Google Sheets Tutorial: Everything You Need to Know

Winona Rajamohan
July 12, 2023
min read
September 19, 2023
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Use Google Sheets like a pro with this comprehensive tutorial. We'll show you everything you need to know, from formulas to templates to automation.
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The biggest competitor to business software is, more often than not, a simple spreadsheet. 

Microsoft Excel was the pioneer of a spreadsheet program that can be easily formatted and customized with a minimal learning curve. It has approximately 750 million users today. 

But, like the passage of time, our expectations for data management and organization have changed. This doesn’t make spreadsheets obsolete. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. 

Spreadsheets today are faster and easier to use, and they facilitate more functions, more collaboration and more integrations with innovative tools. This is exactly why Google Sheets has taken the world by storm. 

If you’re equipped with enough knowledge and insight into time-saving productivity hacks, you can turn this simple tool into a Swiss army knife for all sorts of business functions. We’re here to make that happen for you with this tutorial. 

TL;DR: Google Sheets tutorial

  • Google Sheets is a cloud-based tool that allows real-time collaboration and offers advanced functions for data analysis and organization.
  • It is widely used in businesses for budgeting, financial analysis, and project management.
  • Google Sheets is also popular in education for data analysis, project management, and grading.
  • To get started with Google Sheets, create a new spreadsheet and familiarize yourself with columns, rows, toolbar, and menu bar.
  • Boost your Google Sheets workflow with keyboard shortcuts, conditional formatting, add-ons, templates, automation, and the "Explore" function.

Why is Google Sheets still so important? 

Google Sheets About Page: Make data-driven decisions in Google Sheets
(Source: Google)

‎With the introduction of Google Sheets, the spreadsheet has become a cloud-based tool that teams can collaborate on in real time. The tool is optimized for web and mobile browsers, making it even more accessible for people working with different devices. 

Google Sheets constantly evolves its advanced functions so users can have a more user-friendly experience as they:

  • Analyzing and organize data into interesting new formats.
  • Build robust databases.
  • Perform complex calculations.

This makes it a tool of choice for both advanced and everyday use cases. Organizations, small groups and everyday users all lean on Google Sheets to declutter information—and introduce some sanity into a very busy schedule. 

Businesses use Google Sheets to save time when conducting processes like: 

  • Creating budgets, managing and tracking expenses, performing financial analysis and forecasting using Google Sheets’ wide range of formulas.
  • Manipulating and analyzing data to identify patterns, generate reports and accelerate data-driven decision-making. 
  • Organizing and managing projects by documenting different aspects of the project planning process, like creating timelines, monitoring task progress and tracking expenses. 

Google Sheets is also a staple in the world of education. Students and teachers see big benefits in using spreadsheets to: 

  • Help students use advanced formulas and functions to collect and analyze data with deeper precision and present them in a readable format to teachers and peers. 
  • Simplify project management for groups or classrooms by streamlining process documentation like timelines, resource or inventory management, progress trackers and budgets.  
  • Accelerate grading processes for teachers by centralizing student scores and making it easier to calculate averages, spot patterns in student performance and build reports. 

How to get started with Google Sheets 

You don’t need to run an external program on your computer, so getting up and running with Google Sheets is easy. Log in to Google Drive on your web browser or download the Google Sheets app and explore the next few steps: 

Step 1: Create a new spreadsheet

If you’re on a computer, you can create a new Google Sheet by navigating to your Google Drive home. Click on the “New” button and select “Google Sheets” to create a blank spreadsheet or use one of Google’s pre-built templates. You can do the same via the Google Sheets app on your phone. 

Once you’ve opened up a new document, familiarize yourself with the following elements: 

  • Columns and rows: No explanation is needed here! This is the canvas where all the magic happens. 
  • A toolbar: You’ll use the toolbar to access common spreadsheet features like data formatting options, functions, charts filters and more. 
  • A menu bar: In the menu bar, you’ll find more use case-specific features that are just as useful to get to know. This includes advanced formulas, the ability to add charts and add-ons. 

This Scribe gives you a quick walkthrough:

Step 2: Make your data look good with formatting & styling

Formatting and styling options deliver more than just aesthetic value; they significantly impact the readability and effectiveness of your Google Sheet.

Formatting options help you keep your document organized—the same way headings and paragraphs provide structure to Word documents!

Select a cell or a range of cells and use the formatting options in the toolbar to modify how your document looks. For example, you can format a Google Sheet according to your organization’s branding by changing fonts and colors. You can also draw an individual’s attention to certain data sets by experimenting with options like text styles, cell borders and background colors. 

