Performance of Google Apps Script Text Finder Class on 2 Approaches to Searching Large Datasets

Inspired by research into a recent blog post, the Google Apps Script Text Finder Class’ Find All (findAll()) and Find Next (findNext()) methods were benchmarked over two different datasets containing 50,000 rows. The first dataset contained 1,000 cells matching the search text. The second dataset contained 100 matching cells.

For each dataset, a test was conducted to retrieve either the first 10 matching cells or the first 100 matching cells. The Find All and Find Next approaches were tested and compared on each test.

It was expected that Find Next would perform best on the condition where the dataset contained a large number of found items and only a small number of first cells needed to be reported. The benchmark results suggest that this hypothesis is most likely.

First number of cells to retrieve Test Function Avg. run time over 100 runs. Fastest Function Fastest Avg. Time Avg. time Difference
1000 items to find
10
1
v2 findAll 1626.24 v3 findNext 1368.45 257.79
v3 findNext 1368.45
50
2
v2 findAll 1578.19 v2 findAll 1578.19 4993.61
v3 findNext 6571.8
100 items to find
10
3
v2 findAll 360.94 v2 findAll 360.94 975.16
v3 findNext 1336.1
50
4
v2 findAll 377.13 v2 findAll 377.13 6175.59
v3 findNext 6552.72

Table: The average time in milliseconds of 100 runs of each test of Apps Script Text Finder findAll() and findNext() methods. Image link for mobile-friendly viewers.

Method

Sample Data

Two columns of data 50,000 rows deep were generated for this test. Each cell in each column consisted of a number; either 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. An equal spread of numbers 1 through 4 where added to each row. Each column differs by the number of 5s in each row:

  • Col A: 1,000 5’s
  • Col B: 100 5’s

Each column was then selected and randomised with: Data > Randomise range.

Test

Two functions are compared to test their performance based on four test conditions based on 100 runs of each test:

  1. Retrieve the first 10 cells containing the search text where the range contains 1,000 matching search items.
  2. Retrieve the first 50 cells containing the search text where the range contains 1,000 matching search items.
  3. Retrieve the first 10 cells containing the search text where the range contains 100 matching search items.
  4. Retrieve the first 50 cells containing the search text where the range contains 100 matching search items.

The time in milliseconds was recorded using the JavaScript Date.now() method before and after the functions were run. The difference in time in milliseconds was then appended to an array and added to a Google Sheet column for each test type. This culminated in 8 sets of 100 results.

The average of each test was then recorded and used to compare performance.

Note: Performance.now() is not available in Google Apps Script. 

Code

All code and results can be found copied from this sheet:

Analysis of Google Apps Script Create Finder Class Retrieve n found values

To explore the code and run your own independent tests, make a copy of the Google Sheet: File > Make a copy.

More detailed breakdowns of the code for each test function can be found in the source tutorial.

Note! There is no v1. The version numbers refer to the tutorial related to this post.

Main Test RUN

This function ran all the test conditions. Modify colPastePosition to add the culminated times to the desired columns. Then uncomment the desired run.

test_v2 – Google Apps Script Text Finder Class- findAll()

Code breakdown can be found here: link.

This function retrieves the full list of all found cells using the findAll() method from the Text Finder Class. All available found items in the range are then stored in the found variable.

It then relies on a for-loop to iterate through each cell and collect the cell location using the Spreadsheet App Class’ range getA1Notation method. Each cell location is then stored in the locations variable as an array item before returning the array to the initialising function.

The for-loop breaks when the total number of required cell items (the position) equal the index variable (i) in the loop.

test_v3 – Google Apps Script Text Finder Class- findNext()

Code breakdown can be found here: link.

In this function, a call is made to the spreadsheet to retrieve the found cell value each time findNext() method of the Text Finder Class is called. On each iteration, the getA1Notation method is used to retrieve the cell location. This location is then stored as an array value in the locations variable before being returned to the initiating function.

The function used a while-loop to iterate through each next item found until the counter – or the number of required cells to collect – is reached.

Results & Discussion

Analysis of Google Apps Script Create Finder Class Retrieve n found values
Performance in Milliseconds to Retrieve the first 10 or 50 Matching Values over a 50,000 Row Range Contain Either 1000 or 100 Matchable items Using the Google Apps Script Spreadsheet App Finder Class.

