Import Specific Columns in Google Sheets: A Guide (3 Steps)

Jason Gong
LAST UPDATED
June 6, 2024
TL;DR

Use IMPORTRANGE to import specific columns in Google Sheets.

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Importing data from one Google Sheet to another can be a time-consuming task, especially when you only need specific columns. Luckily, Google Sheets provides a powerful function called IMPORTRANGE that allows you to seamlessly bring in data from external spreadsheets. In this step-by-step guide, we'll walk you through how to use IMPORTRANGE to import only the columns you need, saving you time and effort.

Understanding IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets

IMPORTRANGE is a powerful function in Google Sheets that allows you to import data from one spreadsheet to another. It's particularly useful when you need to connect Google Sheets from multiple sources or share specific data across different sheets. The basic syntax of IMPORTRANGE is as follows:

IMPORTRANGE("spreadsheet_url", "range_string")

  • spreadsheet_url: The URL of the source spreadsheet from which you want to import data. This should be enclosed in quotation marks or reference a cell containing the URL.
  • range_string: The range of cells you want to import, in the format "sheet_name!range" (e.g., "Sheet1!A1:C10"). If you omit the sheet name, IMPORTRANGE will import data from the first sheet in the source spreadsheet.

To use IMPORTRANGE, simply enter the function in a cell within your destination spreadsheet. For example:

IMPORTRANGE("https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/abc123", "Sheet1!A1:C10")

This will import the data from the specified range in the source spreadsheet into your current sheet. Keep in mind that the first time you use IMPORTRANGE to connect two spreadsheets, you'll need to grant permission by clicking "Allow access" when prompted.

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Setting Up Your Spreadsheet for Import

Before using the IMPORTRANGE function to bring data from one Google Sheets spreadsheet to another, there are a few preliminary steps you need to take:

  1. Ensure that the source spreadsheet, from which you want to import data, is accessible to you and anyone else who needs to use the IMPORTRANGE function. If the source spreadsheet is not shared with the appropriate permissions, the IMPORTRANGE function will not work.
  2. Obtain the URL of the source spreadsheet. You can find this by opening the source spreadsheet and copying the URL from your browser's address bar. This URL will be used in the IMPORTRANGE function to specify the source of the data.
  3. Identify the specific range of cells you want to import from the source spreadsheet. This range will be referenced in the IMPORTRANGE function using the format "Sheet1!A1:C10", where "Sheet1" is the name of the sheet containing the data and "A1:C10" represents the range of cells to import.

It's crucial to double-check that the source spreadsheet's sharing permissions are set correctly. If the spreadsheet is not accessible to those who need to use IMPORTRANGE, they will encounter errors when trying to import the data. Ensure that the source spreadsheet is shared with the appropriate individuals or set to "Anyone with the link can view" if you want to make it widely accessible. For more advanced tasks, you might want to enrich LinkedIn profiles using Google Sheets.

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Importing Select Columns with IMPORTRANGE

When using IMPORTRANGE to bring data from one Google Sheets spreadsheet to another, you can specify which columns you want to import. This allows you to create customized imports that only include the data you need. To import specific columns, you'll need to use column identifiers in your IMPORTRANGE function.

The basic syntax for IMPORTRANGE with column identifiers is:

=IMPORTRANGE("spreadsheet_url", "sheet_name!column_letter_start:column_letter_end")

For example, if you want to import only columns A, C, and E from a sheet named "Data" in a source spreadsheet, your IMPORTRANGE function would look like this:

=IMPORTRANGE("https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/abc123", "Data!A:A,C:C,E:E")

You can also use column numbers instead of letters. To import columns 1, 3, and 5, you would use:

=IMPORTRANGE("https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/abc123", "Data!1:1,3:3,5:5")

If you want to import a range of columns, you can specify the starting and ending column identifiers. For example, to import columns A through D:

=IMPORTRANGE("https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/abc123", "Data!A:D")

If you find managing data in Google Sheets useful, you might also like to scrape data from websites directly into your sheets.

By using column identifiers with IMPORTRANGE, you can create customized imports that only bring in the specific data you need, making your spreadsheets more efficient and easier to work with.

Combining IMPORTRANGE with QUERY for Advanced Filtering

You can take your data importing to the next level by combining IMPORTRANGE with the QUERY function. This allows you to filter and refine the data being imported from another spreadsheet, giving you more control over the final result.

The basic syntax for using QUERY with IMPORTRANGE is:

=QUERY(IMPORTRANGE("spreadsheet_url", "data_range"), "query_string")

Here's a step-by-step example of how to structure these combined functions:

  1. Start with the IMPORTRANGE function and specify the URL of the source spreadsheet and the range of data you want to import.
  2. Wrap the IMPORTRANGE function inside a QUERY function.
  3. In the second argument of the QUERY function, specify your query string using Google Visualization API Query Language.

