Skip to main content

I Want To Improve My Spreadsheet


I often get people coming to visit me who have a spreadsheet they want to get more from. They either want to automate certain tasks, or create new sheets with aggregated data or share data with colleagues in new ways. The hope is that with a little bit of code, new vistas will open up.

Often the data is in a spreadsheet, it isn't clean enough to do anything useful with. If code is to stand a chance at making a spreadsheet more useful, then the data itself needs to be "code ready".

Below is an actual spreadsheet brought to me, with number of areas for that needed data cleaning.




As we worked together, we realised, a healthy spreadsheet isn't just about making sure your data is logical, there are also other factors that contribute to how easy your data will be to work with.

  • Use formulas well - A few easy to learn formulas can significantly ramp up what you can do quickly with data. It is worth investing even just a few minutes learning new formulas and what they can do for you.
  • Prevent errors - Make sure you validate data where you can, and help people not to make your data grubby.
  • Improve the interface - With Google Spreadsheets you can add menus, actions and buttons and even sidebars that can turn a spreadsheet chore into a breeze.
  • Use the charts and visualisations - Getting more out of your data can be as easy as creating a well designed dashboard using Google Spreadsheet's inbuilt charts.

Here is my list of suggestions for how to make this spreadsheet's data "code ready" in a Google Doc.

There are heaps of short videos on Google Gooru's YouTube page. In minutes you can be learning new features and taming those scary spreadsheets.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Inserting A Google Doc link into a Google Spreadsheet

This article looks at using Apps Script to add new features to a Google Spreadsheet.

At the University of York, various people have been using Google spreadsheets to collect together various project related information. We've found that when collecting lots of different collaborative information from lots of different people that a spreadsheet can work much better than a regular Google Form.

Spreadsheets can be better than Forms for data collection because:

The spreadsheet data saves as you are editing.If you want to fill in half the data and come back later, your data will still be there.The data in a spreadsheet is versioned, so you can see who added what and when and undo it if necessaryThe commenting features are brilliant - especially the "Resolve" button in comments.
One feature we needed was to be able to "attach" Google Docs to certain cells in a spreadsheet. It's easy to just paste in a URL into a spreadsheet cell, but they can often all look too si…

Writing a Simple QR Code Stock Control Spreadsheet

At Theatre, Film & TV they have lots of equipment they loan to students, cameras, microphone, tripod etc. Keeping track of what goes out and what comes back is a difficult job. I have seen a few other departments struggling with the similar "equipment inventory" problems.

A solution I have prototyped uses QR codes, a Google Spreadsheet and a small web application written in Apps Script. The idea is, that each piece of equipment ( or maybe collection of items ) has a QR code on it. Using a standard and free smartphone application to read QR codes, the technician swipes the item and is shown a screen that lets them either check the item out or return it.

The QR app looks like this.



The spreadsheet contains a list of cameras. It has links to images and uses Google Visualisation tools to generate its QR codes. The spreadsheet looks like this.


The Web Application The web application, which only checks items in or out and should be used on a phone in conjunction with a QR cod…

Getting CSV data into Google Spreadsheets Automatically

Today I was attempting to get CSV data from Estates' Alarm System into Google Docs as a spreadsheet. There were two ways to try and achieve this...


Create an AppScript in Google that pulled a .CSV file from a web serverWrite a (python) script on the local machine that pushed the data into Google Spreadsheet by using the API. The Google AppScript Way As you know, my JavaScript ain't great, but it initially looked like it was going to work... Some code like this below and using the Array to CSV functions from here, looked promising.



function encode_utf8( s ){
//This is the code that "I think" turns the UTF16 LE into standard stuff....
return unescape( encodeURIComponent( s ));
}

function get_csv(){
var url ='http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~admn812/alarms.csv.Active BA Alarms.csv';// Change this to the URL of your file
var response = UrlFetchApp.fetch(url);
// If there's an error in the response code, maybe tell someone
//MailApp.sendEmail("s.brown@york.ac.uk&qu…