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

You’ve probably come across the problem where you need to know when a piece of data has been added to your spreadsheet. You probably have been equally frustrated that there is no out-of-the-box function that will do just this.

You’ve tried TODAY() and NOW(), but they change dynamically. What you really need here is something that does not change.

Let’s look at two workarounds that can help you out with this problem.

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

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.

Continue reading “How to Get Something from Google Sheets and Display it in the Sidebar in Google Apps Script”

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

Continue reading “Skewed Random Range in Google Sheets (RANDBETWEEN)”

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.

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

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.

Continue reading “VLOOKUP Left in Google Sheets with INDEX and MATCH”

Copy and paste ranges in excel with OpenPyXl and Python 3

OpenPyXl is a Python open library that allows you to read and write Microsoft Excel files. Specifically, the ‘*.xlsx’ file extension. It helps you to create programs to create and modify files and automate your processes in excel.

Python Logo

NOTE: This post requires that you have some knowledge of Python and the OpenPyXl library. The library also needs to be installed for you to use. 

Quite often, I find that I have to work with ranges of data that I need to either copy and paste into a new file or files, or copy > modify > paste into files.

The OpenPyXl library allows you to look at every cell of a file and either copy it or modify it by using the openpyxl.worksheet.Worksheet.cell() method. This method allow you to access each cell by the row and column as a numerical value. 

Note! Unlike everything else in coding, rows and columns start with one(1) and not zero(0).

To select whole ranges of our data we need to iterate through it by both row and column and then store that data in a list to be pasted to the new file, spreadsheet or location that we desire.

The following example will take you through the process. For your own data you will need to modify the file, sheet and range locations. Everything else should be good to go.

You can find the whole code at the end of the post.

Why does your MS Excel look weird?

To be honest my screenshots of the ‘*.xlsx* files will be in Libreoffice. But this simple example will be able to load without issue in MS Excel.

The Example

Source Data

The source data for this example is a very simplified version of grade data that I work with day-to-day. The goal of our program is to simply copy the Section 12  results into a new file. The file for this spreadsheet is called: GradeSample.xlsx. I have put it in the same folder as my Python program.

Sample Data

Receiving File

For the purpose of this example we have a file that we want to save this data into: Section12Grades.xlsx. We could just as easily use a template and save the file under a different name – for example template.xlsx could save as sec12Grade.xlsx. This could be useful if I wanted to save a file for each section.

The receiving file looks like this:

receiving File

 

Loading the Source Data and Receiving File

Okay, let’s get started with the program. First we need to load both the source data and the receiving file.

We import he OpenPyXl library first.

Next, we’ll open the source data with wb = openpyxl.load_workbook("GradeSample.xlsx") . Once we have loaded the workbook we need to tell Python which sheet tab we want it to work in. We do this by calling the workbook (wb) and then get the sheet by it’s name: sheet = wb.get_sheet_by_name("Grades")

We repeat this step with the receiving data file that we want to paste our Section 12 grades into.

Copying the Section 12 data

Looking at the section 12 data, we want Python to be able to copy from column A2 to D14. the OpenPyXl .cell() method takes a number which is much easier to iterate, rather than the column letters. So let’s look at that range again:

  • From: A2 is now column = 1 and row = 2
  • To: D14 in now column = 4 and row = 14

Once we access this data, we need somewhere to store it before we paste it into the new file. We will use a nested list for this.

In line 3 we create our function copyRange. It contains 5 arguments that we could add with our information as follows:

  • startCol = 1
  • startRow = 2
  • endCol = 4
  • endRow = 14
  • sheet = sheet ( The name of the sheet variable we are copying the data from which is GradeSample.xlsxsheet Grades)

In line 4 we create an empty list called rangeSelected this list will have data from every row we have selected.

Line 5 starts the for loop through each rows. Each row contains data in each column so we create an empty list (rowSelected) here in preparation to add the column data to in the next for loop (Line 6).

Line 6 loops through each item in each column of the selected row. Line 7 then adds the data from each column to the rowSelected lists.

Once it finishes this loop, it adds the data from the rowSelected lists into the rangeSelected lists. It then moves down to the next row and repeats the process continuing through the rows until the loop meets it’s end at row 14.

Finally the copyRange function returns the rangeSelected list to be used at our discretion.

Pasting the selected data

Now we have a nested list of all the rows and the information in the columns we require from those rows.

We will use that list add it to our Section12Grades.xlsx in Sheet1.

We want to add the data starting at row 3 this time because we have a title on row 1 and column headers on row 2.

We will be up for two more for loops to do this.

Let’s take a look:

Line 3 starts our pasteRange function and contains the following arugments:

  • startCol = 1
  • startRow = 3 (because we want to paste the data 1 row down.)
  • endCol =  4
  • endRow = 15 (because we want to paste the data 1 row down.)
  • sheetReceiving = temp_sheet (This is the variable for Section12Grades.xlsx with the sheet name, Sheet1.
  • copiedData = rangeSelected ( The returned list from your copyRange function)

Line 5 creates a count number variable starting with zero(0) so we can start looking through our copiedData lists by rows from the beginning.

Line 6 begins the row loop like the copyRange function.

Line 7 adds another count number variable so we can loop through our copiedData list by columns.

Line 8 begins the column loop.

Line 9 adds the copiedData cell-by-cell to the new file. It does not save it here but holds it in memory to be saved to the file we choose in the future.

Finally, we add 1 to each of the counters so we can move onto the next cell.

Running a Copy and Paste as a function

We are now going to create a function to copy the data using the copyRange function and paste the data using the pasteRange function and then we will save the Section12Grades.xlsx file contained in the variable, template.

This is how it will look:

Line 1 creates the function and then line 3 runs the copyRange process with the arguments we need.

Note! After line 3 you could call a function to manipulate the data or add styling here before you paste it.

Line 4 then runs the pasteRange fuction with the arguments we need.

Line 5 then saves the pasted data in the same file that we used in our memory. You could equally save the file with a different name and this will create a brand new file with the pasted data in it.

That’s it! Done.

Run the program

Now it’s time to run the program. Save the file and hit run (F5).

In the Python Shell run the program and then enter:

Your result will look like this:

No too impressive, right?

Go into the folder and open your Section12Grades.xlsx spreadsheet.

It should now look like this:

End Result of openpyxl copy and paste range

The full OpenPyXl copy and paste range code

 

Edit: 18 Nov 2018

From OpenPyXl version 2.5 onward, you might find that you get a Depreciation warning for:

  •  sheet = wb.get_sheet_by_name("foo") #Add Sheet name
  • temp_sheet = template.get_sheet_by_name("foo2") #Add Sheet name

OpenPyXl 2.5 now provides the sheet names in a convenient list:

  • sheet = wb["foo"]#Add Sheet name
  • temp_sheet = template["foo2"]#Add Sheet name

Her is the updated code:

Big thanks to WY in the comments for reminding me to update this.

 

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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Can I modify Google Sheets with code?

Google Apps Script and the Google Suite

You sure can. Google has a fully supported script editor that you integrate with your Sheets, Docs, Forms, Slide, Gmail, Calendar and pretty much every aspect of the Google Suite. It’s name: Google Apps Script.

Google Apps Script allows you to do all sorts of things like building short code to modify sheets and docs, create macros, develop add-ons mess around with gmail and so much more.

Google Apps Scripts is based on Javascript. It can integrate with HTML5, CSS and Javascript well with it’s html service class.

Google has an extensive reference library to get you started.

Let’s get started with a basic example.

Dawh…Your first Google Script

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