8 Ways to Work with Columns in Google Sheets

Last Updated on January 9, 2024 by Jake Sheridan

In this guide, you will learn all about columns in Google Sheets, from moving them, deleting, setting widths, grouping, converting and more.

Mastering column management can take you from a Google Sheets novice to a pro (or if you want to get technical: Official Google Sheets Wizard)

Columns are where your data lives.

Knowing how to move, delete, resize, group, convert, and perform a lots of other actions is key to efficient data management.

Whether you’re an experienced Sheets user (I avoided saying ‘sheeter‘ that sounded wrong…) or just getting started, this guide is for you.

8 Ways to Modify Columns in Google Sheets

Below you will find step-by-step instructions for doing (almost) everything you can imagine* with columns in Google Sheets.

(*okay, maybe not everything, but a lot of stuff!)

1. How to modify column width

Here’s how to modify the column width in Google Sheets.

Step 1

First, open the document containing the column you want to resize.

In this example, we want to adjust the width of our category column since some of our data is not fully readable at first glance.

Step 2

Next, locate the column you want to modify. Select the entire column by clicking on the column header on the top of the spreadsheet.

For example, we can select the entire first column by clicking on the column header labeled with an ‘A’.

Step 3

Right-click on the header, then select “Resize column” from the context menu.

Step 4

In the pop-up dialog box, you have two options.

You can either enter the desired column width in pixels, or choose to resize the column to fit the data.

For this example, let’s try setting our column width to 120 pixels in height. Click OK to proceed.

Step 5

The selected column’s width should now be adjusted as specified.

Step 6

Another way to adjust the column width is by dragging the right edge of the target column’s header to the left or right.

This method is an easy way to visually adjust the column width of a specific column.

Step 7

To adjust multiple columns at once, you can start by selecting all the columns you want to resize.

To select multiple columns at once in Google Sheets, click on the letter at the top of a column.

Then hold down the Shift key and click on the letter of another column to select all columns in between.

Alternatively, for non-adjacent columns, click on a column letter, hold down the Ctrl key (or Cmd on Mac), and click on the letters of other columns you wish to select.

After selecting your desired columns, we can use either of the previously discussed methods to adjust the column width.

All selected columns will adapt the same column width.

2. How to autosize a column’s width

Here’s how to auto-size a column’s width based on its data.

Step 1

Open the target Google Sheets document and select the column you want to resize automatically.

Step 2

Right-click on the selected column and click the Resize column option. In the dialog box, select the Fit to data option.

Click OK to proceed.

Step 3

Google Sheets should now automatically resize the target column to fit the data within the column.

Step 4

There’s an even quicker way to resize a column to fit its data.

First, place your cursor on the right border of the column’s header.

Double-click the boundary to automatically resize the column to fit the column data.

This method also works when multiple columns are selected.

3. How to insert a column

Here’s how you can insert a new column in your Google Sheets spreadsheet.

Step 1

Open the Google Sheets document where you wish to insert a new column.

In this example, we want to add an email address field to our dataset after our last_name field.

Step 2

Next, we’ll need to decide on where to insert our new column.

Click on the column heading of the column next to where you want your new column to appear.

In this example, we’ll select the last_name field (column B)..

Step 3

Right-click on the selection to view the context menu.

You can choose to either insert a new column to the left or right of the current selection.

Let’s click on the “Insert 1 column right” option.

Step 4

A new column should now be inserted next to the selected column.

Step 5

To insert multiple columns, first create a selection of the number columns you want to insert.

For example, let’s try selecting two columns A and B.

When we right-click on the selection, we’ll now have the option to insert the same number of columns selected (2) to the left or right.

4. How to freeze a column

Here’s how to freeze columns in Google Sheets.

Step 1

First, open the Google Sheets document where you want to freeze a column.

In our example above, we have a dataset containing addresses of various customers.

We want to freeze the first column which contains the customer’s unique ID.

Step 2

Next, click on View > Freeze > 1 column.

Step 3

The first column in our spreadsheet should now be frozen.

When scrolling to the left or right of our spreadsheet, the left column will remain visible.

When freezing columns, Google Sheets will always freeze the left-most columns.

Step 4

To freeze multiple columns, select the column you want to freeze up to.

In the table above, we’ll select the third column (last_name) in our spreadsheet.

Note that freezing this column will automatically freeze all columns to its left.

Step 3

In the View menu, select Freeze and choose the option labeled “Up to column…”.

In our example, we’ll select the “Up to column C” option.

Step 4

All columns up to the selected column should now be frozen.

Step 5

A shortcut you can use to easily freeze columns is by expanding the freeze pane in your document.

Place your cursor over the vertical freeze pane line.

This should be the thick grey line that appears to the left of the column headers.

Step 6

Use your cursor to drag the freeze pane line until it’s right after the last column you want to freeze.