Step 3: Put your data to work with formulas

Google Sheets gives users a wide range of built-in formulas and functions to act on data in different ways. You can use these pre-built settings across all sorts of use cases, from conducting a comprehensive sales analysis to analyzing survey responses and planning events. 

In this Scribe, you’ll see an example of how to add a formula.

Formulas remove the manual work of having to calculate values cell by cell. With the right formula, you can set calculations up across a range of cells and maintain the accuracy of your end results even when data in those cells change. Examples of simple formulas include the SUM, AVERAGE and COUNTIF.

With advanced functions, you can manipulate data in different ways to accelerate formatting and automate actions. Here are a few examples: 

  • VLOOKUP: Search for a specified value in vertical ranges or tables. 
  • HLOOKUP: Search for a specified value in horizontal ranges or tables. 
  • TOCOL: Transform a range into a single column. 
  • TOROW: Transform a range into a single row. 
  • MATCH: Search for a value in a range of cells and get the relative position of that value. 
  • QUERY: Manipulate data from a range or table using SQL-like syntax.

8 Useful tips to boost your Google Sheets workflow

Google Sheets may be an easy program to use and get started with, but efficiency is a must for maximizing it to its full potential. If you’re funneling large volumes of data into your spreadsheets, manual calculations and data manipulation can be extremely tedious—or even impossible. 

Thankfully, there are many hacks to speed up your workflow and increase the accuracy of your work.

Use keyboard shortcuts 

Keyboard shortcuts can save you the hassle of scrolling through your spreadsheet to hunt down actions in your toolbar and work one cell at a time.

You’d be surprised at just how much time you can save with the instantaneousness of keyboard shortcuts. You’re essentially condensing a series of scrolls and mouse hovers into a click or two. Popular shortcuts include: 

  • F4: Repeat the last action. 
  • Ctrl + Shift + ; (or Command + Shift + ; for Mac): Insert current time.
  • Ctrl + ; (or Command + ; for Mac): Insert current date.
  • Control + ALT + M (or Command + Option + M for Mac): Insert or edit a comment.
  • Shift + F11: Add a new sheet.
  • Ctrl + Home (or Command + Home for Mac): Move to the beginning of the sheet.
  • Ctrl + End (or Command + End for Mac): Move to the last cell of the sheet that contains data.
  • Ctrl + S (or Command + S for Mac): Save the current spreadsheet.
  • Ctrl + F  (or Command + F for Mac): Find values.
  • Ctrl + H (or Command + Shift + F for Mac): Find and replace values.

Highlight important data with conditional formatting

With conditional formatting, you can apply formatting rules to a range of cells that meet specific criteria.

You can define conditional formatting rules to automatically surface format changes, including font colors, background colors or cell borders.

This lets you highlight data patterns in raw numbers, identify errors or assess data quality. Examples of conditional formatting formulas include: 

  • =A1<0: Highlighting negative numbers
  • =A1>10: Highlight values greater than a number
  • =A1<10: Highlight values less than a number
  • =AND(A1>10, A1<20): Highlight values between a range of numbers
  • =COUNTIF($A$1:$A$10, A1)>1: Highlight duplicates

See how it's done in this Scribe:

Use add-ons to add more Google functionalities 

You can use any of the hundreds of Google Sheet add-ons to customize your workflow and amp up productivity. These Google Sheet extensions are created by third-party developers, opening up the doors to more unique solutions for even the most niche use cases and needs.

With the right add-on, you can turn yourself into a spreadsheets master (nobody has to know 😉). Here are a few interesting add-ons you can check out: 

  • Causal: Run simulations by exploring scenarios within your spreadsheet. 
  • Wolfram|Alpha for Sheets: Search for calculations about anything you want and sort the data into a spreadsheet.
  • Export data from different tools at regular intervals.
  • Google Analytics: Pull data from Google Analytics into your spreadsheet. 
  • Power Tools: All-in-one tool to clean and format your spreadsheet.

Take advantage of templates to save time building sheets

Building customized spreadsheets from scratch can be a huge time sucker. Factor in the idea of repeating this process across a variety of use cases, and you’ll find yourself rushing through your work and compromising quality.

Pre-built templates give you a starting point.

If you can see an example right in front of you, you’ll have a much better idea of how you want to prioritize your data. You can browse Google’s template library or visit websites like Goodocs to access free templates for all sorts of applications.

Keep your data organized without manual cleanups

A clean and organized Google Sheet will make your work infinitely easier.

