The Complete Guide to Tables in Google Sheets

In this post, we’re looking at the new, powerful Tables in Google Sheets.

Tables In Google Sheets Animation

We’ll start with the basic benefits and features of Tables. Then we’ll look at how you can work with data with Tables using the new Views feature. After that, we’ll look at how to use Tables with formulas and structured table references.

What are Tables in Google Sheets?

Tables are a new feature in Google Sheets. They make it quick and easy to apply formatting and structural rules to a plain range of data.

There are a lot of benefits to using Tables to work with data (see below). I’m excited to use Tables in my Sheets workflows, especially the new Group By views.

Why should you use Tables?

There are many benefits to using Tables, including:

  • Quick and easy to apply formatting
  • Header row is automatically locked at the top of the Table
  • Nice selection of pre-built Table templates
  • Nice selection of pre-built styles
  • Super easy to add dropdowns or smart chips to columns
  • Formulas automatically applied down whole column
  • Formatting and calculations are applied automatically to new rows
  • Super easy access to filter and group by views
  • Some folks will love the Structured Table formula referencing
  • Built-in data validation with the column datatypes

When should you not use Tables?

Like any spreadsheet technique, Tables won’t be the best choice for every situation:

  • Tables might be confusing to people who are unfamiliar with them
  • They introduce additional complexity and clutter to Sheets that you might not want
  • The structured Table reference formulas can be confusing to the uninitiated
  • They work best with uniform underlying data. If your data has blank rows, subtotals, etc. then Tables may not interpret it correctly
  • It’s sometimes not possible to convert large, complex datasets into Tables

Tables Basics

Pre-Built Tables

Currently, when we open a new Google Sheet, we’re prompted to create a new Table with the Pre-Built Tables sidebar:

Pre-Built Tables in Google Sheets

Using this, we can insert a pre-built table with a single click.

I doubt this will always open by default. It’s a deliberate choice to expose more people to Tables since they’re a new feature.

I see this being very helpful for people earlier in their Sheets journey. It showcases some of the best features — dropdowns, smart chips, etc. — that many folks don’t know about.

Access the Pre-Built Tables sidebar from the menu: Insert > Tables

Insert Tables in Google Sheets

How to create Tables in Google Sheets

Now, suppose we already have this dataset in our Sheet:

Data in Google Sheets

Click on any cell in a dataset and convert it to a Table via this menu:

Format > Convert to table

Format menu in Google Sheets

The new Table looks like this:

Tables in Google Sheets

Now we can enjoy all the benefits of Tables that we mentioned above!

The main Table Menu

Table Menu in Google Sheets

Click on the down arrow next to the Table name in the top left corner of the Table to open the Table menu.

From this menu, we can rename the Table, change the formatting, apply custom formats, or even delete the Table.

Be warned: Deleting the Table also deletes the underlying dataset. Use the “Revert to unformatted data” if you want to return to your base data.

The Column Menu

Column Menu in Tables feature of Google Sheets

Click on the down arrow next to each column heading to open the Column Menu for that column.

Here, we can set the datatype for the column (i.e. is it text? A number? A smart chip?). This is a powerful setting so worth taking time to get to know.

For example, we can set a column to dropdown type and it will convert the entire column in a single click.

Dropdown option in Google Sheets Tables

We can also filter and group by columns, which we discuss below.

And, there’s an easy way to add or remove columns from this column menu.

Data Analysis Tools Within Tables

One of the main benefits to using Tables with our datasets is the built-in data analysis tools that we get.

Built-in Data Validation

Setting column types can feel like an additional burden, but there are benefits.

One of the main benefits is the automatic data validation it provides.

Here’s how it works.

Suppose we set our column to be a Currency type column. This is shown by a small icon next to the column name (the first red arrow).

Then along comes a colleague who enters a new row. But they accidentally type a name (or other word) into that number column.

The Table will add a red warning flag and error message to indicate invalid data in that column:

Data validation in Tables in Google Sheets

Table Views Menu

The Table Views menu is accessed from the Table icon next to the Table name, in the top left of the Table:

Table Views Menu in Google Sheets

Opening the Table view menu lets us create Group By or Filter Views, or access previously built views.

Group By Views

The new Group By View aggregates data into categories based on a selected column.

For example, we could group our data by property type with Group By View so that we can see all the groups together:

Group By Views in Google Sheets Tables

(One feature that is lacking with Group By Views is subtotal values for these groups. Fingers crossed we’ll get this in the future.)

Group By views can be created from either the Table View menu or from the selected Column menu.

To save a View (Group By or Filter) click on the “Save view” button:

Save View in Google Sheets Tables

Give the view a name in the subsequent popup:

Name this view in Google Sheets Tables

Now, this view will always be accessible from the main Table Views menu:

Group By View in Tables menu

To close a view and return to the main Table view, press the “x” button on the right side of the green view bar between the formula bar and the Sheet.

