by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 26, 2013)
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:
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.
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