Test 1: Retrieve the first 10 cells containing the search text where the range contains 1,000 matching search items.

Version 3 –findNext() performed better on average when there were 1000 potential items to find in the range but only the first 10 items need to be selected. Versions 3’s average speed was 1368.45ms compared to version 2’s average run speed of 1826.24ms. This is a performance increase of 257.79ms for version 3.

Version 2’s lower performance is likely due to needing to collect all available found cells before it can extract the top 10 items.

Version 3, makes 10 calls to the Google Sheets in this example. Compared to version 2, this takes relatively less time than collecting all available found cell references to the search item.

TEST 1: 1,000 randomised items to find in 50,000. Return first 10 matches using v2-findAll and v3-findNext functions.
TEST 1: 1,000 randomised items to find in 50,000. Return first 10 matches using v2-findAll and v3-findNext functions.

Test 2: Retrieve the first 50 cells containing the search text where the range contains 1,000 matching search items.

Version 2 – findAll() performed significantly better over 100 runs than version 3 when retrieving the top 50 found cells from a possible 1000. Version 2 was, on average, 4993.61ms faster at an average runtime of 1578.19ms compared to version 3’s sluggish 6571.80ms average.

It was expected that test one and test two’s times for version 2 would be similar and there are only 48.05ms between their average runtimes.

Version 3’s poor performance is likely due to its reliance on calling the spreadsheet to collect the cell data on all 50 calls it needs to make.

TEST 2: 1,000 randomised items to find in 50,000. Return first 50 matches using v2-findAll and v3-findNext functions.
TEST 2: 1,000 randomised items to find in 50,000. Return first 50 matches using v2-findAll and v3-findNext functions.

Test 3: Retrieve the first 10 cells containing the search text where the range contains 100 matching search items.

Version 2, again, performed better by 975.16ms than version 3 when there was a smaller potential number of items to find in the range and only the first ten items need to be retrieved.

Here the performance margin between the two versions was closer than in the previous test. Version 2’s average run speed was 360.94ms while version 3’s runtime was 1336.10ms.

With a smaller number of retrieved items, the version 2 findAll() function did not have to work as hard to collect the methods related to each range it collects. Whereas version 3 still needed to make 10 performance-intensive calls back to the Google Sheet each time with relatively no performance change to test one.

TEST 3: 100 randomised items to find in 50,000. Return first 10 matches using v2-findAll and v3-findNext functions.
TEST 3: 100 randomised items to find in 50,000. Return first 10 matches using v2-findAll and v3-findNext functions.

Test 4: Retrieve the first 50 cells containing the search text where the range contains 100 matching search items.

Predictably, version 2 – findAll() performed the best when the expected match sample is small (100 available matches) and the total first set of cells to retrieve was relatively large (50).

Version 2’s average completion time was 377.13ms compared to version 3’s average of 6552.72ms, performing on average 6175.59ms faster. This is by far the largest margin on performance between the two versions.

Here again, version 3 must perform 50 calls to the Google Sheet, each one retrieving the cell range data. Alternatively, version 2 makes one call to the spreadsheet and then retrieves the cell data for all collected values. This is significantly faster than version 3’s approach.

TEST 4: 100 randomised items to find in 50,000. Return first 50 matches using v2-findAll and v3-findNext functions.
TEST 4: 100 randomised items to find in 50,000. Return first 50 matches using v2-findAll and v3-findNext functions.

Overall

On datasets that may have the potential to contain a large number of matching items, but fewer required results to return, version 3 may be the best option. In all other cases, version 2 is the most optimal approach to finding data in a range.

It is important to note that it can be difficult to accurately measure performance with Apps Script runs because resource allocation to run a script does seem to vary. Nevertheless, with a sample size of 100 runs, it is hoped that average values will be more accurate than a smaller sample.

Grab Your Own Copy of the Google Sheet and Attached Code here

If you have found the tutorial helpful, why not shout me a coffee ☕? I'd really appreciate it.

Looking to learn more about Google Apps Scripts in a more structured format? Udemy has some great courses that can get you from the basics to a real Google Apps Script pro.

