Getting Started with Google Sheets

Learn how to create a new Google Sheet to get started with this free cloud-based spreadsheet program.

Introduction

Google Sheets allows you to organize, edit, and analyze different types of information using spreadsheets. In this lesson, you'll learn about the different ways you might use spreadsheets and how to navigate the Google Sheets interface. You'll also learn the basic ways to work with cells and cell content, including how to select cells, insert content, and copy and paste cells.

All about Google Sheets

Google Sheets is a web-based spreadsheet application that allows you to store and organize different types of information, much like Microsoft Excel. While Google Sheets does not offer all of Excel's advanced features, it's easy to create and edit spreadsheets ranging from the simple to the complex.

While you might think spreadsheets are only used by certain people to process complicated numbers and data, they can actually be used for a variety of everyday tasks. Whether you're starting a budget, planning a garden, or creating an invoice or just about anything else you can think of, spreadsheets are a great way to organize information.

Review the slideshow below to learn some of the other ways you might use spreadsheets.

To create a new Google spreadsheet:

  1. While viewing your Google Drive, click New and select Google Sheets from the drop-down menu.
    Creating a new spreadsheet
  2. The spreadsheet will appear in a new browser tab.
    The new spreadsheet
  3. To name your spreadsheet, locate and select Untitled spreadsheet at the top of the page. Type a name for your spreadsheet, then press Enter on your keyboard.
    Renaming a new spreadsheet
  4. Your spreadsheet will be renamed.
    The renamed spreadsheet
  5. Whenever you need to view or edit your spreadsheet, you can access it again from your Google Drive, where it will be saved automatically.
    The newly created file in your Google Drive

You may notice that there is no save button. This is because Google Drive uses autosave, which automatically and immediately saves your files as you edit them.

The auto-save feature

The Google Sheets interface

In order to use and edit spreadsheets, you will need to become familiar with the Google Sheets interface.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn more about the Google Sheets interface.

edit hotspotsInteractive for Google Sheets interface

Cell basics

Every spreadsheet is made up of thousands of rectangles, which are called cells. A cell is the intersection of a row and a column. Columns are identified by letters (A, B, C), while rows are identified by numbers (1, 2, 3).

Cell C10

Each cell has its own name—or cell address—based on its column and row. In this example, the selected cell intersects column C and row 10, so the cell address is C10. Note that a cell's column and row headings become darker when the cell is selected.

You can also select multiple cells at the same time. A group of cells is known as a cell range. Rather than a single cell address, you'll refer to a cell range using the cell address of the first and last cells in the cell range, separated by a colon. For example, a cell range that included cells A1, A2, A3, A4, and A5 would be written as A1:A5.

In the images below, two different cell ranges are selected:

Understanding cell content

Any information you enter into a spreadsheet will be stored in a cell. Each cell can contain several different types of content, including text, formatting, formulas, and functions.

To select cells:

To input or edit cell content, you'll first need to select the cell.

  1. Click a cell to select it.
  2. A blue box will appear around the selected cell.
    Selecting a single cell

You can also select cells using the arrow keys on your keyboard.

To select a cell range:

Sometimes you may want to select a larger group of cells, or cell range.

  1. Click and drag the mouse until all of the cells you want to select are highlighted.
  2. Release the mouse to select the desired cell range.
    Clicking and dragging to select multiple cells

To insert cell content:

  1. Select the desired cell.
    Selecting a cell
  2. Type content into the selected cell, then press Enter. The content will appear in the cell and the formula bar. You can also input content into and edit cell content in the formula bar.
    The new cell content

To delete cell content:

  1. Select the cell you want to delete.
  2. Press the Delete or Backspace key on your keyboard. The cell's contents will be deleted.
    Deleting a cell's content

To copy and paste cells:

It's easy to copy content that is already entered into your spreadsheet and paste this content to other cells.

  1. Select the cells you want to copy.
  2. Press Ctrl+C (Windows) or Command+C (Mac) on your keyboard to copy the cells.
    Selecting the cell to copy
  3. Select the cell or cells where you want to paste the cells. The copied cells will now have a box around them.
    Choosing the destination for the copied cell
  4. Press Ctrl+V (Windows) or Command+V (Mac) on your keyboard to paste the cells.
    The copied and pasted cell content

To cut and paste cells:

Unlike copying and pasting—which duplicates cell content—cutting and pasting moves content between cells.

  1. Select the cells you want to cut.
    Selecting the cell to cut
  2. Press Ctrl+X (Windows) or Command+X (Mac) on your keyboard to cut the cells. The cell content will remain in its original location until the cells are pasted.
  3. Select the cell or cells where you want to paste the cells.
    Choosing the destination for the cut cell
  4. Press Ctrl+V (Windows) or Command+V (Mac) on your keyboard to paste the cells.
    The cut and pasted cell content

There may be times when you want to copy and paste only certain parts of a cell's content. In these cases, you can use the Paste Special option. Click Edit in the toolbar menu, hover the mouse over Paste Special, and select your desired paste option from the drop-down menu.

Accessing the Paste Special option

To drag and drop cells:

Rather than cutting and pasting, you can drag and drop cells to move their contents.

  1. Select a cell, then hover the mouse over an outside edge of the blue box. The cursor will turn into a hand icon.
    Selecting a cell to drag and drop
  2. Click and drag the cell to its desired location.
    Clicking and dragging a cell
  3. Release the mouse to drop the cell.
    The dropped cell

To use the fill handle:

There may be times when you want to copy the content of one cell to several other cells in your spreadsheet. You could copy and paste the content into each cell, but this method would be time consuming. Instead, you can use the fill handle to quickly copy and paste content from one cell to any other cells in the same row or column.

  1. Select the cell you want to use. A small square—known as the fill handle—will appear in the bottom-right corner of the cell.
  2. Hover the mouse over the fill handle. The cursor will change to a black cross.
    Selecting the fill handle
  3. Click and drag the fill handle over the cells you want to fill. A dotted black line will appear around the cells that will be filled.
    Filling cells with the fill handle
  4. Release the mouse to fill the selected cells.
    The filled cells

Using the fill handle to continue a series

The fill handle can also be used to continue a series. Whenever the content of a row or column follows a sequential order—like numbers (1, 2, 3) or days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday)—the fill handle will guess what should come next in the series. In our example below, the fill handle is used to extend a series of dates in a column.

Using the fill handle to extend a series


The extended series

Challenge!

  1. Open Google Sheets and create a new blank spreadsheet.
  2. Change the spreadsheet title from Untitled Spreadsheet to Practice Spreadsheet.
  3. In cell A1, type the date using the format M/D/YY (for example, 5/30/17).
  4. Use the fill handle to place dates in cells A1:A10.
  5. Use drag and drop to move the dates to cells B1:B10.
  6. Delete the content in cell B5.
  7. When you're finished, your spreadsheet should look something like this:
    Getting Started Challenge Example