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Are you working from multiple sets of spreadsheets? Sometimes you’ll want to reference data from one sheet into another, or even merge your spreadsheets together for a master view of your data. In this guide, we offer multiple methods to effectively reference data from another Google Sheet, including the IMPORTRANGE formula (explained in more detail in how to use IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets), and how to merge your Google Sheets using Layer. If you are working with Excel, rather than Google Sheets, see our guide to linking and referencing multiple sheets in Excel in how to reference another sheet in Excel.

Why reference another Google Sheet?

There are many reasons why you may want to reference data from another Google Sheet. It’s a simple way to easily compare data from different sources, without having to manually copy and paste between multiple sheets. An example of this is referencing other Google Sheets to illustrate year-on-year changes. Let’s say you want to import the data from your 2020 sales into a new sheet containing your 2021 sales data, in order to compare the two and analyse the results.

You can reference a single cell from another Google Sheet, or multiple cells, and pull data from another sheet into your current sheet according to your requirements. Here we’ll detail four methods for referencing data from other Google Sheets. The first will show how to easily import data from other sources into your Google Sheets workbook. The second will show how to import a range of data using the IMPORTRANGE formula. The third will explain how to use hyperlinks to have easy access to another data source where the data does not need to be present within the current workbook. Finally, we will show you how you can link Google Sheets using Layer.

How to reference another Google Sheet?

This first method uses a cell-by-cell reference to identify the source of your data and import it into your Google Sheet.

  1. 1. Open the Google Sheet where you wish to import data.
  2. 2. Click on the cell where you want your data to appear.
  3. 3. Type in the sheet name and cell of the data you wish to import, substituting it into the following format =’sheet_name’!cell. For example, =Sheet1!A1 or ='Sheet number two'!B4.
Linking Google Sheets How to reference another Sheet cell by cell reference

Please note: When a sheet includes spaces or other non-alphanumeric characters, you should include single quotes around the sheet name, as shown above.

  1. 4. This will copy the data from the cell into the original cell you selected.
  2. 5. Google Sheets may suggest Autofill to import the rest of the data from that column.
Linking Google Sheets How to reference another Sheet cell by cell reference 2

This example would copy the data from C2 ($20,402) from one sheet, into the selected cell in the other sheet. It’s important to note that with this method, your data won’t be formatted in the same way it is in its original source. If you want to preserve the formatting of your data, you may want to use the IMPORTRANGE formula.

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How to pull data from another Google Sheet using IMPORTRANGE?

If you want to reference a range of cells in another Google workbook, you should use the IMPORTRANGE function. For more detailed information on how to use this function, check out our post on how to use IMPORTRANGE in Google Sheets.

  1. 1. Open your two Google Sheet files; the one where you want to import the data, and the one which contains the data you wish to import.
  2. 2. Select the cell where you want to import your data to.
  3. 3. Use the formula =IMPORTRANGE(“sheet URL or key”, “sheet name! cell range”) to select the cells you wish to link to. In this example, the URL would be followed by “Sales 2020!C2:C19”.
Linking Google Sheets How to reference another sheet using IMPORTRANGE IMPORTRANGE formula link Google Sheets

Please note:

  • IMPORTRANGE requires both the sheet URL and a data range to be specified. You can’t specify another complete workbook by including only the URL.
  • IMPORTRANGE expects text, not ranges or URLs so ensure the title is within inverted commas, as shown.
  1. 4. Ensure that IMPORTRANGE is not within another formula.
  2. 5. Ensure that IMPORTRANGE has any necessary permissions to work with both sheets
Linking Google Sheets How to reference another Sheet cell by cell reference 3

Google Sheets will ask you to permit to link the sheets before linking the data. Simply click the button to allow access and the process will complete automatically.

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Sometimes you’ll want to have easy access to other Google sheets data sources, but won’t want to have that data present in your current workbook. In this instance, it makes sense to use a hyperlink, so the other data source (or sources) are a click away, without taking up space in your current google sheet. Creating a hyperlinked cell in Google sheets is simple. Follow the steps below to create a link to another data source.

  1. 1. Select the cell in which you want to insert the hyperlink.
  2. 2. Open the “Insert” menu and click “Link”.
Linking Google Sheets How to reference another Sheet menu link
  1. 3. A dialog box will open; paste the URL of the link you wish to insert.
Linking Google Sheets How to reference another Sheet dialogue box
  1. 4. Click “Apply”.
  2. 5. Alternatively, select the cell in which you want to insert the hyperlink and press Ctrl and K together. This will bring up the dialog box and you can paste your URL from there.
Linking Google Sheets How to reference another sheet insert hyperlink

Hyperlinks are not limited to other Google sheets either. You can create a hyperlink to any URL on the web, allowing you to add quick access to videos, articles, reports, or images, or even advanced data created in external programs such as IBM SPSS.

How to manage Google Sheets data with Layer?

Layer is a collaboration platform for spreadsheets that works on top of your existing Excel files and Google Sheets. Share parts of your spreadsheet, collect and consolidate data, and review changes to make collaboration seamless and more efficient while keeping full control over your data. Using Layer, you can:

  • Manage Access: Give spreadsheet access on a tab or cell level to relevant stakeholders.
  • Collaborate: Automate tasks, set deadlines, and communicate on top of your files.
  • Review & Track: Consolidate input, track changes, and restore previous versions.

Sign up to get started with Layer right now or schedule an onboarding call so we can help you set up and share your spreadsheet flows.

Conclusion

Linking and referencing multiple Google sheets is a vital process for many who work with data in Google docs. Fortunately, the process is quick and efficient when you use the functions described above. Alternatively, where data needs to be accessible but not present within the current workbook, or you want to reference data that is incompatible with Google sheets (eg. video) using a hyperlink is an easy and effective option.

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Hady ElHady
Hady is Content Lead at Layer.

Hady has a passion for tech, marketing, and spreadsheets. Besides his Computer Science degree, he has vast experience in developing, launching, and scaling content marketing processes at SaaS startups.

Originally published Feb 11 2022, Updated May 30 2022