Got a more specific problem you need help with, but don’t have the time to develop the skills? Make an enquiry on my 'Hire me!' page. I occasionally pick up projects. Alternatively, Fiverr’s your best bet to find a skilled Google Apps Script developer to solve your problem quickly and professionally. *

*The above affiliate links have been carefully researched to get you to what you specifically need. If you decide to click on one of these links it will cost you just the same as going to the site. If you decide to sign up, I just get a little pocket money to help pay for the costs of running this website.

~Yagi

 

Google Chat Apps for Google Apps Script Developers

In this article, we will look at Google Chat Apps and go over some of the basics of developing a chat app with Google Apps Script.

Note that Chat Apps are currently only available to Google Workspace paid accounts and not standard ‘@gmail’ consumer accounts.

What are Google Chat Apps?

All about Google Chat Apps YouTube Video
Click to go to the video!

Google Chat is a business-level messaging tool for Google Workspace that allows you to chat one-on-one and in groups called Spaces within your business and even with clients and contractors outside of your domain.

Its integrations with Google Workspace tools like Google sheets, docs and slides right inside chat along with a Google Task tab and a convenient file library tab make it a really handy business tool.

But one thing that is often overlooked is that you can add Chat Apps or Chat Bots to your Google Chat Spaces or DM a chat app directly to accomplish tasks conveniently.

There are hundreds of 3rd party Chat App integrations for you to choose from. Anything from project management to customer support and more.

Google Chat Apps Available

Chat apps can:

Continue reading “Google Chat Apps for Google Apps Script Developers”

Copy and Paste Range Values from one Google Sheet into another with Google Apps Script

You can easily use Google Apps Script to copy a range of data from one Google Sheet to another Google Sheet, just like you would with using the IMPORTRANGE function in Google Sheets. However, there are some clear advantages to importing ranges with Google Apps Script.

In this beginner-friendly tutorial, we’ll create an importRange() Google Apps Script function that you can quickly duplicate and even expand on in your own projects. We’ll also show you how to apply certain formatting and a time trigger to your code.

Note! This tutorial covers how to replace a range with existing data using Google Apps Script. If you wish to append data please head to the ‘Further reading’ section for more tutorials on this topic.

As usual, read what you need and skip the rest. 

Continue reading “Copy and Paste Range Values from one Google Sheet into another with Google Apps Script”

How to find and replace text in a Google Doc with a link or a list of links with Google Apps Script

So you are a citizen Google Apps Script developer and you’ve decided to make yourself a mail-merge-type project where you want to create new documents from a template. You have discovered the simplicity of the replaceText() method:

Now you want to take it to the next level and replace the text with a hyperlink containing the text and the URL. You might be scratching your head wondering where the replaceTextWithLink() method is or why you can’t simply chain the setLinkUrl() method without making a hyperlink out of the entire body of the document.

via GIPHY

What to do?

In this tutorial, I’ll cover how to find and replace text in a Google Doc with a hyperlink with Google Apps Script under three common conditions:

Danger!!! Word repetition warning ahead!

  1. Find text and replace it with new text and a link where the text is the only text in a document.
  2. Find text within a paragraph and replace it with new text and a link.
  3. Find text and replace it with a list of hyperlinks.

I encourage you to play along. Here is a link to the Google Doc without the code attached:

Test Google Doc.  

Just go to File > Make a copy to get your own copy of the Google Doc. Then Tools > Script Editor.

While you are testing, you can just use undo (ctrl + z) to return the text to its original state.

Let’s dive into the three examples.

1. Find a single item of text as a completed paragraph in a Google Doc and replace it with new text and a link

In our first example, we have a paragraph where we have just the text that we want to replace. Take a look at the image:

Find a single item of text as a completed paragraph in a Google Doc and replace it with new text and a link Apps Script v2

Here’s the code:

Once we have grabbed our body element on line 12, we set up our chain of methods to produce our hyperlink.

First, we use the findText() method to grab the text we want to find in the body. This method takes our textToFind variable as an argument and returns a range element indicating the position of the searched text. Line 14

Next, we get the element that the found range of text is in using the getElement() method. This will be a text element. Line 15

Note! You can find the type of text element by using this approach:

We then call the asText() method to get the current element as … well … um … text so that we can edit it. This allows us to perform rich text editing of the element. Line 16

Now we can set the text we want to use to replace the current text with setText(), inputting our text variable. Line 17

Finally, we add our link using setLinkUrl(). This will take our url variable as its argument. Line 18

Note that this approach will replace all the text associated with the element removing your reference search text and any other text. If you want to replace the selected text in a paragraph and add a link to it, check out the next example.

