Get to know Google Workspace

Google Sheets cheat sheet: How to get started

How to use Google Sheets to create, work with, and collaborate on spreadsheets.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

Share a spreadsheet

When you’re viewing your spreadsheet in Google Sheets, click the green Share button at the upper-right.

Or, from your Google Drive homepage, click to highlight the spreadsheet that you want to share. Then, toward the upper right of the page, click the Share icon (a headshot silhouette with “+”).

Through either method, the “Share with people and groups” panel will open.

google sheets cheat sheet 16 share privately IDG

Setting permissions for a file being shared privately. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Share a spreadsheet privately

In the entry box, enter the email addresses (or names of your Google Contacts) of the people with whom you want to share. You can also type a brief message to them. By default, the people you invite to your spreadsheet can edit it and reshare it with others.

To change access permissions for invitees: Click Editor to the right of the entry box and choose another option from the drop-down menu. Commentor means they can view your spreadsheet and add comments but can’t change it. Viewer means they can view your spreadsheet but can’t edit it or add comments. This setting applies to everyone you’re currently inviting to the document.

To prevent your spreadsheet from being reshared, downloaded, or printed: Click the gear icon at the upper-right of this panel. On the smaller panel that opens, uncheck the boxes by “Editors can change permissions and share” and “Viewers and commenters can see the option to download, print, and copy.”

When you’re done setting permissions, click Send, and everyone you’ve added will receive an email with a link they can click to access the document.

To limit or change a person’s access to your spreadsheet: Click the Share button to bring up the “Share with people and groups” panel again. It shows a list of all the people you’ve invited, along with their permission status.  Click the down arrow to the right of a person’s name, change their permission level or remove their access entirely, and click Save.

google sheets cheat sheet 17 sharing permissions IDG

You can change permissions for people you’ve shared a spreadsheet with on an individual basis. (Click image to enlarge it.)

If you have a Google Workspace subscription, another option here is to select Give temporary access and, next to “Access expires,” select a date within one year of the current date. If you set an expiration date for a person that you’ve assigned as “Editor,” their access will be downgraded to “Commenter” on the expiration date.

Note: A spreadsheet you’ve shared (or that others have shared with you) will have an icon of two silhouetted heads next to it in the spreadsheet list on your Google Sheets and Google Drive home pages.

google sheets cheat sheet 18 shared icon IDG

Shared spreadsheets show a “shared” icon in file listings.

Share a spreadsheet publicly

At the bottom of the “Share with people and groups” panel is a “Get link” area where you can copy the link to the document. By default, this link is restricted to those you invite to the document. To change it to a public link, click Change to anyone with the link. A link to your document will be generated.

Click Copy link and the link will be copied to your PC’s clipboard. You can then share this link by pasting it into a chat message, document, email, forum post, or most other means of online written communication. Anyone who clicks this link will be able to view your spreadsheet online. (Be aware that anyone can copy and reshare the link.)

google sheets cheat sheet 19 sharing publicly IDG

Generating a public link to a spreadsheet. (Click image to enlarge it.)

To allow anyone in the public to comment on or edit your spreadsheet: At the bottom right of the “Get link” area, click Viewer and select Commenter or Editor from the drop-down menu. Then click the blue Done button. Now the web link to your spreadsheet will let anyone who clicks it add a comment to your spreadsheet or edit it.

To turn off public sharing for your spreadsheet: Bring up the “Share with people and groups” panel again. On the lower-left corner, click Change. Then on the expanded “Get link” panel, click Anyone with the link, select Restricted, and click the Done button.

Note: You can apply both public and private sharing methods to your spreadsheet. For example, you could allow the public to only view your spreadsheet, but allow specific people that you’ve invited to comment on or edit it.

Collaborate on a spreadsheet

The people you’ve shared a spreadsheet with can view or work on it at the same time as you or at other times. Remember that people who have Editor privileges to your spreadsheet can change all aspects of it. Having multiple people making changes to a spreadsheet can get confusing. In most cases, setting everyone to Commenter is the best way to collaborate in Sheets. People can attach comments to specific cells, but their comments won’t interfere with your spreadsheet’s data.

To add a comment: Click inside a cell and, from the toolbar above your spreadsheet, click the Insert comment icon (the speech balloon with a + toward the right end of the toolbar).

google sheets cheat sheet 20 insert comment button IDG

Click this button to insert a comment.

A blank comment card with your name on it opens by the cell. On this card’s entry line, type a brief comment, and when you’re finished, click the Comment button.

google sheets cheat sheet 21 add comment IDG

Typing a new comment. (Click image to enlarge it.)

To draw someone’s attention to a comment: As you’re composing the comment, type the @ symbol and begin typing their name, then select the person from the list of suggested Google contacts that appears. They’ll receive an email notifying them of the comment and linking to it.

To read and reply to a comment: A cell that contains a comment is denoted by a tiny triangle at its upper-right corner. To read it, move the pointer over the cell; the commenter’s name and their comment will appear next to it.

