In our previous article, we talked about various data manipulation techniques and explained some of Google Sheets’ basic formulas that you can implement into your workflow. We also brought up topics like protecting, sharing and moving data. Next, we will introduce you to a very diverse tool that can save you a lot of time by making your tasks much easier to manage, or even fully taking control of them. In the other half of the article, we will start focusing on Google Forms, which will be the topic of our next chapter as well.
An Introduction to Zapier
As we mentioned in our previous article, Zapier is a third-party tool for Google Sheets which can make your workflow much easier. It can perform a lot of tasks for you automatically, like sending files to your Google Drive, adding data to your spreadsheets, it alerts you whenever a spreadsheet is changed and so on. A lot of problems can be fixed by creating these so-called Zaps and letting them do the work for you. Now, we’re going to discuss how Zapier makes Google Sheets even more effective.
While working on your spreadsheet, instead of clicking the „Share” button to send it to your colleagues, try sending a Slack message, thus alerting them that you have created a new spreadsheet. Slack is a messaging application for teams which brings all your communications together, so you can contact everyone in one place. All your team conversations can be organized into channels (office locations, projects, sales and so on). It’s perfect for discussing ideas, opinions and informing each other while sharing images, PDFs, documents and spreadsheets.
You can integrate dozens of tools and services into Slack and receive notifications from them in the channels you choose. For example, you can add Twitter and receive notifications whenever someone tweets something about your company. You can configure your Google Sheets to send Slack messages as well by adding the Google Sheets Trigger and Slack Action tools to Zapier.
All you need to do is to set up your Zapier to monitor your Google Drive and post a file name with a link to the newly created spreadsheet in the specified Slack Channel. If it finds a new spreadsheet, then your custom message will be immediately posted to Slack. This way, you can draw your team’s attention to the new task you want to work on.
This can be specified by setting up conditions and filters, so the posts will be sent only when it’s appropriate. With Zapier, you can trigger a message for each different action in Google Sheets. For example, you can be alerted if someone changes the data in your spreadsheets or creates a new row.
Without an automation tool like Zapier, it would be much harder to successfully collaborate.
Let’s assume that you own a business and you need to keep track of every foreseen project. At first, you need to create a new, clean sheet which is ready to receive the automated data by clicking the + in the bottom left side of Google Sheets, and name it “Business Projects” for example. The second step is to simply set up Zapier to recognize the Slack messages as triggering actions and set Google Sheets to be on the receiving end (which is the “Action” side of the particular Zap).
From then on, if anyone posts a message in the selected Slack channel, it automatically creates a new row in your “Business Projects” spreadsheet by copying the message. Once one of your employees is done with a certain task, just a short message is needed and it will be instantly documented. Without an automation tool like Zapier, it would be much harder to successfully collaborate within a certain group.
When you use a normal spreadsheet without any automation, you usually need to ask someone to:
- Stop their current activity
- Search for the particular spreadsheet
- Fill a bunch of cells with potentially inconsequential data
- Save the file and re-share it (if it’s not already online and synced)
- Repeat these steps for the other tasks that need to be documented
And you can apply this method to dozens of other tasks through many applications by simply setting up Triggers and Actions with Zapier. Set up a schedule to monitor your social network accounts or receive information via email while your spreadsheets are documenting all the incoming data, so you don’t need to look them up anymore. Zapier offers many different ways to accomplish your tasks more effectively.
Google Forms, another Essential Tool
Forms are very common tools and you can see them on almost every big website. It’s much easier to obtain the required information for checkout pages, contact forms or student directories if you use them, and now you can create a form at any time within a few minutes by using Google Forms.
As a part of Google’s online app suite (such as Docs, Slides and Sheets) Google Forms is another excellent tool for free that can come in handy in your browser as a fast and reliable option. It’s actually a good sidekick to Google Sheets, since it allows you to easily save data directly to your spreadsheets. Any time you need to pile up data for your spreadsheets, consider a form as your best friend. Next, we are going to take a look at each of Google Forms’ features, add-ons, and hidden tools, just to help you make forms even quicker.
A Quick Tour
Google Forms is available as a Google Sheets feature since 2008, two years after it launched. At the start, all you could do is add a form to your spreadsheet, format it separately while checking the form responses in a third sheet. It was pretty simple, yet worked fairly well. As Google added more and more features, Forms finally became a standalone app in the beginning of 2016. Today, you just type in docs.google.com/forms in your browser and you can start making and managing your form. You even get templates, while all your forms will be accessible from one place.
If you have a Google account, you can try Google Forms as a full-featured forms creation tool right now for free. It’s quite straightforward to customize the form with color or photo themes, add common question types, drag-and-drop questions and gather the Form responses or save them in a spreadsheet using Google Sheets.
In the next part, we are going to discuss how exactly to make a quick contact form.
Your First Google Form
If you want to start creating a form, the simplest way is to start it from the Google Forms application. As we mentioned earlier, type in docs.google.com/forms, then choose a blank form or a template. You can also create a new one while using Google Slides, Sheets or Docs, since there is a File > New > Form option in all of them. If you want it to be linked to your spreadsheet, just click Tools > Create a Form in Google Sheets, and the blank new form will be automatically linked.
That’s also the quickest way to start gathering data into your existing or new spreadsheet: open the desired spreadsheet, start the form, and every response to that form will be saved there without any further action.
The Forms editor is very user-friendly. It puts the new form right in front of you with the title and description fields on top and the form fields below. By clicking a form field, you can start to edit it and type in a question. Each field type can be with short answers, checkboxes, multiple choices, and so on based on what you chose in the dropdown box.
There are several settings to choose from as well. You can add more form fields with the floating toolbar on the right. The top right menu lets you change the color of your form scheme, share the form with the Send button, preview the form, or access some extra options such as installing add-ons. From the Questions tab, you can switch to the Responses tab in the editor to take a look at the current responses to the particular form and there you can link it to any spreadsheet.
It’s not hard to add your questions to the form and send it out right away, but there are some form options as well which may be important.
In our next article, we are going to start with explaining these Forms Field Options in great detail, so you can start using them as well.