Wonder Tools - Boosting Google Sheets

Simple ways to do more with spreadsheets

Welcome! I’m Jeremy Caplan. This is my weekly 💌 post on useful digital tools.

Spreadsheets are great for organizing info into neat little boxes. Excel made this popular in the 📊 business world. Google Sheets then brought sheets to the non-finance masses.

I use sheets for organizing lists of people, topics and grades, as well as managing budgets, ideas and plans. Some of these have numbers, others don’t.

GSheets is free and works on any device. Now you can do more with sheets by adding on extras, like toppings on a spreadsheet sundae.🍨🍦

Adding apps to your spreadsheets: Sheets Add-Ons

One of the things I love about Google Sheets are the add-ons that let you do more with your data. There are hundreds of these free little apps you can add to your Sheets account. Then use them when you need them.

Some let you add visuals, set you up a mail merge, visualize your Google Analytics or print labels from your spreadsheet. Others, for teachers, help with grading and managing student work.

Some add-ons, like Flaticon’s, work across Google Sheets, Docs, Slides and Forms so you can add color and flair to your work. Most add-ons are free and easy to use and work across any browser.

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How to use add-ons

Once you find one you like, just click to install it as an add-on to your Google Sheets account. Then anytime you’re using Sheets you can go to the Add-ons menu and select the little app you want to use. 

The sheets add-on I use more than any other is Save As Doc. It converts any Google Sheet into a Google Doc for readability. If you’ve ever tried reading lots of text in a spreadsheet, you’ll understand why it’s so useful to be able to quickly generate a readable Google Doc right from a spreadsheet.

You can even choose the font size and whether to each row of your spreadsheet should start on a separate page of your doc. It’s free.

Find useful sheets


An excellent source of great public Google Sheets. It also hosts great docs and slides. One I found there lists lots of organizations that help teach girls to code. Another is Bellingcat’s online journalism investigation toolkit.


Explore interesting public spreadsheets. Here’s a founder salary calculator, for example, to see how startup founders can figure out what salary they deserve. And here’s a finance and banking salary list I found there, with more than 150 anonymized salaries.


This collection of templates includes invoices, budgeting spreadsheets, wedding planning and various others.


This Google Sheets add-on has lots of free templates, including calendars and financial calculators.

Google has also strengthened its own spreadsheet template collection. You’ll see that when you log into sheets.google.com with your Google account.

The daily schedule template, for example, is simple and useful. Just set the starting date at the top of the sheet and then use the sheet to track your time or plan out your day. I find it a useful time tracker to let me see where my time is going. You can also use Laura Vanderkam’s free time tracking sheet, which works with Google Sheets or Excel, or on paper if you print out a PDF. 


Get help with Sheets and ideas for using it

  • Here’s Google’s own quick cheat-sheet for Google Sheets.

  • Zapier offers the Ultimate Guide to Google Sheets for free here.

  • YouTube is chock full of good Google Sheets tutorials. Here’s a channel.

  • Here’s a post I like about how Google Sheets improves upon Excel.

  • Check out Reddit for groups devoted to Google Sheets, like this one or this. A good spot to ask experts for help with something specific.

  • Good ol’ Quora has an interesting channel about Sheets, though like many old corners of Quora, it’s dominated by old posts.

  • Coursera has a free course about Google Sheets.

Beyond Sheets

  • Once you have info in a Google Sheet, you can turn it into a simple free app with Glide, which I wrote about here.

  • When I want to customize how I present structured info, I like using Airtable, which takes spreadsheets a step further. I wrote about Airtable in this post, with examples of how I use it.

  • I use Notion for creating docs blended with tables, something GSheets can’t do. I wrote about how I use Notion here.

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P.S. Develop your own new project in 2021 🎈

If you’re creating your own newsletter, niche site or local news site, podcast, etc… apply to be part of the upcoming 100-day online Journalism Creators Program I direct at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. It’s part-time, with two live sessions a week along with asynchronous elements like short videos, readings, activities and more. Find out more here and complete the short application.
Deadline: January 24 — this Sunday.

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