How to Automatically Share Teachable Students to Google Drive Files and Folders when they Enroll in your Course

Not only are Google Workspaces, Google Sheets, Docs, Forms and Slide great to work in and look awesome, but the convenience of collaborating and sharing your Google Drive Files and Folders is also super useful. So much so that many course creators share their documents with their students all the time.

The problem that course creators have is that they are generally stuck with two options when sharing their Google Drive files and folders:

  1. Set sharing to Anyone with Link can view. And hope other freeloading students don’t find and share their course material.
  2. Manually share each student as they enrol. Which is time-consuming for the course creator and annoying for the student who needs to wait to be shared before they can get their hands on your awesome course content.

Both options are really terrible.

I reluctantly chose option one for my first Google Sheets Essentials Teachable Course and it really bothered me. I needed to find a way to share my Google Drive course content with only those students who signed up for my course.

In this tutorial, I will guide you through creating a Google Apps Script web app that receives a webhook notification when a student enrols onto one of my Teachable courses. If a student enrolled with a non-Gmail or non-Google Workspace domain email account, they will be sent an email with an attached form to add a Google-friendly email.

If you want a copy of the Google Sheet with the Apps Script attached, without coding it all yourself, plus written-visual tutorials on how to quickly set up your sheet head over to my teachable page now and purchase the sheet and instructions for just $2.95. Yeap not even the price of a cuppa.

The fun thing is that you will experience how the whole process works, because…well…that’s how I am going to share the Google Sheets file with you when you enrol. Neat, hey?

As a part of your purchase you will also get a few other perks:

  • Set files or folders for ‘view’, ‘comment’ or ‘edit’ access. 
  • Add existing students to your selected course Google Drive Files and Folders.
  • Get your full course list from your Teachable site right in your Sheet. 
  • A choice to bulk set your files and folders to:
    • prevent downloads, copying and print.
    • Prevent sharing by any documents you have provided ‘edit’ permission to.

If you want to understand how it all works and build your own, read on, you can always throw a couple of coins at me and enrol to run the workflow just for fun.

Instantly share ONLY Teach:able Students to selected Google Drive Files and Folders

teachable share Google Drive Files and Folders

If you are looking to build your own Teachable Course you can check out a how-to guide here:

How to launch an online course—and craft your email strategy

How it all works

We will be making use of Teachable’s handy webhooks to receive instances when a student enrols on one of our chosen courses.

We will need to set up a Google Sheet that contains two Sheet Tabs. One for our list of shared files and folders by course and one with our list of registered students.

We will also need to create a way to send a message to any student who has not registered to our Teachable school with a Gmail or Google Workspace domain email and ask them to provide a Google-friendly email. Once they reply we need to automatically share them with their new email.

Let’s Get started.

Creating your Google Sheet Manager

First, we need to create a Google sheet manager to make it easy for us to:

  • Add files and folders that we want to share with our selected courses.
  • Keep a record of our shared students by course.
  • Receive and manage form responses from students who need to provide a Google-friendly email.

Go ahead and create a new Google Sheet.

Setting up your Google Sheet

Name your Google Sheet workbook whatever you want. I’ve named mine:

Share Teachable Students to Google Drive Elements

Store File and  Folder Locations

Rename ‘Sheet1’ to ‘Shared Locations’.

In row 1 enter the following Headers:

  • Course Name
  • Course ID
  • File/Folder Name File
  • Folder URL

Google Sheets teachable connector tutorial Share Locations setup

Get the course ID for your Teachable Course

First, head over to your Teachable school. Log in and then select a course.

Navigate to your School Course page and select a course.

Google Sheets teachable connector Shared Locations select course

When the course loads, take a look at the URL, you will see the numerical code.

Google Sheets teachable connector Shared Locations manual selection url

Select and copy it.

Head back to your Google Sheet Manager and select the ‘Shared Locations’ Google Sheets tab.

Now paste it into Column B and then update the title in Column A.

Next, add a name for your File or Folder in Column C. You add what you want here or leave blank if you are feeling lazy. Sometimes it is better to rename the file or folder so that it makes better sense in the context of this list. If you do this, your original file or folder will not change.

Finally, copy and paste in your URL for your file and folder in Column D. Here, you can either navigate to your Google Drive file or folder and copy and paste in the URL. Alternatively, right-click on the file > select Get link > Copy > Done. Then paste in your URL.

Rinse and repeat.

Your ‘Shared Locations’ Google Sheets tab should look like this:

Google Sheets teachable connector tutorial Share Locations complete sheetThe most important stuff here is Column B and Column D. We will use this in our Google Apps Script.

Create a named range

Next, selected the range A2:B50 > right-click > View more cell actions > Define named range. Then name the range ‘ShareData’.

Google Sheets teachable connector tutorial Share Locations named range
Click to Expand!

We will also use this in our code later.

Store Enrolled students details and Tokens

Create a new Google Sheets tab and call it, ‘Students’.

Next, in cell D1 add the header: For non-Google Accounts.

On row two add from Column A2:

  • Timestamp
  • Email
  • Course
  • Non-Google Email
  • Access Token
  • Token Submit Date
Google Sheets teachable connector tutorial Share Locations Students Sheet tab
Click to expand!

You can see in the image above how a student’s details is added. This is all done via our Google Apps Script.

In the example above we have a student who did not register with a Google-friendly email so we send an email with our form and our Access Token for them to reply with a Google-friendly email. This is all updated automatically.

 

Now it’s time to crack on with the fun stuff, the code. Go to Extensions > Apps Script. You will load your Google Sheet connected Apps Script Editor.

Rename the project. Generally, I rename it to the same name as the Google Sheet.

Creating the Google Apps Script WebApp

Our first task is to receive a notification from our Teachable page via a webhook that a new student has enrolled in our course. We can do this with a Google Apps Script custom doPost() trigger function and building a webapp.

The doPost(e) function allows us to receive information from an external app like our Teachable webhook.

Here is the basic code that will allow us to make sure everything is running successfully:

When we receive our webhook information it will be packaged inside our 'e' or event parameter as a JSON object in the e.postData.contents property. Line 3

Finally, we need to build our frontend environment with the HtmlService class’s createHtmlOutput() method. We will leave its parameter blank here. Line 5

The first deployment of the webapp

We need to deploy our webapp now to get its URL.

In the top right select the Deploy button.

authorise scopes for Google Sheets teachable connector webapp deploy button

A dropdown will appear. Select New deployment.

authorise scopes for Google Sheets teachable connector webapp new deployment

A pop-up window will appear. You shouldn’t have to make any changes here. The Description is optional, I usually put in ‘First Release’ for the first deployment.

‘Execute As’ should be set to “Me(youremail@gmail.com)”.

‘Who has access’ needs to be “Anyone”, because your Teachable account needs to access your webapp.

Select Deploy.

authorise scopes for Google Sheets teachable connector webapp new deployment screenAnother pop-up screen will appear with your webapp URL. Copy the URL and select Done.

authorise scopes for Google Sheets teachable connector webapp new deployment screen url copy

Setting up the Teachable webhook

Head over to your Teachable account and log into your school.

in the sidebar of your Dashboard, select Settings.

Google Sheets teachable connector webhook settings

Then select Webhooks.

Google Sheets teachable connector webhook webhooks

Select New Webhook

Google Sheets teachable connector webhook new webhook

Paste in the Google Apps Script webapp that you created.

Then select the New Enrollment.

Finally, click Create Webhook.

Google Sheets teachable connector webhook selections

That’s it. You’re all done.

Your webhook will remain in a pending state until a user enrols into your course.

Google Sheets teachable connector webhook pending

Testing the webhook

Either create a new student or use an existing ‘test’ student account. Make sure that they are unenrolled from one of your courses.

Go to your Teachable school and select Users > Students.

  1. Search for your test student.
  2. Check the box.
  3. Select Bulk Actions.
  4. Select Enroll in Course.

Google Sheets teachable connector testing webhook add user dialogue already have

Wait a little bit, and then head back to your Google Apps Script editor and navigate to the Executions tab.

You should see that the doPost() function ran and the status was completed.

Google Sheets teachable connector tutorial doPost test

Note! If your dummy student account is already enrolled in your course you will not receive a webhook. Teachable will not send a webhook action for something that has already occurred. Simply unenroll your dummy student and enrol them again.

What does enrollment JSON look like?

When your test doPost() function ran it would have collected the following information:

Let’s go ahead and build the propper doGet() function.

Completing the doGet() function

Once we have collected our dataContents we want to first make sure that the type property exists. If it doesn’t, it is unlikely that it is not a webhook and not one sent from Teachable. I’ve used a JavaScript Ternary operator to determine if this property exists or not. We’ll store this in our webhookType variable. Line 13

Next, we check if the type name is "Enrollment.created". If it is, then we will run our main function addUserToDriveElement() taking the dataContents object as an argument. Lines 16-18

Adding users to the Drive files and folders

We will now set up our main run function to complete our task we will call it addUserToDriveElement(). It takes our dataContents as a parameter here.

Here’s the code:

Set the variables

Our first task is to extract the student’s email, their name, course ID and course name from the dataContent.object object. You can find the path to these properties in the JSON example I shared earlier. Lines 10-13

Get the Shared Locations data

Next, we grab the current spreadsheet with the SpreadsheetApp Google Apps Script class and the getActiveSpreadsheet() method.

Remember earlier when we created our Shared Locations sheet tab that we also created a named range called ‘ShareData’. We can conveniently use the getRangeByName() method to get this range. This method takes the named range as an argument and returns the range constructor. From there we can call the getValues() method to grab all the values in each cell. Lines 16-17

Using reduce to extract course URLs

From the values that are retrieved from our ‘ShareData’ named range, we need to extract all the Google Drive files and folder URLs related to the current course that the new student has enrolled in.

Here we use the JavaScript ‘reduce’ method. This method allows us to iterate through our 2d array of ShareData and store only the URLs for our course.

For us, this function will take an accumulator parameter to store our results. We will also use the current value argument here to look at each row of data on each iteration. We will also need to set our initial value to an array so we can add our URL as an array. Lines 19-24

Giving permission

Next, we will attempt to give permissions to our selected files and folders to our newly enrolled students.

Not every student will have enrolled with a Google-friendly email so we need to send those students an email with an attached form. They fill out the form with a Google-friendly email and send it back to us to automatically share them with the course docs.

Now we don’t want just anyone to be able to fill out the form or a ‘charitable student to fill the form out multiple times for their mates. So we need to set a unique token for them.

First, we set the token variable to null, for students who have a Google-friendly email. Line 27

Next, we will attempt to share the student with our course files and folders using our givePermission() function which takes the list of courseUrls and the student’s email. If the function cannot share the student it will return true. We will store this the nonGoogleEmail variable. Line 28

Now we check if nonGoogleEmail was set to true. If it was, then we need to set a form trigger on our Google Sheet and connected Google Form ( We will create this soon).

Then we will email the student to ask them to provide a Google-friendly email with our emailStudent() function, which will return a unique token for the student. This function takes the students name, email and course name. These will be added to the student’s email. Lines 30 – 34

Finally, we need to add our new student to our Google Sheet  addStudentToSheet(email, courseID, token). This will add the student to the ‘Students’ sheet tab along with a date-time stamp.

Now that we have the main function stored out, let’s look at the connected functions.

givePermission(urls, email)

This function is called from addUserToDriveElement(dataContents) and has two parameters:

  1. URLs – an array of Google Drive files and folder URLs connected to the course.
  2. Email – a string containing the student’s email.

The function will return true if the email is a non-Gmail or non-Google Workspace domain email.

Setup for non-Google Users

First, we set a nonGoogleUser variable to false. This will only change if the email could not be shared on the files and folders.

Google Drive API permissions payload

Next, set up the permission payload. This will be sent to the files and folders to give permissions.

We are using the Google Drive advance API here rather than the Google Apps Script DriveApp. Why? Because it allows us to share users without sending them an email confirmation to inform them that they are shared. We want the sharing to be seamless and under the hood. So this is the better approach.

First, we need to connect to the Google Drive advanced service. On the right side of your Google Apps Script editor IDE select Services.

A popup dialogue will appear. Scroll through until you find the Drive API. Select it and then click Add.

Google Sheets teachable connector DriveAPI service connect

Now let’s add our permissions:

Yes, weirdly ‘value’ will equal the email. The role of ‘reader’ equates to ‘view’ access here too. Lines 12 – 16

Iterate through the URLs

We now need to iterate through each of our Google Drive files and folders URLs. We will use the JavaScript forEach method to run our execution inside an arrow function.

Converting the URLs to an ID

Unfortunately, the Drive API does not take a URL as an argument so we will have to extract the file and folder IDs from our URLs. We do this on lines 20 – 25.

First, we set an id variable to an empty string.

Next, we grab the URL of the file or folder stored in our Google Drive.

We will use the JavaScript split() method along with some regular expressions. This methods allows us to separate our string into parts based on a specified divider. For us, our divider with be a set of regular expressions.

