It has been a while since I wrote the other parts of this series but there have been some significant updates in the GSuite. Check out the other posts in the series to see how we demystify other tools in the Google for Education suite. In this post, we will look at the spreadsheet application, Google Sheets. Remember, data keeps us better informed but we must relate it to pedagogy and learning for it to be meaningful!
Google Sheets: The Data-Cruncher
This brilliant Getting Started with Google Sheets article with walk-throughs and step-by-step instructions is definitely worth looking at it if you are new to spreadsheets. They used to be called data tables (and some old folks still use this term - sorry if I just called you old!) but if you are in any management position, it won't be long before you will need to organise data in a way that shows results, analyses trends, is presentable in graph format and works out long calculations that it would take too long to work out individually.
For those of you who are spreadsheet ninjas, here I am suggesting a few things that make Google Sheets my data-cruncher of choice.
This tool within a few GSuite apps now was one of my wow moments at one of the first Google training events I went to a few years back. The eternally youthful Oli Trussell showcased how data could be manipulated and analysed through this simple click of a button. This function will suggest formatting edits, provide suggested charts and analysis and even allow you to ask questions of the data without having to understand the complicated formula that seems ever so elusive!
If you want to see some analysis on just a section of your data, you can highlight that area before you click 'Explore' and it will just focus on this area (or you could use the whole sheet if you'd prefer).
The Google support forum gives three examples that showcase how useful this questioning function might be:
"Which person has the top score?" (where "person" and "score" are in your spreadsheet)
"Total sales in September 2016" (where "sales" and a "date" column are in your spreadsheet)
“What's the sum of price by salesperson?" (where “price” and “salesperson” are in your spreadsheet)
These are typical questions you might want to know but don't know how to write the COUNTIF or COUNTA formulae it would require. Another lovely bit of machine learning from the Googlers!
As discussed a few times already on the blog, Add-Ons are niftly little bits of code that add some functionality to an application. Downloadable from the App Store, they just allow you to do extra tasks that aren't contained within the app itself. Every Thomas, Richard and Harold gives their Top (insert number) Google Sheets Add-Ons so I have placed links to a few below - you should definitely look at them if you use Sheets a lot. My personal favourites are Flubaroo and Autocrat but check out some other suggestions on these posts:
Collaboration (filter views)
One of the biggest benefits of using the GSuite tools is its collaborative nature - lots of people can be working on it simultaneously. Whilst this functionality is brilliant for most types of documents, in spreadsheets this can be frustrating, especially when someone is applying filters to sort columns or find specific information. To combat this issue, Google created a 'Filter View' option that allows you to create a view whilst you are filtering certain parts of the data
Again, Google's support forum suggests reasons why Filter Views might be useful:
You want to save multiple views.
You want to name your view.
You want others to be able to view the data differently. Since filter views need to be turned on by each person viewing a spreadsheet, each person can view a different filter view at the same time.
You want to share different filters with people. You can send different filter view links to different people so everyone will see the most relevant information for them.
You want to make a copy or create another view with similar rules.
You don't have edit access to a spreadsheet and still want to filter or sort. In this case, a temporary filter view will be created.
In the video below, it shows you how to use this function.
For many of the more technical users of Excel, the lack of support for macros in Sheets was a huge issue. No longer is this a problem! A macro is essentially a shortcut that when clicked performs a number of keystrokes or clicks in a series in order to shorten the amount of time needed - it is a perfect time-saver if you find yourself completing the same tasks repeatedly. Some macros are extremely complex but they don't have to be. In fact, the video below shows normal repetitive tasks being made easier with Google Sheets macros.
I hope this post helps convince even the most advanced data nerds that Google Sheets, although not perfect, is very, very close!