For instance, let's say you want to import data from a sheet named "Sales" in another spreadsheet, but only want to include rows where the value in column D is greater than 1000 and the value in column E is "Paid". Your formula would look like this:

=QUERY(IMPORTRANGE("https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/abc123", "Sales!A:E"), "select * where D \u003e 1000 and E = 'Paid'")

By combining QUERY with IMPORTRANGE, you can perform advanced filtering, sorting, and data manipulation on your imported data, making it a powerful tool for working with data across multiple spreadsheets. If you want to scrape data from websites, consider using tools that integrate seamlessly with Google Sheets.

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Best Practices and Performance Optimization

When working with large datasets in Google Sheets, it's essential to optimize your spreadsheet's performance to ensure smooth and efficient data processing. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of IMPORTRANGE and improve overall performance:

  1. Minimize the range size: Instead of importing entire columns or rows, specify the exact range you need. This reduces the amount of data being processed and speeds up calculations.
  2. Reduce refresh frequency: If your data doesn't require real-time updates, consider reducing the frequency of your IMPORTRANGE functions. You can do this by scraping data from websites and copying and pasting the imported data as values, which breaks the connection to the source sheet.
  3. Use closed range references: Whenever possible, use closed range references (e.g., A1:B10) instead of open range references (e.g., A:B). This allows Google Sheets to process only the specified cells, rather than the entire column or row.
  4. Optimize volatile functions: Functions like TODAY(), NOW(), and RAND() are volatile and can slow down your spreadsheet. If you need to use these functions, try to minimize their usage or place them in separate cells to avoid unnecessary recalculations.

When importing large datasets, it's crucial to consider the implications on your spreadsheet's performance. Here are some strategies to manage large imports effectively:

  • Split data into multiple sheets: If your data can be logically divided, consider splitting it into multiple sheets or even separate spreadsheets. This can help distribute the processing load and improve overall performance.
  • Use data consolidation techniques: Explore features like pivot tables, data grouping, and QUERY functions to summarize and analyze your data without needing to import every single row.
  • Archive old data: If you have historical data that isn't actively used, consider archiving it in a separate spreadsheet or sheet. This keeps your main spreadsheet lean and focused on current, relevant information.

By implementing these best practices and managing your data efficiently, you can optimize the performance of your Google Sheets and ensure that IMPORTRANGE functions run smoothly, even with large datasets. For more advanced techniques, check out data enrichment methods to enhance your workflows.

Troubleshooting Common Issues with IMPORTRANGE

While IMPORTRANGE is a powerful function for importing data from one Google Sheet to another, users may encounter various issues during the process. Here are some common problems and their solutions:

  1. Permission errors: If you receive a "You don't have permission to access that sheet" error, ensure that you have been granted access to the source sheet. Contact the owner of the source sheet to add your Google account to the list of users with access.
  2. Incorrect URL or range: Double-check that you have entered the correct URL and range in the IMPORTRANGE function. Even a single incorrect character can cause the function to fail. Make sure the sheet name and range are enclosed in double quotes and match exactly with the source sheet.
  3. Spreadsheet format: IMPORTRANGE only works with Google Sheets files, not spreadsheets saved in other formats like .XLSX. If the source file is not a Google Sheet, save it as one before using IMPORTRANGE.
  4. Import delays: If you experience delays in data import, try refreshing the Google Sheet or waiting a few minutes. Sometimes, IMPORTRANGE may take time to update, especially with large datasets.
  5. Formula parse errors: If you receive a formula parse error, double-check the syntax of your IMPORTRANGE function. Ensure that the formula is formatted correctly and that you have used the proper punctuation and spacing.

If you have verified that your IMPORTRANGE function is set up correctly but still encounter issues, try the following troubleshooting steps:

  • Remove and re-add your access to the source sheet.
  • Create a new Google Sheet and test the IMPORTRANGE function there to isolate the problem.
  • Check if there are any dynamic functions or volatile data in the source sheet that may be causing issues.
  • If importing a large dataset, consider using data enrichment tools to import only the necessary data, reducing the load on the spreadsheet.

By understanding these common issues and troubleshooting steps, you can ensure a smooth data import process using IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets.

Bardeen can handle data imports effortlessly, reducing your workload. Try our integration with LinkedIn to automate data extraction efficiently.

Automate Google Sheets with Bardeen Playbooks

While importing specific columns in Google Sheets can be done manually using functions like IMPORTRANGE and QUERY, automating this process with Bardeen can significantly streamline how you manage and analyze your data from various sources. Automation can save you time, reduce errors, and allow for real-time data updates.

Here are examples of automations that can be built using Bardeen's playbooks:

  1. Copy all Github issues to Google Sheets: This playbook automates the process of transferring all your GitHub issues into a Google Sheet, making it easier to track and manage software development tasks.
  2. Enrich email contacts and save to Google Sheets: Automatically enrich your email contact lists with additional information and save them directly to Google Sheets. This is perfect for enhancing your email marketing campaigns.
  3. Copy an Airtable to Google Sheets: Seamlessly transfer data from Airtable to Google Sheets with a single click, facilitating easier data analysis and reporting.

Start automating your Google Sheets tasks by downloading the Bardeen app at Bardeen.ai/download.

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