You’ll do yourself a huge favor by finding ways to streamline and accelerate your data cleanup processes. Better yet, approach each Google Sheet with the goal of having no manual cleanup processes at all.

You can use keyboard shortcuts, add-ons, conditional formatting and formulas to organize a range of data at the same time.

Automate repeatable Google Sheet actions

Use Google Sheets Macros to create no-code automation within your spreadsheet. Many of us know what it's like to repeat an action in our spreadsheets over and over again—formatting, formulas, you name it.

With macros, you can record your workflow and hit a button to redo that recorded process when you need it.

Centralize data by linking spreadsheets to each other

If you work with a lot of data sets and often find yourself jumping from one sheet to another to get numbers in sync, then this tip is for you. Maximize the IMPORTRANGE function by pulling live data from one spreadsheet into another.

Use a formula consisting of the function, your spreadsheet URL and the cell ranges you want to import. Paste this formula where you want your live data to appear, and you’re all done!

Formula: =IMPORTRANGE ("URL, "Sheet1!A1:A10")

💡Scribe Tip: Keep the structure of your columns and rows consistent for the smoothest data integration!

Use the "Explore" function

At the bottom right corner of your sheet, you’ll see a little Explore button that packs a big punch.

‎Use this feature to power your work with instant calculations and data analysis on your spreadsheet.

With Explore, you can ask questions about your data to get instant calculations or pattern recognition. You can also create data visualizations, pull reference data from the internet or create summaries of your findings. It’s a virtual assistant that makes it even easier for you to make the most of spreadsheets even if you have limited expertise in them. 

5 Google Sheets templates you can start using today

What better way to put the tips we’ve shared to work than with a template you can use right now? Here are five templates that you can download for a few different applications. Remember, this is just a foundation to kickstart your document, so get creative with it! Use these as inspiration to build your next go-to spreadsheet.

  1. Inventory tracking: Use this template to consistently and regularly manage inventory
  2. Issue tracking: Use this template to log, categorize and track customer or employee issues.
  3. Annual profit and loss statement: This template will document your cash flow and organize data for simpler calculations. 
  4. Google Sheets flowchart: Google Sheets doesn’t have the option to embed pre-built flowcharts, but you can use this template to start with one created with the Draw function. 
  5. Event budget spreadsheet: Use this template to log and track budgets and expenses for all kinds of events. 

Google Sheets tutorials you need right now

You may have already noticed that becoming a pro at Google Sheets can take a little bit of work. But fear not; you have the internet at your disposal to provide all sorts of free tutorials and guidance.

We’re sharing some of our favorites: 

1. Scribe 

What you get: Scribe does things a little differently because tutorials are created by users like you! The best tips you can get are from people out there who are in spreadsheets every day and are consistently learning something new.

With Scribe, users can capture their productivity hacks by recording their workflows and automatically turning them into step-by-step tutorials in a matter of seconds. 

Scribe’s tutorial gallery has all sorts of cool Google Sheets tips you can apply today. Because it’s simple to create these tutorials, we encourage you and your team to build a gallery of your own and share it with our community!

Psstt...the tutorial below was created in just nine seconds! 🤯 

Why users love it: People love using Scribe to create, share and learn from tutorials because of how concise and visually driven it is.

You don’t have to worry about capturing and formatting screenshots or over-explaining workflows without visual guidance. 

‎2. Ben Collins
Ben Collins Weekly Google Sheets Tips home page
(Source: Ben Collins)

What you get: Free articles and tips via a blog, online courses and a weekly newsletter (with 50,000 subscribers!) about using Google Sheets for data analysis and automation. Here is Ben’s Beginner’s Guide to using Google Sheets

Why users love it: Readers and course participants love how detailed these tutorials are in explaining complex data management tricks and showcasing real-world case studies. 

3. Spreadsheet Daddy

What you get: A comprehensive list of free Google Sheets tutorials covering everything from basic formatting to advanced data visualizations and templates. 

Why users love it: Users enjoy the simplicity of Spreadsheet Daddy's content, which makes it easy to follow along. All these resources are completely free, so you won’t hit a paywall that restricts you from maximizing the tutorials on the site. 

Become a Google Sheets expert with Scribe

Now that we've walked you through this Google Sheets tutorial, you can access Scribe's engaging visuals and videos on how to create, format and analyze data in Google Sheets.

Scribe, the AI writing assistant powered by ChatGPT, provides a comprehensive visual step-by-step guide to using Google Sheets effectively.


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Click here to see Scribe in action and start streamlining your work process with Google Sheets today!

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