2. Find text within a paragraph and replace it and add a link.

In this example, we only want to replace the target text (and add a link) that resides inside a paragraph. Here is our example:

Find text within a paragraph and replace it with new text and a link DocApp Google Apps ScriptWe need to do three things here.

  1. We need to find the text element from which template text we want to replace resides.
  2. Get the offset where the found text starts in the overall text.
  3. Replace the text with our new text and link.

Check out the code:

Again we start off by grabbing our body on line 12. We won’t be able to chain our methods too much here because we need to get some extra information out of them. So instead we set foundText to the result of our findText() method call. Line 14

Our next task is to get the start and end locations of the text within the greater text. We can get the start location (or offset) by using the getStartOffset() method. This essentially gets how many characters in our text starts on. Line 17

We then need the location where our text will end. Now, this is not the end location of the current text. It is the location of the text that we are going to use to replace it. To calculate this, we add the startText to the length of our replacement text. We need to subtract one because the startText value is the beginning location of our text and not the character location previous. Line 18

Now we can get cracking and replace our text.

First, we grab the element (text) of our foundText. Line 21

We can then chain our next steps by setting the element to text. Line 24

This time around we can use the beloved replaceText() method to find the text again only searching inside the text element and replacing it with our desired text. Line 25

From here we can now set our link. This time around we will take advantage of setLinkUrl() method’s alternate parameter arrangement which takes:

  1. Start text index – startText
  2. End text index – endText
  3. the URL – url

This allows us to set the link at a specific location in the text.

But what if you want to add multiple hyperlinks to a list, Yagi?

3. Find text and replace it with a list of hyperlinks

In this final example, we want to add a list of links based on a text reference in the document.

Take a look at the document.

Find and replace text with list of hyperlinks DocApp Google Apps ScriptHere is the code:

The Data Source

In this example, we have an array of objects containing the title and URL for each of the links we want to add within our links variable. Lines 6 – 19

Just like in the previous two examples, you could get your data from many other sources. This is just an easy example of data to follow.

Get the paragraph element containing the text.

Before I explain this step, it is important to know that our sample text resides inside a text element that resides inside a paragraph element which will probably reside inside the body element.

Our ultimate goal is to remove the selected text and replace it with a list. If we just remove the text element, we will still be left with the paragraph, which will look like a carriage return (do kids still use that term?). So we will want to remove that whole paragraph.

This means that our first step is to get the paragraph element that contains our text.

We do this first by finding the text (Line 27). We grab the text element (Line 28). This allows us to get the element’s parent with the getParent() method. This is stored in our element variable.

Get the index of the paragraph containing the text

Here on line 32, we grab the index location of our template text. We head back to the body for this one and use the getChildIndex() on our paragraph element of the selected text. This method returns an index of the location in the body element.

The index will allow us to add our list of links in a moment.

Removed the paragraph element from the text

Now that we have the index location of where we need to add our list of links, we can safely remove our reference text.

To do this, we grab the paragraph element and use the removeFromParent() method. Line 35

Add the list of hyperlinks

Our final step is to push our list into our Google Doc at our new index location.

The text will be inserted into the new index location. This means that if we looped through our text and inserted it at the same index each time, the links will appear in the opposite order that we originally had them in our array.

The first step then is to get a reversed copy of the array before we start our loop (We get a copy because we don’t want to change the original array). This is achieved with the Javascript slice() method without any parameters, which collects the whole array. Then we use the reverse() Javascript method on it to reverse the order of the array. Now we have a copy of the array in reverse order, but we haven’t change the original array. Line 37

Now we can run our foreach() loop to iterate through each array item.

Inside each iteration of our loop, we want to use the insertListItem() method  to add our list item to the index location of our Google Doc body (Line 39). This method takes two arguments:

  1. The index location – index
  2. The text – link.text

The method then returns the newly created list item element.

Here we can then add our link using setLinkUrl().

Before we finish with our list item we can set the type of list we want by using the setGlyphType() method. The method takes a ‘list character type’ which is drawn from the Glyph Type enumerator. For our example, we set our list to be numbered.