After releasing the cursor, all columns to the left of the freeze pane border of your spreadsheet should now be frozen.

5. How to delete column

Follow these steps to delete a column in a Google Sheets document.

Step 1

Go to the Google Sheets document where you want to delete a column.

Step 2

Click on the column header of the column you wish to delete.

Let’s try removing the sub-category field (column B) in our table.

Step 3

Right-click on the selection and choose “Delete column” from the context menu.

Step 4

Step 5

We can also access the Delete command through the Edit Menu.

Select the column you want to have deleted and click Edit > Delete.

You’ll find an option to delete the current column.

Step 6

Alternatively, you can use a keyboard shortcut to delete the column of the currently-selected cell.

Simply click on any cell in that column and use the shortcut Ctrl + Alt + to display a menu with various delete options.

Click on the “Delete column…” option to delete the column of the selected cell.

6. How to move a column

Here’s how to move or relocate a column in Google Sheets.

Step 1

Open the Google Sheets document containing the column you want to relocate.

In this example, we want to move the last name field (column C) to come before the first name field (column B).

Step 2

Highlight the entire column you want to move by clicking on its column header.

Hover your mouse over the column letter until the cursor changes into a hand.

Drag the selection to your desired location and release once the selection is in the right place.

Take note of a grey solid line between rows since this is an indicator of where your selected cell will be moved to.

Step 3

We can also move cells by using the Cut and Insert commands.

To start, right-click on the selected column and choose “Cut.”

You may also use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + X (Windows) or Cmd + X (Mac) to cut the selection.

Step 4

Select the column next to where you want to move your column to.

Right-click on the column and select either Insert 1 column left or Insert 1 column right.

You should now have an empty column where you can move your target column.

Step 5

Select the blank column and use the shortcut Ctrl + V (Windows) or Cmd + V (Mac) to paste the data copied earlier.

The column should now be moved to the new location.

7. How to wrap text

Here’s how to wrap text data in Google Sheets.

Step 1

First, visit the Google Sheets document where you want to apply text wrapping.

Our table above contains an address column which holds text data that may not be read fully given its length.

We’ll apply text wrapping to this column to ensure that users can read the entire address text.

Step 2

Click on the cell or drag to select multiple cells where you want to apply text wrapping.

In this example, we’ll add text wrapping to the address column of our table.

Step 3

Click on the “Text wrapping” icon in the quick access toolbar found right above the formula bar.

Step 4

Select “Wrap” from the dropdown menu.

Step 5

The text in the selected cell(s) will now wrap to fit the cell size.

8. How to merge cells

Here’s how to merge cells vertically by column in Google Sheets.

Step 1

Open the Google Sheets document where you want to merge cells vertically.

In this example, we want to merge together each column in the range B2:G6.

Merging these columns will indicate that each row in our table will have the same value in each column.

Step 2

Highlight the cells that you want to merge.

Let’s highlight the range B2:G6 for this example.

Step 3

Click on the “Merge cells” icon in the toolbar and choose “Merge vertically”.

Step 4

The selected cells will now be merged vertically by column.

How do I customize columns in Google Sheets?

Google Sheets includes several customization options to change the column appearance.

Here are some ways you can customize your columns:

Resizing Column Width

Resizing column width is a great way to customize how much space a column takes up in your screen.

This could be useful when you want to fit more columns in a single space or to give a column more space to show longer text.

Step 1

Open the Google Sheets document you want to edit and select the column you want to resize.

In this example, we’ll adjust the size of the address column in our dataset.

Step 2

Right-click on the selection and click “Resize column”.

In the Resize column dialog box, enter the column width in pixels in the provided input box.

Click on OK to proceed.

Google Sheets should now resize your selected column into the specified width.

Step 3

Another way to quickly adjust column width is by dragging the right border of the column letter heading of the column you want to resize.

Drag the boundary to the left to decrease the column width and drag it to the right to increase the width.

You may also double-click on the right boundary to automatically resize the column to fit the column data.

Applying Text Formatting

Step 1

We can apply text formatting to an entire column at once.

To do this, simply select the column you want to modify.

Step 2

Next, use any of the text formatting shortcuts available in the quick access toolbar on top of the spreadsheet.

For example, you can apply italics to all text in a single column.

Applying Conditional Formatting

Conditional formatting allows cells to be formatted a certain way depending on its current value or on the value of other cells.

Here’s how to apply conditional formatting to an entire column:

Step 1

Select the range you want to apply conditional formatting to.

In this example, we want to highlight all cells with a value of TRUE.

Step 2

Click Format > Conditional formatting to access the Conditional format rules panel.

In the panel, you can decide on the exact conditions to check as well as the type of formatting you want to apply.

In this example, we will select “Text is exactly” and type TRUE in the provided input box.

