by Clifford Colby / June 08, 2018
Part of the Google Docs collection of free editors and services, Google Sheets lets manage everyday spreadsheets tasks.
Sheets is free to use: Like Gmail, Google Calendar, and the other Google Docs editors -- the Google Sheets spreadsheet app is free to use across browsers -- including Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox -- and via the Sheets app on Android and iPhone.
What you'd expect in a spreadsheet: With Sheets, you can add rows, columns, and cells -- and hide or delete them. You can move rows and columns and helpfully freeze rows and columns to keep them in the same place as you scroll through the file. You can format numbers, dates, and currencies and create custom formatting if you don't see what you are looking for. Many of the functions you'd use in Excel are in Sheets, and you can create formulas as well. Of course, Sheets comes with keyboard shortcuts, and you can create macros to automate repetitive tasks.
Charts and graphs: You can build a chart based on selected cells. Sheets offers a collection of chart and graph types to use, including line and combo charts; area charts; column charts; and bar, pie, scatter, and geo charts. You can change axes, series, customize the look of your chart, and add labels.
Explore panel: Tap the Explore button in the bottom-right corner to have Sheets make suggestions about how to format and analyze your data and display it in charts. Explore may display some suggested questions you can explore with your data, and you can ask questions as well in the question field at the top of the Explore pane.
Work in the cloud: Google keeps all your Sheets spreadsheets in Drive storage, and all your changes to Sheets are automatically saved to the cloud.
With a Google account, you get 15GB of cloud storage that is shared with your Gmail and Google Photos files and everything else you've uploaded to Drive. If need more room, you can get 100GB of space for $19.99 per year or 1TB for $99.99 per year. And if you really need room to breathe, pay $199.99 a month for 20TB of cloud storage.
As everything is saved in the cloud, you need to be connected to Google's cloud to access your files. A Google Docs Chrome extension lets you work offline when you're not connected.
Easy to collaborate with colleagues: Share a spreadsheet with others by tapping the Share button in the top-right corner of the window and then adding collaborators by name or email address. You can also create a shareable link to send out. Sheets gives you control over who can edit, comment, or just view the spreadsheet and if they can download, print, copy, or share it. Collaborators can add comments to a file and address comments made by others. You can view collaborator edits in real time and chat with others working on a file in a message window.
If you want to view your edits or the changes your colleagues have made to a file, select File > Version history to view earlier versions of the spreadsheet. You can also restore an earlier version if you want to revert something.
Complementary apps: Along with Sheets, Google has a handful of free productivity apps you can use in conjunction with the spreadsheet tool, including Docs, for creating and editing text documents; Slides, for building and displaying slide presentations; Keep, an easy and quick app for taking notes, creating lists, making drawings and voice recordings, and storing images; Drawings, a diagramming tool that comes with flowchart symbols and other shapes to help you create and edit drawings, flowcharts, and diagrams; and Forms, for creating surveys and quizzes with responses collected in Sheets.
Compatible with Excel files: You can import Microsoft Excel data sets and convert them to Google Sheets. With Office Compatibility Mode (OCM), you can work on Excel files in native formats, and you can save and export files in Excel formats.
Templates: Google offers about two dozen spreadsheet templates you can use to get a running start when you create your document. Templates include to-do lists, budgets, calendars, schedules, travel planners, wedding planners, team rosters, invoices, weeks timesheets, purchase invoices, and expense reports. You can also use third-party templates for website traffic reports, Gantt charts, project tracking, and more.
Add-ons: Through third-party add-ons, you can extend the functionality of Sheets. Add-ons range from mail merge and statistics packages to cell and format management. You can also create custom items -- including menus, dialogs, and sidebars -- with Google's Apps Script. And if one of the built-in functions isn't doing what you want, you can use Google Apps Script to write a custom function and then use it like one of the built-in ones.
A workplace suite: For a business version of Google's Docs editors, the company has G Suite, which includes Gmail, Docs editors, Drive, and Calendar reworked for business. In addition to the Docs editors, G Suite provides business-level security and administration tools and the Hangouts Meet app to make video calls with up to 25 people inside and outside an organization. Pricing starts at $5 per person.
Lacks higher-end tools: Google Sheets offers everything most people will want for spreadsheets. If, however, you need to work with large amounts of data, require sophisticated functions, or love VBA, Google Sheets is going to fall short and you'd want to stick with Microsoft Excel.
Privacy concerns: Google relies in part on a user's settings and web-browsing history to serve ads. While you have control over what you share with Google through your user settings, the company monetizes your Google-related activities.
With Google Sheets, you can create, edit, and format spreadsheets and handle common spreadsheet tasks. Unless you need industrial-strength number-crunching, Sheets should meet your needs.