Give it a crack yourself!

Conclusion

So that’s it. Three different scenarios for you to insert hyperlinks based on a text key in Google Docs with Google Apps Script. Of course, there is more than one way to do things. I would love to hear your approach to these problems in the comments below.

I’d also love to hear how you used these scripts in your own project. It is always inspirational.


Looking to learn more about Google Apps Scripts in a more structured format? Udemy has some great courses that can get you from the basics to a real Google Apps Script pro.

Got a more specific problem you need help with, but don’t have the time to develop the skills? Make an enquiry on my 'Hire me!' page. I occasionally pick up projects. Alternatively, Fiverr’s your best bet to find a skilled Google Apps Script developer to solve your problem quickly and professionally. *

*The above affiliate links have been carefully researched to get you to what you specifically need. If you decide to click on one of these links it will cost you just the same as going to the site. If you decide to sign up, I just get a little pocket money to help pay for the costs of running this website.

~Yagi

How to Create a Custom Email Auto-responder for a Google Forms Submission with Google Apps Script (Updated Feb 2022)

A few days before publishing this post, I put a call out for some Beta testers to get free access to my new course Google Sheet: Learn the Essentials through 3 Detailed Projects. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I am super excited about finishing this course. It’s been a labour of love for two and a half months. No wonder I am banging on about it.

Anyway back to the tutorial. I needed a way to provide coupon codes for free access to the course in exchange for some feedback and much-needed tutorials.

To do this, I created a Google Form.  This contained some details and expectations, and then some details about the submitter and a consent checkbox at the end. If the submitter consented and hit submit I wanted them to get an email back with the coupon code.

In this tutorial, we will go through how to create a custom auto email response containing:

  • The submitter’s name in the greeting.
  • Your email message.
  • Your primary signature block from your Gmail account.

To me, this seems like a pretty standard task that anyone might be considering doing. So, I thought I would share the process and the code.

Let’s get cracking!

The Google Form

Here we will go over the highlights and setup as they pertain to the context of the Google Apps Script code.

The form starts off with some information about beta testing the course.

Google Forms beta testing instructions
Click to Expand!

Next, we have the input fields.

  1. Email: This is an atypical field. You create this field by going to the Settings taband select  Collect email addresses. Here, I also sent the submitter a copy of their responses and limited the responses from each user to one. This made the user use their Gmail account, which added some extra integrity to the form and… well… the user will need a Gmail account to complete the course anyway. This will become important in our code later.
Google Forms collect email address and limit responses to one
Click to Expand!
  1. Name: The name of the Beta tester. I’ll grab the first name from this and also record it as part of their testimonial that they consented to.
  2. Occupation (optional): This apparently helps with the credibility of the testimonial and it is also interesting to see the occupation of the people taking the course. Testers can opt-out of this one.
  3. Company (optional): This one was a fizzer. I understand why, you really don’t want to be telling people where you work online. This item was added as part of the testimonials that I researched in preparation for this. I have no idea how course creators got these, which makes me one part, a little suspicious and, one part, blown away by how these folk got students to share who they worked for. In hindsight, I would not add this item. If I personally wouldn’t give out these details, I shouldn’t expect others to.
  4. Consent: This is a mandatory field that the submitter needs to check to confirm their expectation in exchange for the free course. If they don’t check the box, they can’t submit the form and get the coupon code.

The code

We want to get our email auto-responder code to run when the Google Form is submitted to us.  To do this we need to connect our script to the form by opening the Google Apps Script editor up in the Google Form.

You can do this by clicking the vertical ellipsis () in the top-right of the Google Form editor and selecting Script editor.

Google Form access to Google Apps Script Editor
Click to expand!

Code.gs

You can copy and paste this now into your project and rename the project to whatever you are working on. I usually name my project the same as my Form or Sheet if it is directly related.

You can update the subject and htmlBody values to your own data here. You can add HTML to your htmlBody within backticks (your html) Lines 27 & 28

Of course, the coupon code is a big faker-Rooney.  🙄

The code grabs the current users email and name and then emails the respondent with a coupon code after they hit submit on the Google Form.

