade in the same Unit test. 

List of 7 grades for each student - Google Sheets
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Google Sheets – Get the Top 2 Grades for Each Group in a Spreadsheet using RANK and FILTER

This week I was asked to provide a list of the top two student grades in each of the 100 classes in our university program. 

Normally, this would be a pretty easy task if there were only a half dozen or so classes. Simply sort by group (class) and then Grade. Finally copy and paste the top 2 ranked students of each group in a new sheet – print and hand to the boss. 

However, with 100 classes this was going to turn into a time consuming chore and one that could be prone to errors. 

To solve this problem, I took advantage of Google Sheets RANK.EQ and FILTER formulas. Let’s take a peek at the formula now and go through the steps in detail later.

Let’s move on to an example.

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How do I reverse the Rows in A Column in Google Sheets?

Google Sheets: SORT, INDEX, ROWS

Reverse Rows in Column in Google Sheets
My favourite Killjoy members. Column A – From most favourite. Column B Saving the best for last.

Sometimes you have a need to reverse a list quickly in Google Sheets.

That’s pretty easy to do if the list is sorted alphabetically. Just go on into the <Data> menu and choose from one of the sort functions. But what if the data you want to flip is not in alphabetical or numeric order?

Below are 3 ways to reverse your data:

For the examples below, I’ll be using a list of my favourite Killjoys characters. Yeah, I’m a sci-fi geek.

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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.


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)


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:


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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