How Does Google Sheets Work?

Google Sheets is one of the productivity applications that’s included with free consumer Gmail and with Google Workspace [for business].

Sheets is a cloud-based spreadsheet application. No desktop software is needed to create and edit spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are stored in the cloud, on a virtual drive called Google Drive.

Google Sheets can be used for everything from basic calculations to sophisticated data analysis.

Google Sheets has most of the functionality of a traditional “rows & columns” desktop spreadsheet application.

The fact that it’s cloud-based means more capabilities, including sharing, collaboration, data exchange with other applications, and publishing data visualizations in other Google apps and on websites.

So, how does Google Sheets work? Here are some of its capabilities.


There are a number of business and personal templates in Google Sheets that provide just a few examples of how Sheets can be used.

A template created by accounting vendor Xero could be used by a sole proprietor to track and report on revenue and expenses. You can view a copy of this template even if you don’t have a Google account (we’ve shared one publically).

Google Sheets Work Templates


Google Sheets includes over 400 functions. A simple and commonly used function is SUM, which “returns the sum of a series of numbers and/or cells.”

A less commonly used function, and one that only a statistician can love, is GAMMA.DIST, which “calculates the gamma distribution, a two-parameter continuous probability distribution.”

Functions are arranged in the following categories:

  • Array
  • Database
  • Date
  • Engineering
  • Filter
  • Financial
  • Google
  • Info
  • Logical
  • Lookup
  • Math
  • Operator
  • Parser
  • Statistical
  • Text

There’s something for everyone, whether a user is in engineering, finance, marketing, sales, operations, or management.

Large language models like Google Bard and ChatGPT can help with creating formulas based on functions.

Pivot Tables and Charts

Pivot tables can be used to summarize data that has repeating parameters.

For the functions listed above, we did the following:

  • Copied the list of functions from the table on the Google page
  • Pasted them into a Google Sheet (view the sheet in a new tab)
  • Pivoted on the Function name
  • Created a pivot chart
  • Published and embed the “live” chart below

Smart Chips

Different from text links, Smart Chips stand out visually on a Sheet. They display a card on hover. Smart Chips that can be inserted into a Sheet’s cells include

  • Place
  • Document
  • Person
  • Event
  • Finance
  • YouTube

Google Sheets Add-ons

There are many add-ons for Google Sheets, some of which allow for pulling in data from other sources such as Google Search Console and CRM systems.


As with Google Docs, Google Sheets can be selectively shared with anyone within an organization or anyone outside an organization who has a Google account. Once a spreadsheet is shared, there are a number of collaboration options.

A Google Sheets sheet can be downloaded in a variety of formats, including

  • Microsoft Excel (.xlsx)
  • OpenDocument format (.ods)
  • PDF (.pdf)
  • Comma-separated values (.csv)
  • Tab-separated values (.tsv)

Google Sheets cell ranges and charts can be embedded in Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Sites.

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