Last week, I was challenged to a breakfast duel by my partner’s rising high school sophomore students. Not one to back down, I spent the morning flipping omelettes and crushing the competition.
In my imagination, all of this happened mid-picturesque-triple-flip-omelette toss (in reality, it wasn’t nearly so glamorous), but the school IT coordinator (and loyal TDAA reader!) came by to talk smack about a potential future Excel competition. None of the students around the table had heard of Excel, but they use Google Sheets every day in math class.
I think Data Wonks like to get up on our high horse about how Excel is the bee’s knees – but guess what? It’s expensive, inaccessible, and lots of people are making the switch to cloud-based spreadsheets and doing all kinds of awesome number crunching there. It’s time to face the music – GoogleSheets is here to stay. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s not such a bad thing! In this post: 4 Google Sheets-only operations! The next time someone condescendingly makes a comment about GS, send them my way.
Email bouncebacks are no fun
How many times have you, as a changemaker, sent out an email blast only to get bounce-backs that could have been prevented? No, I’m not talking about email addresses no longer in use, or away messages. I’m talking about emails missing @domain.com, or with a comma instead of a period. Google Sheets has an “IS EMAIL” function that will return “true” or “false” depending on whether or not the email is valid. Check out this documentation from the Google Team or a nice tutorial here. Excel? No such luck.
It’s all Greek to me
LADIES, GENTLEMEN AND GENDER REVOLUTIONARIES— YOU CAN TRANSLATE TEXT IN GOOGLE SHEETS!! I just learned this factoid when I was researching for this post and I can’t wait for the next time someone condescendingly explains why Excel is better when GoogleSheets can do IN-LINE translating. (Sorry Mom, I know you’re not a fan of Google Translate, but this is pretty awesome!). I would say this is more of an intermediate/advanced function, but if you have a use case for it, I can always help you figure it out! Check out instructions here.
Lock and key
Most of you are already well-versed in Google Collaboration tools (sharing, commenting, suggesting, features in the Google Suite) – but this one was new to me and perhaps also new to you.
You can restrict editing in certain cells, columns, sheets, (etc) by PERSON you have shared the Google Sheets workbook with! In Excel, there are lots of ways to do what is called a ‘Protected Range’ (ie preventing users from saving over important information), but the only way to extend that functionality to individual people would be to use passwords and tell each user different passwords to access the restricted cells.
Check out this sweet video tutorial about assigning different columns in a Google Sheets workbook to different people for data entry!
Version 9.8 FINAL REALLY FINAL THIS TIME
I am guessing that you’re reading this in the quiet of your own home (or… commute home?) so you won’t be embarrassed by publicly admitting that every time you “Save As” in Excel and end up with a different version, it gets more and more confusing for you, your collaborators, future-you, future-collaborators, and your IT administrator. We need to stop this!!!
Luckily, Google Docs has a built in feature that let’s you save versions without having to “Save-As.” Trust me, it’s awesome! Gdocs automatically tracks changes, but sometimes you want to crystallize a set of changes as a complete draft, keep working on it, and then go back and compare. This would be really hard to do if you “Saved a Copy” each time and had to manage permissions with your collaborators. Click File > Version History > See Version History to see edits. Then, select “Name Version History” to hold on to what you’ve got as a complete draft … or at least a step along the way.
Last but not least
Don’t let anyone hoodwink you into think you’re using the wrong tools if they are helping you get the job done and you are doing your best! We’re all learning and improving all the time. If GoogleSheets is available and working for you, then by all means, go for it!! And if you hit a “gotcha,” need more/different functionality, or otherwise get stuck, lots of us are here to help. Most importantly, keep up the great work!