Google Sheets

Google Sheets - Features, Pricing, Alternatives, and More

Vicky Volvovski
Written by Vicky VolvovskiLast updated March 22, 2018

Before we had spreadsheet software, people spent hours calculating budgets or their company’s future earnings on paper. If they wanted to change a single number, they’d better have a big eraser. This, of course, was extremely manual and error-prone. In 1979, the first spreadsheet software was born. Then came Microsoft Excel, which became the gold standard in business tools. In 2007, Google launched Sheets and brought the spreadsheet into our browsers.

You can, of course, use Sheets for traditional number-crunching. If you’re trying to figure out the budget for your upcoming family vacation, Sheets will do the job. But it can also do so much more, like create beautiful and informative charts and graphs automatically, organize information captured in forms, or act as a CRM for your business.

If you’re familiar with Excel, you’ll understand Sheets quickly. The app uses much of the same terminology (cells, columns, rows, ranges, and so on), and also supports formulas. Google Sheets Formulas can be used to calculate numbers, manipulate data, and more. Want to know the average amount you’ve spent on groceries over the past three years? Use the AVERAGE function to find the answer quickly. Or maybe you’ve got one spreadsheet with product price and another spreadsheet with product inventory levels—you need to combine the two datasets based on a key identifier like product name, and don’t want to waste time looking up, copying, and pasting the information. You can use the VLOOKUP function to find information in one spreadsheet and put it in the right row in another.

In addition to the standard formulas, Sheets also has many unique functions that leverage Google’s other tools and only work because it's an online spreadsheet app. For example, you can use the GOOGLETRANSLATE function to translate text from one language to another. Or IMPORTFEED to import an RSS or ATOM feed right into your spreadsheet.

Or, you can let Google Sheets make sense of your data for you. Open the Explore tab in the lower right corner to see answers Google Sheets has found from your data and suggested graphs it thinks organize the data well. Make sure it's comparing the correct values—but often, the graphs and tips it recommends can be a helpful way to learn from your spreadsheet info.

If you need something beyond the available functions, you can use the Google Apps Script to build custom macros, or “add-ons,” that do whatever you want. With a little JavaScript, your add-on can highlight or automatically delete duplicate rows in a spreadsheet (all done within Sheets) or it can add contacts from a sheet to Google Contacts (creating automation between multiple Google Apps). Once you've built your add-on, you can publish it to the Google Sheets add-on store—or, check it first, as there may already be an add-on with the feature you want.

Perhaps Sheets' best feature is that it’s online—you don’t need to download any software to use it. All the data in your spreadsheets is saved automatically, so you never lose changes. You can download spreadsheets in Excel or PDF formats before shipping it to someone else. You can even download a Chrome add-on to open, edit, and save Excel files without needing to do any conversion. It also has apps for iOS and Android, so you can get work done anywhere.

If you need to collaborate or share information with a family member or coworker, all you need is their email. You can give view-only or editing permissions to your collaborators, and see their updates and changes in real time—no more sending documents back and forth and losing the most up-to-date version. You can even make a publish spreadsheet to let anyone help. When working on a spreadsheet together, you can add comments to specific cells or chat right within the document. All communication stays in the spreadsheet and never gets lost. Google Sheets saves every version of every change made so you can undo edits or archive versions of your document to see how things changed over time.

If you’re looking for a more productive way to crunch numbers, manipulate data, visualize information in charts and graphs, and efficiently collaborate with others, Sheets will work for you. It's a new take on the original spreadsheet that can help you work from anywhere, faster.

Learn more about Google Sheets with our guides to Google Sheets' advanced features:

Originally published November 9, 2015; updated March 22, 2018 with new screenshots and features including Explore pane.

Have any feedback on this overview, or something we should change? Let us know!

Google Sheets Features

  • Create and edit spreadsheets online
  • Add charts and graphs to visualize data
  • Build formulas to calculate numbers and manipulate data, or custom macros with Google Apps Script for additional functionality
  • Import and export spreadsheets in standard Office formats
  • Live co-edit spreadsheets with collaborators
  • Get auto-suggested insights into data with Explore pane
  • Save revisions of files to roll back earlier changes and keep track of previous versions
  • iOS and Android apps available

Google Sheets Pricing

  • Free for 15GB of storage and all features
  • from $1.99/month for 100GB Google Drive storage
  • from $5/month per user G Suite Basic plan for custom domain, 30GB storage, and company-wide document administration

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