Google Sheets Gets Analytics, Visualization Features

Designed to enable users to do more with their data, the new features give users more options for visualizing and analyzing data in their spreadsheets.

Google Sheets

Google is giving users of its Sheets software more options for visualizing and analyzing data in their spreadsheets.

Among the new tools Google announced Monday for analyzing spreadsheet data was one that allows users to preview formula results instantly, as users type the formula. Dan Gundrum, Google product manager, described the feature as unique to Sheets and said that it is designed to help users catch basic formula errors more easily than was previously possible.

Monday's update also allows Sheets users to filter rows and columns using qualifiers like "greater than" or "text contains" to filter out data that a user might not want to view in response to a query. The feature allows users to get only the dates, text and numbers they specifically need, Gundrum said.

In addition, Sheets users will now be able to add a calculated field to their pivot table that performs calculations based on the other data in the pivot field, he said. A GETPIVOTDATA function, meanwhile, enabled easier data retrieval from the pivot table, Google said.

In addition to the analytics tools, Google has also tweaked the data visualization support in Sheets. One example is a new "data labels" feature in Sheets that lets users display the exact value of points or bars in a spreadsheet. Another new feature lets users change the shape of their data points when using line or scatter graphs to display data graphically, Google said.

"Charts can make even the largest data sets digestible, so we've made a few improvements to help you highlight what's most important," Gundrum said.

The updates appear to be an effort by Google to make Sheets and its Google Apps, in general, more interesting to enterprise users. Though Microsoft's Excel and Office 365 suite as a whole is generally thought of as offering more features and performance than Sheets and Google Apps, Google itself has been trying to attract users willing to exchange some of the performance benefits of Microsoft technology for the substantially lower costs associated with its office productivity suite.

While the approach worked initially, with many analysts touting Google Apps as a threat to Microsoft's software, in recent times, the momentum appears to have shifted back to Microsoft.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's push to implement Office 365 as a cloud-hosted service has begun garnering increasing attention and market traction.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.