Close button for Table view

Tables Filters

Filters are a HUGELY useful tool for exploring our data. They let us select subsets of data to review, based on categories (e.g. all the records for Client A) or conditions (e.g. all values over $100).

But many people aren’t aware they exist or forget to use them.

With Tables, they are applied automatically so that we can start using them immediately.

Access the Filter options inside the Column menu.

Tables Filter Views

Suppose we create a specific filter (all transactions with Client A over $100 in value) that we want to review over and over. Or share easily with colleagues.

We can create a Filter view and save this particular set of filter conditions to return to in the future.

Formulas In Tables

If you add a formula to the first row of a Table, you’re prompted to fill the entire column with Suggested Autofill:

Autofill Column in Table Google Sheets

(Note: This is the same behavior as regular non-Table formatted data.)

Table Reference Syntax

Table References are a special way to access data inside a Table. Instead of A1-style cell references, we can use the Table name and Column headings in our formulas.

Let’s use this simple Table to illustrate the Table Referencing syntax:

Tables in Google Sheets

I’ve named this Table Properties.

(Note: Table names can only contain letters and numbers and can’t start with a digit or have a space.)

Here’s how the Table Referencing works:

  1. Properties[#All] –> entire Table AND column headers
  2. Properties –> gets Table data only, NO column headers
  3. Properties[Column Name] –> gets data in named column only

(Note: column heading names CAN contain spaces, but must be unique within that Table.)

It’s easier to understand visually and I’ve added formulas to show how they work:

Table References in Google Sheets

If you’re familiar with ​Named Ranges​, then you’ll feel right at home using Table referencing.

(Note: you can still access cells inside Tables using regular cell references, e.g. =A1.)

Benefits of using Table References

There are a number of benefits to using Table References over standard A1-style cell references:

  • The formulas automatically update to include any new rows of data added to the Table
  • If you create, rename, insert, or delete columns in a Table, any Table References in formulas will automatically update too
  • Easier to create than regular cell references. It’s easier to type “Properties[Value]” than e.g. “Sheet6!B2:B6”
  • When you start typing a Table or Column name, the auto-complete box will show any Table References that you can quickly click

Using Table References in Formulas

Now we understand structured table references, let’s see them in action with a practical example.

Let’s say we have a Table of real estate transactions. We call it RealEstate2024 (remember, no spaces allowed in Table names).

Now suppose we want to lookup a client name from that Table to retrieve transaction details.

To do that, we’ll use an ​XLOOKUP formula​.

With our search term in cell G2 and using Table References, our formula is:

=XLOOKUP( G2 , RealEstate2024[Client] , RealEstate2024[Sales price] )

RealEstate2024[Client] refers to the “Client” column inside the “RealEstate2024” Table. Similarly, RealEstate2024[Sales price] refers to the “Sales price” column inside that same table.

In our Sheet, it might look like this:

Table References in Google Sheets

And here’s the equivalent A1-style formula:

=XLOOKUP( G2 , 'Copy of Sheet4'!D2:D21 , 'Copy of Sheet4'!E2:E21 )

The Table Reference version is definitely cleaner and easier to understand.

Plus, any new rows of data added to the Table will be automatically included by the formula. Whereas, with the A1-style formula, we’ll need to remember to update the range references.

Now, I’m not about to tell you that you can throw away your A1-style referencing!

Tables References are super useful and worth using if you have your data in a Table. However, A1-style references are more flexible and still necessary for more complex formulas.

Further Resoures

Tables Documentation from Google

Filtering With Dates In The QUERY Function

Filtering with dates in the Query function in Google Sheets can be tricky.

In a nutshell, the problem occurs because dates in Google Sheets are actually stored as serial numbers, but the Query function requires a date as a string literal in the format yyyy-mm-dd, otherwise it can’t perform the comparison filter.

This post explores this issue in more detail and shows you how to filter with dates correctly in your Query formulas.

The Problem with Dates in the QUERY Function

Suppose you have a dataset of Space Shuttle launches from the first launch in 1981 through to the final launch in 2011. You want to filter the data to look only at the subset from the year 2000 onwards.

Query function with date filter

To begin, you might try the following syntax:

=QUERY(Data!$A$1:$H$136,"select C, B where B > '1/1/2000'",1)

Unfortunately, the output of such a query is blank:

Incorrect dates in the Query formula

If instead we remove the single quotes from around the date and try again, we get a #VALUE! error because the Query formula can’t perform the comparison:

Incorrect dates in the Query function

Alas, what are we to do!

Neither of these “standard” formats work, because the dates are not in the correct format for the Query function.

Correct Syntax for Dates in the QUERY Function

Per the Query Language documentation, we need to include the date keyword and ensure that the date is in the format yyyy-mm-dd to use a date as a filter in the WHERE clause of our Query function.