If you run the code right now you will face some errors. First, we need to set up the trigger to run this code when the user submits it. Also, we need to get authorization to use scopes, or permissions to give Google Apps Script certain access to your data to run the code and add in an API to access our Gmail signature block.

Add the Gmail API

First up we need to add an advanced API to get access to be able to display the signature block from our Gmail account. You know, to make it look professional.

To add this API in the Google Apps Script editor:

  1. Ensure you are in the Editor.
  2. Select Services +
  3. Scroll down and select Gmail.
  4. Select Add
Add the Gmail API to a Google Apps Script Project
Click to Expand!

Note! As of writing this, the Gmail API only uses your primary signature block and can’t access any other signatures you might have. 

Make sure the Scopes have been Authenticated

You may find, even if you have set up the triggers, that the script doesn’t run because it is missing the permissions you need to run the script. To find out what happened you can check out the execution log in the Google Apps Script IDE  sidebar -4th one down.

Google Apps Script IDE execution log
Click to Expand!

You can then check the errors of your execution log to see what happened.

To fix this ahead of time we can modify the onFormSubmit(e) function a little to run a dummy version of the script.

Before we start, you need to have a least one response in your Google Form. Go ahead now and add in a dummy form submission. You can always delete it later.

Go back into your editor create a new Google Apps Script file and call it Test.gs.

Copy and paste in this code:

Go ahead and run the code. You should get a warning popup for authentication. This will happen just one time and it will be fine for you and anyone who enters the form in future.

Once you have accepted all the scopes your code should run and you will get an email. If you don’t, check the execution log for any errors.

You can also check to see your script scopes by going to the Overview of your Google Apps Script IDE.

Google Apps Script IDE Scopes overview
Click to Expand!

Now we can go back to our Code.gs file and add our trigger to send the email on submission.

Assign the Trigger on Submit

Next, we need to assign a trigger to run our onFormSubmit(e) function in our Code.gs file.

To do this, navigate to the Code.gs file and then:

    1. In the sidebar of the IDE, select the Triggers button indicated by a clock.
    2. Select Add Trigger at the bottom right of the page.
    3. A popup window will appear. Under Choose which function to run select onFormSubmit.
    4. Select event type: On form Submit.
    5. Click Save.

Google Apps Script trigger on form submitClick to Expand!

Run a practice Form Submission

Go ahead and run a dummy form submission again and you should now get an auto-response email with the email you created.


Looking to learn more about Google Apps Scripts in a more structured format? Udemy has some great courses that can get you from the basics to a real Google Apps Script pro.

Got a more specific problem you need help with, but don’t have the time to develop the skills? Make an enquiry on my 'Hire me!' page. I occasionally pick up projects. Alternatively, Fiverr’s your best bet to find a skilled Google Apps Script developer to solve your problem quickly and professionally. *

*The above affiliate links have been carefully researched to get you to what you specifically need. If you decide to click on one of these links it will cost you just the same as going to the site. If you decide to sign up, I just get a little pocket money to help pay for the costs of running this website.

Code breakdown

Pfaawhh!!! 

If you made it to this bit you really want to learn about the nuts and bolts of the script. That’s awesome.

In this, code breakdown, I will go over some of the highlights of the code to help you understand what is going on.

Get the current submitters data

You will notice the single ‘e‘ as a parameter for the onFormSubmit function. This indicates an event object. When a trigger, like our on form submit trigger, is assigned to a function, you can use the event object to get the data that will be drawn from triggering that event. For us, we will get the response from the person who submitted the trigger.

To do this we use the response method on our event object and assign it to our responses variable. Line 3

This will give us access to the same list of methods as you would when you run the Test.gs testAndAuthScopes function’s response variable on the first response in the form

const responses = formResponses[0];

You can find out more options about the formResponse class here.

Here we can access things like the date and time the response was submitted, the response, the response item, the respondent’s email if that was enabled in the form.

For us, we will grab the current respondent’s email first. Getting to the email is a little different than accessing other responses. If you remember when you set up your form, you can force users to add their email to the form in the settings menu.

The email here will always be at the top of the form. To access it, you need to use the getRespondentEmail() function. Line 4

Next, you can access any form item response in your form by calling the getItemResponses() method that will return an array of responses in your Google Form. You can then count from zero down your form to find the number of the item that you want to draw the response from and grab it with an array call, [n].

