What is Google Sheets?
Google Sheets is a spreadsheet tool for the web. It is designed to be a free alternative to Microsoft Excel and allows for spreadsheet data to be created and edited online.
Google Sheets was developed with organizations that value workflow flexibility in mind. Its cloud infrastructure means that employees can work with a file on any device, anywhere. Google Sheets is compatible with third-party systems, including Microsoft Office, so data can be processed from many sources.
Google Sheets supports file collaboration and includes a chat feature on the document page for asking and answering questions. The user sees real-time updates and is notified when changes have been made by another user. All that is needed for this is access to the table and an assigned role for the recipient (reader, commentator, or editor).
All changes made in the table are saved automatically every second. If a user makes a mistake, then it can be corrected by reverting back to the desired version.
Google Sheets enables users to create various lists, perform calculations, use tables as a database, and make charts and graphs from tables. Spreadsheets support formulas to help users perform calculations significantly faster.
Google Sheets includes the following features:
- Backward compatibility with Excel spreadsheets for importing and exporting
- File version viewing
- Filters and formulas
- Notifications of changes
- Diagrams and graphics
- Corporate-level data protection
- Application of Artificial Intelligence
- A collection of templates
- The ability to use additional apps
- Works on a variety of devices
What makes Google Sheets different from Excel?
- Google Sheets allows for the importation of tables, numbers, and other data from multiple sources at once. Unlike Excel, the imported document retains its original appearance and functions.
- Google Sheets works in the cloud, so data and changes are saved automatically. With Excel, there is always a risk of data loss, such as during a power outage or computer crash.
- To transfer a document to another user, sending a link is all that is required. Google is streamlining spreadsheet collaboration so that team members don’t have to worry about importing, downloading, and converting a document. With Excel spreadsheets, more time has to be spent transferring the document.
- Excel has a wider range of features, but Google Sheets developers are working on bringing their product’s functionality closer to that of Microsoft’s spreadsheets.
- Unlike Excel, Google Sheets is entirely free to use
Automation with Google Sheets
Google Sheets, along with Google Docs, Gmail, and Google Forms, are part of the Google Workspace package and support workflow automation. Automation helps to significantly accelerate and simplify employees’ work within a company.
Depending on how complex the automated workflow is, there are two possible paths to take:
- Use an Add-On. The easiest way to create workflows is to use a specific add-on. There are hundreds of automation add-ons available from the Google Web Store. Some of them are free, but there are paid ones as well (either a one-time payment or monthly fee).
- Use Apps Script. If you want to create a completely custom automation for free, you can use Apps Script, a developer framework created by Google to enable anyone to create add-ons for Google Workspace apps. Despite plenty of tutorials for this framework, setting up even a simple automation with code can be quite time consuming.
The most popular add-ons from the Google Store:
- SheetGo - An add-on for combining data from several tables into one. Prices start at $12 per user per month.
- Form Workflow Plus - An add-on that links Google Forms to spreadsheets to route approval requests automatically. Form Workflow Plus also supports multi-step approval routing, making it useful for more complex workflows like order routing.
- Yet Another Mail Merge (free to use) - An add-on that links Gmail and Google Sheets for email marketing. Emails can be sent to any contacts listed in the spreadsheet. The user can also track opened emails, clicks, and responses directly in the spreadsheet. The add-on allows for an unlimited number of tables for different campaigns. It is also very easy to get contact information from CRM, Google Forms, or existing spreadsheets to create marketing campaigns.
- ProjectSheet - Automatically tracks a project’s progress and helps identify problems, including when the project is behind schedule. The add-on automatically highlights the progress bar for each milestone based on whether subtasks are in progress, approaching their deadlines, or past due.
- AppSheet (from $5 per user per month) - An add-on for creating a basic mobile app right in Google Sheets. Any data can be added to a table with this app: from products to create a mobile online store to employees’ contact information to set up an internal directory. The add-on integrates seamlessly with other automated Google Workspace workflows. Users can set up AppSheet to launch automatic emails based on triggers in the app, or add data that users enter into another spreadsheet. AppSheet can also send automated reports that can easily be imported into Google Sheets.
Disadvantages of Google Sheets
- Knowledge of formulas is required, otherwise it will be difficult to work with large sets of data (for example, when accounting).
- No design element (but there are extensions for it).
- No traditional Helpdesk.
- Tables can run slowly with large data sets, especially on a weak computer.
- A limited number of features in the initial phase.