Tag Archives: google spreadsheets

How to create a form for people to add information to your spreadsheet

Rather than asking people to edit a whole spreadsheet, you can make it easier by creating a form for them to add particular information by answering questions.

To do this, open your spreadsheet in Google Docs and click on Form > Create a form.

A new window will appear containing a form that you can edit, with some information automatically added.

If you roll over any of the questions you will see buttons for you to edit, duplicate or delete it. You can also edit the form title and description and there are various extra options across the top.

Along the bottom of the form you will see a web address (URL) for the form that you can send to people or copy and paste into an investigation update. When a person clicks on this they will be able to fill in the form and the information will be added to your spreadsheet.

Once you’ve finished, just close the window. 

If you need the address of your form again open your spreadsheet and go to Form > Go to live form… this will open the form – copy the URL from the web address bar as you would with any other webpage.

If you want to edit the form again just open your spreadsheet, click on Form > Edit form…

Allowing others to edit your spreadsheet – and tracking what happens

Following on from the previous post on creating and publishing a spreadsheet online, here’s how you allow others to add to that, and how you track what happens:

To allow others to edit your spreadsheet, open it and click on Share (in the top right area) then click See who has access…

A new window will open – towards the bottom of that it will say ‘Sign-in is required to view this item’ which means users need a Google account to see it. Click ‘Change‘ next to that.
3 options will pop up:
  • Always require sign-in – users need to be signed in to their Google account to see this
  • Let people view without signing in – users do not need a Google account to see it, but cannot edit 
  • Let people edit without signing in – users can edit the spreadsheet regardless of whether they have a Google account or not

This last option is best if you want to allow others to add information to your spreadsheet

But what if someone deletes all my data? Setting up alerts

On the same window you can set up the spreadsheet so you are alerted whenever anyone makes changes.

Click on My notification settings.

You will be presented with a number of options for when you are notified of any changes

If a change is made that you don’t like (e.g. someone deletes all data) go to File > Revision history

The spreadsheet will now have the latest change highlighted and above the top row of cells will be a number of new buttons – click on Older to see how the spreadsheet looked before the last change that was made.

Then click Revert to this one to change the spreadsheet back to how it looked then (You will be asked to confirm – click OK).

If this isn’t the version you want to revert to you can keep clicking Older to go back in the spreadsheet’s history. The Newer button will take you in the other direction, to more recent versions.

Making it really easy – allowing updates by form

There’s a better way to allow users to add data to your spreadsheet – creating a form. I explain how to do this here.

Creating and publishing a spreadsheet online

For some investigations it will be useful to create a public spreadsheet of information. There are 3 main reasons why:

  • It’s a better way of displaying data than using a sentence of text
  • It means people can easily see where the gaps are – and fill them in
  • It also allows people to do interesting things with the data, like visualise it, or mix it up (‘mashup’) with information from elsewhere, e.g. maps

One of the most popular tools for creating public spreadsheets of data is Google Spreadsheets, part of Google Docs. Continue reading