For us, we need to get the first item after the email, which is the name. This is the zeroeth item in the list. Line 5

Alternatively, if you have already grabbed the item’s ID, then you could use, getResponseForItem(item).

You would have probably have noticed the trim() method on the end of each email. This JavaScript method allows us to simply take any whitespace that the respondent accidentally added to their response or email – I’m guilty of accidental extra spaces too. 

Get the first name of the respondent

We want to personalise our email response and use the respondent’s name in the email. These days, it’s generally preferable to use a casual first name approach.

We don’t know if the respondent entered their first name or full name. We know with a certain degree of confidence that they will also not add in their title in this input as well. With this in mind, we can extract all the letters up to the first name and safely assume that this will be their first name (No one likes entering a first and last name input when they can do it in one line).

Here’s our code:

Here we create our firstName variable. The first thing we need to check is if the user added just a first name or a first and last name.  This is done with a JavaScript ternary or conditional operator that is basically a single line if statement.

In our condition inside the braces, we use the indexOf method on our name variable. This method takes one variable, the searchable value. In our case, this is an empty space, (" "). If a space is found it will return the index or numerical location of the space. If no space exists, it will return -1.

We check to see if there is no space, which will equal -1. If this is the case, then we just report the name variable, because the user only entered their first name on the form.

However, if there is a space, then we want to create a new string with all the characters up to the first space. We do this by using JavaScript’s substring method. This method takes a start and end index inside the string. For us, our start is the first value which is zero. To get the end index we can use indexOf() again on name to get the location of the space.

Use our signature block on the email

We want to look professional here and add our Gmail signature block to the end of our email like we normally do when we send an email. You would think this would be a pretty simple process, but actually, it is a little challenging.

To access the signature, we have to use the Gmail API Advanced Service we installed earlier.

Here’s the code:

Google Advanced APIs are written a little differently than what is shown in the doc’s when we use them in Google Apps Script. This can make using them a little confusing to get your head around. Let’s take a look at the Gmail API documentation for this method:

GET https://gmail.googleapis.com/gmail/v1/users/{userId}/settings/sendAs.list

In Google Apps Script, this boils down to:

Gmail.Users.Settings.SendAs.list({userId}).sendAs

We replace the {userId} hint with the special "me" input to reference your own account.

Running this on its own will give you a list of all of your emails and their data that are assigned to your account. kind of like this:

 

For me, I have a number of domain accounts along with my primary Gmail account assigned. As you can see in the sample data above, you can see a signature object in the first array. This object contains all the HTML we need to generate our signature block at the end of the email.

We can access this by using the JavaScript filter method. This method creates a new array based on parameters you intend to use to filter. For us, we want to filter down to just keep our default Gmail account. Line 7 

This will give our list of objects and we can then select the signature object (Line 7) which we store in our signature variable (Line 4).

Note, that as of writing this email, there is no way to access alternate emails.

We can then use this at the end of our email message.

Emailing the respondent

Finally, we can email the respondent with our custom message. We do this with the MailApp class and call the sendEmail() method. This method can take a number of possible variations of parameters, but I like to use the object parameter because it gives me more flexibility.

With this approach, you can modify a number of different objects. For our project we will use the following:

  • to: This is the email of the respondent that we will send our message to.
  • subject: Just like in a normal email, you can add your subject text here.
  • htmlBody: You can add your HTML for your text here. You can always use one of the numerous email template builders to do this without hard coding HTML for most of your task. However, you will need to wrap your code in backticks and then at the very bottom add in the signature paragraph.

Here is a link to more emails on MailApp for you to get familiar with it:

Conclusion

In this tutorial, we looked at creating a custom email responder that is triggered when a Google Form is sent. We looked at how to add triggers to run our code when the form is submitted. Then we made sure all of our permissions and scopes were added so that our code would run. We also had to add the Gmail API advanced service to get our signature block.

So where to next?

You might want to run different custom email responses based on the respondent’s response. Here you could look at the user’s response and then perhaps use an if statement or switch to send the code to a specific set of htmlBody that relates to that particular response.

What do you think you would use this for? I would love to hear in the comments below.

If you’ve liked this tutorial and want to get regular updates on what I am working on next, you can subscribe down below this post.

Happy coding!

~Yagi

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