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

Looking to learn more about Google Apps Scripts in a more structured format? Udemy has some great courses that can get your 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? Fiverr’s your best bet to find a skilled Google Apps Script professional to solve your problem quickly and cheaply. *

 

*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.

 

 

 

 

 

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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