Splitting Cells

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 26, 2013)

1

When you store a bunch of data in a spreadsheet, a common need is to split cells based on the occurrences of a particular character within those cells. For instance, you might have an address in a cell, such as this:

123 Maple Lane

You might want to put the house number (123) in one cell, the street name (Maple) in another, and the street type (Lane) in a third cell. You can accomplish this easily by using the SPLIT function. If the original address is in cell A1, you could place the following in cell B1:

=split(A1," ")

The first parameter specifies the cell you want to split and the second parameter (a space within quotes) indicates that you want the cell split everyplace there is a space. Once you enter the formula, Sheets splits the contents of cell A1 every place a space occurs and places the results in however many cells are necessary to the right of wherever you placed the formula. Thus, if you put the formula into cell B1, then the results will be in the range B1:D1.

There is a huge caveat here: Since SPLIT uses as many cells as necessary in order to show its results, it is very easy to overwrite information. If the function needs to use multiple cells, it doesn't pay a lot of attention to what was previously in those cells. Thus, it is a good idea to make sure you only use SPLIT when there are enough blank columns to contain all your "split out" data.

There is also another neat use of the split function: It can break information based on multiple delimiters. For instance, you might have the following in a cell:

John Doe, Sr.

If you want to split the text so that each element of the name ends up in it's own cell, you'd actually need to take into account two delimters: a space and a comma. The reason is because if you only split based on spaces, then the last name ends up being "Doe," with the comma at the end. You can include each character on which you want to delimit the text in the second parameter:

=split(A1, " ,")

What you end up with is three columns, with John in the first, Doe in the second, and Sr. in the third. Note that consecutive delimiters (in this case a comma followed immediately by a space) are "collapsed" so that you don't end up with any blank cells.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Selecting a Word

There are a few editing tricks you can apply in Excel the same as you do in Word. Selecting a word from the text in a cell is ...

Discover More

Merge and Center Not Available

What are you to do if you are trying to format a worksheet, only to find out that one of the tools you need is not available? ...

Discover More

Using the REPT Function

Excel includes a handy function that allows you to repeat characters or strings of characters. How you use the REPT function ...

Discover More
More DriveTips

Adding Stock Information

Adding stock information to a spreadsheet is a common need. Rather than enter information manually, why not let Sheets handle ...

Discover More

Grading Assignments with Flubaroo

Flubaroo is a third-party extension for Sheets that can help make grading classroom papers fast and easy. Here's a quick ...

Discover More

Changing where a Spreadsheet is Stored

Get lots of files into Drive, and sooner or later you'll want to organize them in some way. Sheets includes a great feature ...

Discover More
Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 8Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is three more than 5?

2013-12-26 22:58:26

Gautam

A very good tip, would be useful.
thanks.