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

left, right, find, length

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

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

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

First Names

To get the first name we do the following: 

=LEFT(A2,FIND(” “,A2))

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

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

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

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

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

=FIND(” “,A2)

Which would give the result: 6

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

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

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

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

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

LEFT(A2,6)

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

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