Putting aside the Query function for a moment, let’s consider that "select..." string.

The new syntax we want will look like this:

date_column > date '2000-01-01'

Our challenge is to create a text formula to create this syntax for us, inside our query function.

Dealing with the text function first, starting with our required date of 1/1/2000 and working outwards:

First, we convert it to a serial number format with the DATEVALUE() wrapper:

=DATEVALUE("1/1/2000")

The output of this formula is a number:

36526

Then the TEXT() function converts it to the required format for the Query formula by specifying a format of "yyyy-mm-dd":

=TEXT(DATEVALUE("1/1/2000"),"yyyy-mm-dd")

The output of this formula is a date in the desired format:

2000-01-01

Next we add single quotes around the new date format, with the "'" syntax. Finally, we insert the word date into the query string, to give:

="select C, B where B > date '"&TEXT(DATEVALUE("1/1/2000"),"yyyy-mm-dd")&"'"

which gives or desired output:

select C, B where B > date '2000-01-01'

That’s the syntax challenge done!

We can now plop that string into the middle argument of our Query function as per usual, and it’ll do the trick for us.

In this case, I was using a table of Space Shuttle mission data from Wikipedia, which contains a column of launch dates.

I used the IMPORTHTML() function to import that table into my Google Sheet, into a tab called Data in the range A1:H136. There’s a link to this dataset and worksheet at the end of the post.

This Query formula returns all of the Space Shuttle missions after 1 January 2000:

=QUERY(Data!$A$1:$H$136,"select C, B where B > date '"&TEXT(DATEVALUE("1/1/2000"),"yyyy-mm-dd")&"'",1)

The output of our formula is now returning the correct, filtered data:

Correct syntax to use dates in the query function

Referencing a Date in a Cell

The formula is actually simpler in this case, as we don’t need the DATEVALUE function. Assuming we have a date in cell A1 that we want to use in our filter, then the formula becomes:

=QUERY(Data!$A$1:$H$136,"select C, B where B > date '"&TEXT(A1,"yyyy-mm-dd")&"'",1)

Example Showing Filter Between Two Dates

Again, it’s relatively simple to extend our formula by adding a second date clause after the AND keyword:

=QUERY(Data!$A$1:$H$136,"select C, B where B > date '"&TEXT(A1,"yyyy-mm-dd")&"' and B <= date '"&TEXT(B1,"yyyy-mm-dd")&"'",1)

Today’s Date as a Filter

Substitute the TODAY() function into our formula:

=QUERY(Data!$A$1:$H$136,"select C, B where B > date '"&TEXT(TODAY(),"yyyy-mm-dd")&"'",1)

Template

🔗 Click here to open a view-only copy >>

Feel free to make a copy: File > Make a copy…

If you can’t access the template, it might be because of your organization’s Google Workspace settings.

In this case, right-click the link to open it in an Incognito window to view it.

When Your Formula Doesn’t Work: Formula Parse Errors in Google Sheets

Whether you’re just starting out with Google Sheets or are a seasoned pro, sooner or later one of your formulas will give you a formula parse error message rather than the result you want.

It can be frustrating, especially if it’s a longer formula where the formula parse error may not be obvious.

In this post, I’ll explain what a Google Sheets formula parse error is, how to identify what’s causing the problem, and how to fix it.

Continue reading When Your Formula Doesn’t Work: Formula Parse Errors in Google Sheets

Build Numbered Lists With The Amazing SEQUENCE Function

The SEQUENCE function is a useful function in Google Sheets. It’s a powerful way to generate numbered lists.

SEQUENCE Function Syntax

=SEQUENCE(rows, columns, start, step)

As arguments for the SEQUENCE function, you specify 1) the number of rows, 2) the number of columns, 3) a start value, and 4) a step size.

Arguments 2, 3, and 4 are optional. However, if you want to set them you need to include the previous ones (e.g. if you want to set a step size in argument 4, then you need to set 1, 2, and 3 as well).

Keep this order in mind as you look through the examples below and you’ll soon understand how the function works.

1. Ascending list of numbers

=SEQUENCE(5)

=SEQUENCE(5)

Continue reading Build Numbered Lists With The Amazing SEQUENCE Function

How I Used Google Forms, AI, and Apps Script Automation to Analyze 1,700 Survey Responses

This post describes how I designed and ran an audience survey with over 1,700 responses, using Google Forms, Sheets, Apps Script, and ChatGPT. I’ll show you the entire process from end-to-end, including how I:

  1. Created a survey with Google Forms
  2. Used Apps Script to automatically say thank you to 1,700 respondents
  3. Analyzed the response data in Google Sheets
  4. Used AI to help me understand the qualitative data
  5. Presented the results in Google Docs

This flowchart shows how the system is set up:

Survey Flow Chart
Continue reading How I Used Google Forms, AI, and Apps Script Automation to Analyze 1,700 Survey Responses