To reply, click the card or cell. The card will expand to reveal an entry line where you can add a comment in response. Click Reply when you’re done. The comment card will now show the original comment and all replies to it.

google sheets cheat sheet 22 respond to comment IDG

Reading and responding to a comment. (Click image to enlarge it.)

To edit, delete, or resolve a comment: Clicking the green checkmark marks this comment card as “resolved” and removes the card from the main spreadsheet. Clicking the three-dot icon at the upper right corner of a comment opens a menu that lets you edit, delete, or get a link to your comment.

To see a list of all comments: Click the Open comment history icon (the speech balloon) at the upper right of the Sheets window, next to the “Share” button. A sidebar will open along the right side of the screen; it lists all the comment cards in your spreadsheet. When you click a comment on this list, the view of your spreadsheet in the main window will jump to the cell where the comment is located and open its comment card. You can reply to the comment in the Comments sidebar or in the comment card on the main spreadsheet.

google sheets cheat sheet 23 comments pane IDG

The Comments pane lets you quickly review all comments and jump to specific ones. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Resolved comments appear at the bottom of the Comments sidebar. Replying to a resolved discussion reopens it and restores it to the spreadsheet.

For more details about collaborating on your spreadsheet, including what it’s like to collaborate in real time, see “How to collaborate on a document” in our Google Drive guide.

Add contacts to your spreadsheet

You can insert into a cell a mini profile card of a person in your Google contacts. Typing the @ symbol inside a cell will open a panel that lists a few suggested people in your contacts. Or, you can type the person’s name or their email address to pull them up from your contacts. Click the person’s name and it’ll be inserted into the cell.

(If you try to add someone doesn’t have access to the sheet, you’ll be notified and walked through the steps of inviting them.)

This is handy in scenarios where a particular person is in charge of one of the items being tracked in the spreadsheet, for example. When you hover the pointer over the cell with their name, a mini profile card for them will pop up. On it, you can click links to email this person, start a chat message or video call with them, or add them to an event on your calendar.

google sheets cheat sheet 24 mini profile IDG

Mini profile cards provide quick ways to contact someone right from a spreadsheet. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Present your spreadsheet in Google Meet

One way to solicit feedback on a spreadsheet is to present it during a Google Meet meeting. Toward the upper right of the screen, click the icon of a box with an up arrow inside it. From the panel that opens, click to enter a meeting that’s scheduled on your Google calendar today, or type/paste in the web link or code that you have for another meeting.

For more details about using Google Meet, including collaborating with it, see our Google Meet cheat sheet.

Recover older versions of a spreadsheet

Mistakes happen, and you may want to undo changes to a spreadsheet. Fortunately, Google periodically saves backups of your spreadsheet, making it easy to revert to an earlier version.

Click File > Version history > See version history. This opens a panel on the right that shows a list of older versions of your spreadsheet.

To view an earlier version of your spreadsheet: Click the date for it in the list. That version of the spreadsheet will then appear in the main window.

google sheets cheat sheet 25 version history IDG

Viewing an earlier version of a spreadsheet with Version history. (Click image to enlarge it.)

To restore an earlier version so it replaces your current spreadsheet: Click the green Restore this version button at the top of the screen. The restored version will then appear at the top of the version history list.

To give an older version a unique name: Click on its date. You’ll be prompted to type in words to replace the date. (The date and time will then appear in smaller size underneath the new name.)

Download and export a spreadsheet

Google Sheets lets you download spreadsheets for use elsewhere. On the top menu, select File > Download as and choose a file format. You can save your spreadsheet to your PC as an Excel (.xlsx) file or in one of five other formats, such as .csv or PDF.

google sheets cheat sheet 26 download sheet IDG

Downloading a spreadsheet. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Use the Google Sheets mobile app

With the exception of the Version history tool, the Google Sheets app (available for Android, iPhone, and iPad) has many of the same features described in this guide. You’re unlikely to want to do any heavy spreadsheet editing on a phone screen, but the mobile app is handy for making quick edits, as well as sharing and commenting on sheets.

Toolbars along the top and bottom of the screen let you add comments and new sheets to your spreadsheet. Tapping a cell brings up new top and bottom toolbars. The functions on these toolbars let you add columns or rows next to the cell, or edit the formula or text inside it.

Click the three-dot icon at the far right of the top toolbar to use the Explore tool or to share your spreadsheet with others. (See “Sharing a document from the Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides mobile apps” in our Google Drive guide.)

google sheets cheat sheet 27 sheets android app IDG

Two views of the Google Sheets Android app. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Use keyboard shortcuts

Save time in Sheets by using keyboard shortcuts for common tasks. Below are some of the most useful to know. For more, select Help > Keyboard shortcuts from the top menu when you have a spreadsheet open or press Ctrl + / (Windows, Chrome OS) or ⌘ + / (macOS).

Handy Google Sheets keyboard shortcuts

This article was originally published in August 2019 and updated in March 2022.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon