Today we'll discuss what you can do with dates and time in a Google spreadsheet. Let's take a closer look at how you can enter date and time into your table, and how to format and convert them to numbers.
How to insert date and time in Google Sheets
Let's start by entering the date and time into a Google Sheets cell.
Tip. Date and time formats depend on the default locale of your spreadsheet. To change it, go to File > Settings. You'll see a pop-up window where you can set your region under the General tab > Locale. Thus, you'll ensure those date and time formats you're accustomed to.
There are three ways to insert date and time into your Google spreadsheet:
Add date and time manually
Note. No matter how you want the time look like at the end, you should always enter it with a colon. This is essential for Google Sheets to distinguish between time and numbers.
It may seem to be the easiest way but locale settings that I mentioned above play a vital role here. Every country has its own pattern for displaying date and time.
As you all know, the American date format differs from the European one. If you set "United States" as your locale and type in the date in the European format: dd/mm/yyyy, it simply won't work. The entered date will be treated as a textual value. So, pay attention to that.
Tip. You can add today's date much quicker. Type @ in the required cells and continue with the word today:
Google Sheets will recognize your prompt and suggest you add Today's date. Click it, and your text will turn into today's date:
Confirm by pressing Enter.
Make Google Sheets auto-populate your column with date or time
Fill in a few cells with the required date/time/date time values.
Select these cells so you could see a small circle at the bottom right corner of the selection:
Click that circle and drag the selection down, covering all required cells.
You'll see how Google Sheets automatically populates those cells based on two samples you provided, retaining the intervals:
Use key combinations to insert current date and time
Place the cursor into the cell of interest and press one of the following shortcuts:
- Ctrl+; (semicolon) to enter the current date.
- Ctrl+Shift+; (semicolon) to enter the current time.
- Ctrl+Alt+Shift+; (semicolon) to add both, current date and time.
Later you'll be able to edit the values. This method helps you bypass the problem of entering an incorrect date format.
Take advantage of Google Sheets date and time functions
TODAY() — returns the current date to a cell.
NOW() — returns the current date and time to a cell.
Note. These formulas will be recalculated, and the result will be renewed with every change made in the table.
Here you are: you've placed date and time to our cells. The next step is to format the information to display it the way you need it.
As it is with numbers, you can make your spreadsheet return date and time in various formats.
Place the cursor into the needed cell and go to Format > Number. You can choose between four different default formats or create a custom one using Custom date and time setting:
As a result, one and the same date looks different with various formats applied:
As you can see, depending on your needs, there are a few ways to set the date format. It allows displaying any date and time value, from a day to a millisecond.
Make your date/time a part of Data validation.
In case you need to use date or time in Data validation, proceed to Data > Data validation in the Google Sheets menu first:
- As for dates, just set them as criteria and choose the option that suits you best:
- As for time units, since they are absent from these settings by default, you will need to either create an additional column with time units and refer to this column with your Data validation criteria (List from a range), or enter time units directly to the criteria field (List of items) separating them by a comma:
Insert time to Google Sheets in a custom number format
Suppose you need to add time in minutes and seconds: 12 minutes, 50 seconds. Place the cursor to A2, type 12:50 and press Enter on your keyboard.
Note. No matter how you want the time to look like at the end, you should always enter it with a colon. This is essential for Google Sheets to distinguish between time and numbers.
What you'll see is Google Sheets treating your value as 12 hours 50 minutes. If you apply the Duration format to A2, it'll still show the time as 12:50:00.
So how can you make Google spreadsheet return only minutes and seconds?
- Type 00:12:50 to your cell.
To be honest, this one may turn out a tiresome process if you need to enter multiple timestamps with minutes and seconds only.
- Type 12:50 to A2 cell and put the following formula into A3:
Then apply the Duration number format to A3. Otherwise, your table will always return 12 hours AM.
- Use special formulas.
Input minutes to A1, seconds — to B1. Enter the following formula to C1:
In order to delete excess symbols from our time, set the format again. Go to Custom date and time and create a format that will show only elapsed minutes and seconds:
The TIME function refers to cells, takes the values and transforms them into hours (0), minutes (A1), and seconds (B1).
Convert time to decimal in Google Sheets
Let's move on to various operations you can do with date and time in Google Sheets.
There may be cases when you need to display time as a decimal rather than "hh:mm:ss" to perform various calculations. Why? For example, to count per-hour salary, since you can't perform any arithmetic operations using both, numbers and time.
But the problem disappears if time is decimal.
Let's say column A contains the time you started working on some task and column B shows the end time. You want to know how much time it took, and for that, in column C you use the formula below:
Copy the formula down cells C3:C5 and get the result in hours and minutes. Then transfer the values to column D using this formula:
Then select entire column D and go to Format > Number > Number:
Unfortunately, the result you'll get at first won't say much. But Google Sheets has a reason for that: it displays time as a part of a 24-hour period. In other words, 50 minutes is 0.034722 of 24 hours.
Of course, this result can be used in calculations.
But since we're used to seeing time in hours, you may want to introduce more calculations to your table. To be specific, multiply the number you've got by 24 (24 hours):
Now you have a decimal value, where integer and fractional reflect the number of hours. To put it simply, 50 minutes is 0.8333 hours, while 1 hour 30 minutes is 1.5 hours.
Text-formatted dates to date format with Power Tools for Google Sheets
There's one quick solution for converting dates formatted as text to a date format. It's called Power Tools. Power Tools is an add-on for Google Sheets that allows you to convert your information in a couple of clicks:
- Get the add-on for your spreadsheets from Google Sheets webstore.
- Go to Extensions > Power Tools > Start to run the add-on and click the Convert tool icon on the add-on pane. Alternatively, you can pick the Tools > Convert tool right from the Power Tools menu.
- Select the range of cells that contain dates formatted as text.
- Check the box for the option Convert text to dates and click Run:
Your text-formatted dates will be formatted as dates in just a few seconds.
I hope you've learned something new today. If you have any questions left, feel free to ask them in the comments below.
Next time you'll learn how to calculate the time difference and sum dates and time together.