In the first split, we want to separate the URL string by either /d/ or /folders/ these are the two primary types of URLs you will find in your Google Drive. For example:

  • https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1_wO551p6YASDFEeqziXckFBLHqFpW7rHkjF_uJ-UQBQ/edit#gid=0
  • https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1CUIsbfcVEE-fjOwYqhXITBsdf3AD3js4

In our regular expression, our backslashes need to be escaped with a forward slash. So to get:

  • /d/, we use, \/d\/
  • /folders/, we use, \/folders\/

We can have our regular expression check for either condition use the pipe ‘or’ divider |. Which will give us this regular expression:

/\/d\/|\/folders\//

This will split our string into to an array like this:

We only want the array item at [1] here. So we extract that before moving on to our next split.

.split(/\/d\/|\/folders\//)[1]

Now we want to remove any trailing data after the backslash. We do this by searching for the next backslash and splitting it and then grabbing the array item at [0].

.split(/\//, 1)[0]

This will give us our id.

Attempting to give permission to the user

We need to send our request to share the user to the Google Drive API inside a JavaScript try-catch statement. If a non-google email is shared, it will result in an error and we don’t want our script to stop.

First, we call the Google Drive API Permissions class and then use the insert method to share our students with their permissions. The insert method is going to take 3 arguments:

  1. permission – the permission payload we created above our loop.
  2. id – the ID of the file or folder.
  3. optional query parameter – This we want to NOT sent a notification email.

Resolving non-google friendly emails

If the email is not a Gmail or Google Workspace Domain email then the Drive app request will throw an error. This will be handled by the catch statement.

The catch statement will return an 'e' error event object. This will contain the ‘message’ property. If the nature of the error is that the email could not be added because it was not a Google-friendly email, the student’s email will be reported in the error message. Then we can return our catch statement with nonGoogleUser set to trueLines 38-41

We also want to make sure that any other errors that occurs are actually caught and stored so we will throw a new error with our 'e' error message.

 

Finally, we return our nonGoogleUser true or false result back to the main addUserToDriveElement().

 

Add Student To Sheet

The final task of the main function is to add the student to the ‘Students’ sheet tab.

addStudentToSheet(email, courseID, token) takes 3 parameters:

  1. email: the email of the student. Either Google-friendly or otherwise.
  2. courseID: the ID of the course.
  3. tokennull if the student has a Google-friendly email, otherwise this will be a string containing the token that the student will be sent.

First, we need to select the ‘Student’ Google Sheet tab. Line 9

Next, we will grab your locations date time stamp using the JavaScript new Date constructorLine 11

If we have a token, then we want to append our row with:

  • date timestamp
  • nothing here
  • course ID
  • non-Google friendly email
  • student token

If the student doesn’t have a token then we append the row with :

  • date time stamp
  • email
  • course ID

That’s it for sharing users to selected files and folders. Next, we will look at what to do with students with non-Google emails.

Dealing with non-Google emails

Once we have discovered that the student has a non-Google friendly email we need to send the student an email with a Google Form attached.

Before we get stuck into our code, we need to build our Form.

Connect the form to your Google Sheet Manager

In your Google Sheet Manager go to Tools > Create a new form.

Google Sheets teachable connector tutorial form new

A new window will appear with a Google Form editor. Before we work on our form, head back to your Google Sheets Manager and you will notice a 'Form Response1' sheet tab has been added to your workbook. Rename it to exactly: Access Request.

Google Sheets teachable connector tutorial form Access Request We will use this Form Sheet tab name in our code so it needs to be exact.

Creating your Google Form

Create the form

Your form should look like this:

Google Sheets teachable connector tutorial form creationSet your form title to:

Students Access For Google Drive Course Data

Next, add a short answer field and name it exactly, “Email”. We will be referencing this name in our code in a minute.

Make sure this item is set as required. 

Also select the vertical ellipsis at the bottom right and select response validation.

Set the short answer response validation to Text > Email.

Google Sheets teachable connector tutorial form creation validation

Next, go back to the three vertical ellipses in the bottom right and select Description. Enter the following description:

Please provide a Gmail or Google Workspace email to access the drive documents for the course.

Now, add another short answer item and call it exactly, Access Token. We will be using this title for the item again in our code so make it exact.

Set the item to Required and the description to:

Your exclusive access token.