We’ll also set the formatting to a green cell background.

Once satisfied with the conditional formatting rules, click on Done.

You can continue adding more conditional formatting rules to handle other values.

For example, we can highlight cells red if their value is “FALSE”

Step 3

Another type of conditional formatting you can use is the color scale.

This option is accessible in the Color scale tab of the Conditional format rules panel.

This type of formatting will highlight cells in a range with specific color shades according to the value of the cell.

For example, we can apply a color scale on an entire column of numerical data to allow users to easily identify high and low value data points in our dataset.

How do I organize columns in Google Sheets?

Google Sheets provides a variety of ways to organize columns in your spreadsheet.

Here are some tips you can use to organize your spreadsheet columns:

Reordering Columns in Google Sheets

Reordering columns is a useful feature that allows you to determine the position of each field in a dataset or table.

Here’s how you can reorder columns in Google Sheets:

Step 1

Step 2

Drag the column to the new position.

Release your cursor to drop the column in its new location.

In the table above, we’ve relocated our id column to be the first column in our table.

Resizing Columns in Google Sheets

Here’s how to start resizing columns in your spreadsheet.

Step 1

To quickly resize a column, drag the boundary between two columns to increase or decrease the column width of the left column.

Step 2

You can auto-resize a column to fit its data by double-clicking on the boundary line.

Step 3

You can also resize columns more precisely by right-clicking on the column and clicking the Resize option.

Grouping Columns in Google Sheets

If you have a set of related columns, you can add them to a column group.

Columns placed in a group can be collapsed and hidden as needed to give the user a more focused view of their spreadsheet.

Here’s how to group together columns in Google Sheets.

Step 1

Select all the columns you want to group together.

Do note that Google Sheets can only group consecutive columns together.

In the example above, we want to group together the first quarter of sales in a monthly sales report.

Step 2

Right-click on the selection and choose “Group columns…”.

You can also find this option by selecting View > Group > Group columns… or through the keyboard shortcut Alt+Shift+Right Arrow

Step 3

The selected columns should now be grouped together.

You’ll be able to see a visual indication above the column headers that shows which columns are grouped together.

You can click on the minus sign at the top to collapse the group.

Click on the plus sign to expand the collapsed group.

Hiding Columns in Google Sheets

Hiding columns can aid in organizing your data and can help you focus on specific parts of your dataset.

Here’s how you can hide columns in Google Sheets.

Step 1

Click on the column header you wish to hide.

Right-click the selected column and choose “Hide column”

Step 2

The column will now be hidden from view.

Step 3

To unhide a column, select the two columns adjacent to the hidden column.

Right-click on the selection and select Unhide columns.

The hidden column should now be unhidden and visible to the user.

How do I put columns together in Google Sheets?

There are several ways you can put columns together in Google Sheets.

One approach is to merge cells across columns using the Merge feature.

You may also want to combine data from across columns into a single value using concatenation functions such as TEXTJOIN.

Merging cells across columns

Here’s how you can merge cells across columns:

Step 1

Select the columns where you want to merge cells across.

Let’s try selecting columns A and B.

Step 2

Next, click on the dropdown arrow on the Merge icon in the toolbar. Click on Merge horizontally.

Step 3

Each row in our selection should now be converted into a single merged cell.

Concatenating Data from Different Columns

We can concatenate cells using the TEXTJOIN and JOIN functions.

Step 1

Let’s try concatenating data from different columns using the TEXTJOIN function.

This function allows us to combine text from multiple strings or ranges with a specified delimiter between each combined text value.

The TEXTJOIN function uses the syntax TEXTJOIN(delimiter, ignore_empty, text1, [text2], …).

Let’s start by choosing an empty cell and typing the TEXTJOIN function.

Step 2

Next, enter the arguments for our TEXTJOIN function.

For the delimiter argument, we’ll set it to a string with a single space character.

We’ll set ignore_empty to TRUE and enter our target range as the last argument.

Step 3

Hit the Enter key to evaluate the TEXTJOIN function.

The function should return a string combining values from both columns.

Step 4

The JOIN function works similarly. The only difference is it lacks the ignore_empty argument.

Why are there only 26 columns in Google Sheets?

There are more than 26 columns in Google Sheets.

The confusion might arise from the fact that columns are labeled alphabetically, starting with A, B, C, and so on. After reaching Z, the labeling continues with AA, AB, AC, and so forth.

As of 2023, Google Sheets can support spreadsheets with up to 18,278 columns or up to column ZZZ.

If you want to add another column to your spreadsheet, you can right-click on any column header and select “Insert 1 left” or “Insert 1 right”.

Summary

Hopefully this guide has given you an overview of working with columns in Google Sheets.

What’s Next?

Explore some of the other useful resources on Sheets for Marketers: