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What Is SmartSheet? & How Do I Use It to Make Spreadsheets in 2021

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Smartsheet is an online management software that gives businesses an innovative way to collaborate on projects and processes. According to Forbes.com,

“Smartsheet is now used by 72 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.”

So, if you're in business, it makes sense to learn more about how to use Smartsheet.

Smartsheet HomepageSmartsheet HomepageSmartsheet Homepage
This is Smartsheet's home page.

You'll especially want to learn more about this tool if you use spreadsheets or track data. In this article, we'll answer the questions:

  • What is Smartsheet?
  • What are some Smartsheet basics?

We'll also cover the differences between Smartsheet vs Excel and Smartsheet vs Google Sheets. This article also covers how to get started on Smartsheet software. So, if you want to know more about Smartsheet, keep reading!

What Is SmartSheet?

What Is SmartsheetWhat Is SmartsheetWhat Is Smartsheet
Smartsheet is web application that resides in the cloud.

Smartsheet app is an online software for project management record keeping, tracking, and task management. Smartsheet focuses on the collaborative aspects of project management. It's different than traditional project management tools that focus on schedules and tasks for a single user.

Key functions of the Smartsheet software are planning, tracking, automating, and reporting on work. Smartsheet has become so popular that many Fortune 100 companies use the application. 

As a part of the collaboration aspect, Smartsheet allows you to invite others to update your sheet, even if they don't have a license. You can also send your team reports, save in PDF, Excel, and Google Sheets format.  A nice feature that Smartsheet has is that you can control the permission levels. So, when you give access to another person, you can control whether they can edit and make changes or just view it.

Smartsheet software is cloud-based, meaning that all your information is saved on a cloud. This feature gives you the ability to access the Smartsheet app on many different devices if you needed to. Smartsheet even has an app that you can use on a mobile device. So, if you’re traveling, you can still access Smartsheet and your data.

Why Use Smartsheet?

Smartsheet can save a company time because it'll automatically email your team to remind them that a project task is due. Share the status of a project with your team members or supervisors. This makes it easy to know what’s getting done without having to send an email to check on your team member’s progress. This collaboration aspect of Smartsheet means sending fewer emails back on forth to try to find out information for coworkers.

Smartsheet also allows you to work as a team by inviting other team members to collaborate on a sheet. This means that they can view the sheet, edit the sheet, or perform a variety of other tasks based on the permissions you set them up with.

Smartsheet also enables you to set up automated notifications. For example, you can set up an automation that'll send an easy to update form to those people who are assigned to and working on the various tasks.  Within the sheet row, you can have group discussions and attach files. Smartsheet also allows you to share the sheet through a URL. So, anyone who you set up with access permissions can see it.

Smartsheet vs Excel vs Google Sheets

You might already have Excel or Google Sheets and want to know the difference.  We'll cover Smartsheet vs Excel and Smartsheet vs Google Sheets. Take a look at the following chart to see some of the differences:

Smartsheet Excel Google Sheets
Gantt chart built into the sheet No No
Collaboration features (including Predecessors column) No  Yes(no Predecessors column)
Can attach a file to a sheet row No No
Can look at cross-project resources, summaries, and search through multiple spreadsheets No No

What Are the Smartsheet Basics?

Everything in Smartsheet starts with a sheet. A sheet is a customizable spreadsheet. You can select a template or start with a new sheet, choosing from several different types. Each sheet has different views such as:

  • grid format (most like a traditional spreadsheet)
  • project management with a Gantt chart (most like a base Microsoft Project template)
  • a task format
  • card view (will work with Agile project methodology).

Smartsheet has pre-made templates just like Excel does. For example, if you're making a common type of spreadsheet such as a Marketing Campaign Management sheet, then you could just use the template.

To access Smartsheet’s pre-made template, just go to the solution center.

Smartsheet has five types of sheets depending on what you intend on using Smartsheet for. Let's explore each sheet type:

1. Grid 

This is the most like a traditional spreadsheet. You could use the Grid sheet for whatever project you need because it’s really flexible.

2. Project 

The Project sheet includes the following columns:

  • Task Name
  • Duration
  • Start
  • Finish
  • Predecessors
  • Assigned to
  • % complete
  • Comments
  • Traditional Gantt chart. 

The Predecessors column makes Smartsheet more usable for project management. Tie your task to all previous tasks that must be done first. Then if a previous task is delayed, the sheet automatically bumps out the project date on each task equal to the length of delay.  

The Project sheet is great if you've got many different projects and want a Gantt view of when they're due and how long they're expected to take. If you're currently using Microsoft Project, you can easily import your project into Smartsheet.

3. Task List

Another sheet is the Task list this sheet, which includes six columns:

  1. Task Name
  2. Due Date
  3. Done
  4. Assigned To
  5. Status and Comments.

The Task List would be great to use if you've got projects assigned to different members of your team and you want to see the status of each project.

4. Form

The Form is for when you submit an idea for a new project. You'd submit the form, and it could be added to a request sheet.

5. Cards 

Next is the Cards sheet. This sheet has four main columns where you can add cards in each of the columns. The columns are:

  • Backlog
  • Planning
  • In Progress
  • Complete.

This sheet is great if you've got more than one project that your team is working on or if you're using Agile project methodology. This card would allow you to see the progress of those projects, sprints, or tasks.

Reports and Dashboards

Other tools that are included with Smartsheet software are reports and dashboards.

Reports are ways of presenting data from one or more of your sheets in an easy-to-read format. Reports are easy to create. Smartsheet will walk you through the steps when you click on create a report. 

A Dashboard is a web page that's used to present your data to a wide audience.  By using widgets, you can:

  • add metric data
  • turn your statistics into color charts
  • add rich text
  • incorporate quick links to important sites
  • embed some of the reports you created
  • even embed a YouTube video

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How to Get Started in Smartsheet

Now that you've read about what Smartsheet is and the differences between it and other programs, let’s cover how to get started. First, we'll cover how to create a sheet. Smartsheet has several different types of sheets depending on what you need. We covered the types of sheets in the Smartsheet basics section.

1. Create a Sheet

To create a sheet, decide on which sheet you want to use based on the purpose of the sheet. For this tutorial we'll be using use the Grid sheet to create a task list with people assigned. After you select Grid, you'll be prompted to name your new sheet.

After you've named your sheet, you'll want to use the primary column for your key information. For example, you could name the primary column "Task Name" or "Customer ID". To rename the primary column, double click in the column heading.

Column Heading NameColumn Heading NameColumn Heading Name
How to change the column heading name.

2. Name Your Columns

Next, add names to your other columns. To do this, double click in the cell that says Column 2. This brings up the Edit column properties menu.

Next, select Contact List. This allows you to add contacts to the project. Names autofill when you start typing if you've added contacts to your Smartsheet Contact list. If you haven't added the contact names to Smartsheet before, you'll have to enter the contact’s name and full email address.

Column Properties MenuColumn Properties MenuColumn Properties Menu
How to edit column properties

3. Add Dates

The next columns to make are the start date and due date columns. Double click on the top cell to bring up the property’s menu. Select Date from the menu. This allows you to add dates that you need.

Smartsheet does give you the option to restrict a date column to dates only.  This would prevent another user from typing in “unknown”, for example, instead of selecting a date from the calendar date picker.

4. Add Drop-Down Lists

How to Add Drop-Down ListsHow to Add Drop-Down ListsHow to Add Drop-Down Lists
How to Add Drop-Down Lists

For a status column, you can add drop-down lists. These show whether the project task is being worked on. Example statuses from a drop-down list could include Started, On Hold, Cancelled, etc.

5. Add Symbols

If you want a symbol to show task health, select symbols from the Column Properties menu. You can write a formula in the symbols column to automatically put a symbol in the cell for the status. 

How to Add SymbolsHow to Add SymbolsHow to Add Symbols
How to add symbols.

For example, if you're monitoring client invoice payments you can write a formula that would put a red ball in the field if the client hasn't paid the invoice in more than 30 days. It would add a yellow ball in the field if the client hasn't paid the invoice in 15 to 29 days, and a green ball in the field otherwise.

Depending on what Smartsheet plan you've got, you can access to different features. In the individual plan, you don’t have access to the Activity log feature. The Activity Log feature tracks what activity has happened on the sheet, such as changes.

6. Add Contacts to Your Smartsheet Contacts

Adding contacts to your Smartsheet sheets is important because it'll help you easily assign people to tasks. Having contacts also allows the notification system to work better.

Smartsheet ContactsSmartsheet ContactsSmartsheet Contacts
How to enter Smartsheet contacts

To add contacts to your Smartsheet Contacts, click on your profile icon in the top right corner. This causes a menu to drop down. From that drop-down menu, select the My Smartsheet contacts option. You can choose to import your contacts or enter them manually.


Now you've learned the answers to:

  • What is Smartsheet? 
  • What is the Smartsheet app?
  • Why use Smartsheet? 

You've also learned Smartsheet basics and compared Smartsheet vs Excel and Smartsheet vs Google Sheets. Plus, we've shown you some simple steps for how to use Smartsheet. You're ready to get started.

Do you already have Smartsheet? What do you like about the Smartsheet app? Let me know in the comment section down below.

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