Get the form Prefill URL

We want to be able to pre-fill in the student’s access token for them in the Google Form. To do this, select the vertical ellipsis in the top right of your form editor and then select Get pre-filled link.

Google Sheets teachable connector tutorial form prefill 1
Next, add something like 11111 to your Access Token item and select, Get link. A little popup will appear, select the Copy link button here.
Google Sheets teachable connector tutorial form prefill 2

Open up a text editor or something and paste in the URL. You should have something similar to this:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeOY584mfR_WOGt-Nsov2ycTypzrSXeFrlqOzocKK9Vd_HQ4Q/viewform?usp=pp_url&entry.1257072962=11111

Of course, your form ID and entry id will differ from the example above.  We will use this URL in a moment.

emailStudent()

When we discover a non-Google URL the main addUserToDriveElement() function call the emailStudent() function. This function takes 3 parameters all as strings:

  • email
  • studentName
  • courseName

Our first task is to get the form with our getFormURL() function which takes the form Sheet tab name “Access Request” as our argument. (More on this function in a moment) Line 15

Create a random-ish token.

Next, we create the unique student token that we will add to our Google Form.

Here I am lazily combining two random alphanumeric strings together to create a random number. Line 16

Setting up the email data

First, we set up our email subject. Here we use JavaScript template literals to create our string and include the course name at the end of the subject. Line 18

Next, we create the HTML for our email message to our students. First, we will add in the student’s name and course programmatically. Line 20

The most important thing to note here is the URL link ot the form. We first reference the form URL from our form variable we generated above. Next, we need to go to where we stored our prefill URL and copy this portion of it:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeOY584mfR_WOGt-Nsov2ycTypzrSXeFrlqOzocKK9Vd_HQ4Q/viewform?usp=pp_url&entry.1257072962=11111

?usp=pp_url&entry.1257072962=

Note that your entry number will change. So make sure you use your own number here.

Also, if you do wish to make a copy of this for another project, then the entry number won’t change thankfully.

Emailing the Student

Finally, we need to email the student. We will use a try-catch statement again just in case there is a weird email, but it should be okay if Teachable accepted it.

To send our email we make use of the sendEmail() method of the Google Apps Script GmailApp class.

The sendEmail() method takes the following parameters:

  • email
  • subject
  • body
  • options

We don’t put anything in the body because we want to use the htmlBody property of the options parameter.

Also, in our optional parameters, we can set noReply to true so that the user doesn’t try to reply to the email and also we can set the senders name to ‘Auto Reply’ to make it all cool and official.

If there is an error with sending the email we throw a custom error in the catch block. So we  do this at the end.

 

Finally, we return the token back to addUserToDriveElement().

getFormURL(sheetName)

This function is called from the emailStudent() function. It takes the sheet name of the Google Form sheet tab in the Google Sheets Manager. This should be, ‘Access Request’.

The published form URL is returned.

The reason we use this approach ass opposed to hard coding in the Form URL is that we might want to make a copy of our Google Sheets Manager and attached form and that means the Google Form URL will change.

First, we grab our active Spreadsheet and then get the form sheet by name and its associated form URL. Lines 8-9

We use this form URL in the Google Apps Script FormApp class with the  openByUrl() method. Next, we grab the published URL with the getPublishedUrl() method.

This is all returned back to the emailStudent() function.

setFormTrigger()

Back in the main addUserToDriveElement() function we call the setFormTrigger() if a user does not have a Google-friendly account.

We only want to set this trigger once and only if we have a user in our school who has enrolled with a non-Google friendly email.

We will store a property called, 'hasTrigger' in our Google Apps Script Properties Service. Our first task is to check if there is a property by this name and if it has been set to true. If there is no such property, it will be set to null. Lines 8-9

If there is no such property, then we want to create a trigger. Line 12

To do this we use the Google Apps Script ScriptApp class’ trigger builder. First, we set the newTrigger to call the function 'tokenSubmit'. Then we will specify that it is for the current active spreadsheet and set the rule that the trigger should occur when a form response is submitted to the Google Sheet. Lines 14-17

Then we will set our Properties Service  'hasTrigger' property to true for next time.

tokenSubmit(e)

When a student resubmits their Google-friendly email we need to first verify that there is a matching token in our ‘Students’ sheet. If there is, we need to share them on their course files and folders and add them to our ‘Students’ list.

The tokenSubmit(e) function is triggered when a student submits their form with their Google-friendly email. The onFormSubmit trigger carries an Object with the student’s Google Form input information as a parameter.

I’ve left an example in the code for you to see how it will look.

First, we grab an object of names values that should look like this (Line 17):

Next, we need to grab the range from Col A through to F of our Students sheet tab and grab the values as a 2d arrayLines 20-25

We will set a row number to the first email row under our header. We will use this to find the actual row in the Sheet where our corresponding user will be. Line 27

Find the corresponding row to the token

Next, we will use the JavaScript Find method to determine where the token is in the array if it exists.

Javascript Find MethodThis function will iterate through our 2d array trying to find the row that contains our matching access token and ensure it already has not been filled in.

Find takes a row parameter and can take an optional indexing parameter.

If row 4 (Column E) matches our Access Token from our form and row 5 (Column F – Token Submit Data) is empty then we will update the rowNum and add the new email to Column B and the current Timestamp to Column F.

Sharing the student with the course

If a matchRow exists we want to share the student with the course and record their new email.

We used the same JavaScript reduce method we used in our main run function (Yeah yeah, refactor it, Yagi!).

Then we send the results to the givePermission() function.

Finally, we get the range of the current student in our ‘Students’ sheet tab and update the row. Line 54

Redeploying  your Webapp

You now need to go back and redeploy your script for it to work with your Teachable webhook.

Before you do give your script a run. Maybe try and run the doGet() function. It will come up with an error, but it will also go through authorising all of your scopes.

Next, click the Deploy button on the top right of your Google Apps Script editor. Select, Manager Deployments.

Google Sheets teachable connector final deployment

Select the pencil icon to edit the deployment.

Then change the version to New version. 

Finally, select Deploy.

You are all done!

Conclusion

That’s it you made it through. How did you go? Any errors you had to work through?

If you are looking for a full copy of the code and the connected Sheet and Slide, to simply copy and paste in and run, plus a heap of extra bonus content you can sign up to the corresponding teachable course for a measly $2.95. Yep, less than the price of a cuppa and you would really help me out to keep this site running and making great content for you.

Instantly share ONLY Teach:able Students to selected Google Drive Files and Folders

OR…

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

I hope you found this tutorial helpful and you have been able to implement it in your own Teachable site. I would love to hear what site you used it on in the comments. Plus it is a bit of promotion for your own course!

~Yagi

Append List Items, Paragraphs and table cell items with a date-time stamp in Google Docs using Google Apps Script

Recently, I thought it would be a cool idea to add a date-time stamp to the end of a Google Doc checklist item with Google Apps Script. So I knew when I completed a task.

I often share a project Google Doc with clients and then add my tasks to the document list. With Google’s new check box list item, I wanted to add the date and time that I completed the task when I checked the box.

The bad news is that there is no onEdit() trigger (like in Google Sheets) for the DocumentApp class that would listen for an edit of the document and see a change of the checked box from unchecked to checked and then apply the date-time stamp. 😢

All good, I settled for the next best thing! A menu item.

Take a quick look at the results.

What the Date-Time Stamp Button does

The timestamp button allows you to set your cursor anywhere on a:

  • List Item
  • Paragraph
  • Table cell item
  • Header

… and then click the ‘AddDTS’ menu item. The Google Apps Script will then run the script and your custom date time stamp will be added.

The Code

Run the script

Go to Tools > Script editor to open the Google Apps Script IDE. Copy the code above and paste it into the script editor. Ctrl + s to save.

You will probably be prompted to change the title of the script. Generally, for document bound scripts it’s good practice to give the script the same or similar name as the attached document.

Close the editor and go back to your Google Doc. Refresh the page and your menu will now reload each time with your new menu item.

The first time you run the script you will get a warning to authenticate the code.

You can find out more about this here:

Running Google Apps Script for the First time. What’s with all the Warnings!

After you have run the code for the first time, you can now click the menu item and it will add the date-time stamp to where ever you have your cursor.

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? I can connect you with a trusted freelancer. I have a team of hand-picked experts ready to help.

*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

onOpen()

The onOpen() function is a Google Apps Script custom simple trigger that is run each time the Google Doc, (Slide, Form or Sheet) is opened.

For our purposes, we want to create a menu item. Menu items are part of the Google Docs user interface and also consist of dialogue boxes, sidebars, prompts and alerts. So we can use the getUi() method from the DocumentApp ClassLine 6

To build the menu item, we first call the createMenu(‘menu title’) method that takes a title as an argument and commences the build chain to develop the menu. Line 7

We can add as many sub-menu items to our main menu by using the addItem() method. For example, if you wanted to create different displays of your date-time stamp append tool you could add more here.

Each addItem() takes two arguments (Line 8):

  1. The title of the menu item: For us, this is “Add DTS”.
  2. The function to run when you click the menu item: In our case, this is “appendElement”.

Once we have added everything we wanted to our menu, we build it with the addToUi() method. Line 9

Google Docs custom menu item for appending elements using Google Apps Script

appendElement()

This is the main function that runs your date-time stamp appender.

Let’s see how it works.

Document variables

Our first task is to set up our document variables.

To get the Google Doc we are using in Google Apps Script, we call the DocumentApp class and then call the getActiveDocument() method. This will create an instance of the DocumentApp class containing all the methods that you can use to work with the document. We’ll assign this instance as ‘doc’. Line 7

Referencing our ‘doc’ instance, our next job is to get where the cursor is. We can do this with the getCursor() method. Line 8

A Google Doc is broken into elements, like paragraphs, lists, tables, pictures, headers and more. Each element can have child elements as well.

Once we have our cursor position, we can find the element that the cursor is on. This will come in handy in a moment when we append the element. Line 9

Input variables

Our next task is to add our input variables.

This is where you can start getting really creative and change what is displayed when you click the ‘Add DTS’ menu item.

In our example, we are going to add a string of text containing:

  • Today’s date.
  • Today’s time.
  • The current user’s email.

We first create a new date with JavaScript’s Date constructorLine 4

Next, let’s use the Google Apps Script Session class to grab our email. We can find the active user, a.k.a. the current user, with the getActiveUser() method that then has a child method to get the email with getEmail()Line 5

Note that all editors of your Google Doc will need to give permission for the scope that controls the Session class the first time that they click the menu button.

Now we can put our date and email together in a string. I am using template literals indicated with backticks or grave accents to store our string data because it makes it easy to insert variables into the string with the ${code} template approach.

After I indicate “Complete” at the beginning of the text string, I use the Javasript toDateString() and then toLocaleTimeString() methods on the date variable. This will provide the date and time in your local area (Or more specifically, to the date and time that you have assigned to your script). Line 6

Finally, I add my email.

You can remove any of these items that you don’t want or move them into a better order to suit your own purposes.

get element lengths

To style our appended date time stamp we will need to get the length of the element and then get the length of the element plus the newly added date-time stamp. Line 4

We then get the length of the chosen element. Line 5

We will be applying our styling to the end of the old element length through to the length of the element plus the length of the input.

Note that we will subtract 2 from this value. Why? Because if we added the value right to the end of the element and a user select the end of the element and hits ‘enter’, they will bring the formatting with them. This will make the user sad. Nobody wants a sad user. Line 6

Create text styling

There are two ways of applying styling to text elements in Google Apps Script. We could simply chain a related method like setBold(), setFontFamily() or setForegroundColor() methods to your appended text. This is an okay approach for one or two styles but will slow your code down for more. There is a better approach.

The setAttributes() allows you to set a whole bunch of styles on a particular area of text and then send them to your Google Doc in one big hit.

We will be chaining the setAttributes() method to our text append method in a moment, but first, let’s talk about how the method takes style data.

The last argument for setAttribues() is a list of attributes. These attributes are formatted in an object. Each of the objects property keys needs to come from the DocumentApp.Attribute enumerator. You can find a list of properties here:

Document App Attribute Properties

To make things easier, let’s create the attr variable and assign it to DocumentApp.Attribute. Line 4

Next, we can build our object of attributes. Lines 5-11

Note that I have used square brackets around each key to generate the property key allowing for computed property names.

Append the text and styling

Finally, we get to append the text to the chosen element.

We first grab the element and read it as a text item (Text Class). Line 4

Next, we append the inputVal text to the end of the element with the appendText() method. Line 5

Finally, we use the setAttributes() method to add our style. This method can take:

  1. A start range: {number} For us, that this is the elements original length.
  2. The end range: {number} This will be our combined length of the original element plus our appended text minus 2.
  3. The style: {Object} This is the object of style properties we created in the previous section.

Conclusion

That’s all there is to it. You can modify the style and what you write in your text to how you would like it. I would love to hear how you modified your script for your own project. It is always interesting to see.

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

Happy coding!

~Yagi