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What Are Some Limitations of Google Sheets

Google Sheets is a handy web-based spreadsheet tool that lets you create spreadsheets, tables, charts, and more right from your browser. However, because of its unique proposition and ease of use, not many are aware of the limitations of Google Sheets.

While many rely on it for everyday use – from students crunching numbers for homework to businesses tracking data and running budgets, the limitations of Google Sheets may force users to explore alternative spreadsheet software.  

If you’ve spent even a short time in Google Sheets, you may have noticed some restrictions that impact your efficiency and ability to get work done. 

Knowing what it can and can’t do easily will allow you to make the most of this free tool and help determine when switching to a more robust spreadsheet package might be warranted.

In today’s guide, we will highlight some limitations of Google Sheets you should be aware of. 

Popular Limitations of Google Sheets You Should Know

Now that we have provided some background on the limitations of Google Sheets, it’s time we highlight some of the popular restrictions Google Sheets users encounter when navigating this spreadsheet application.

Read on as we go over these limitations together.

The Cell Limit Cap 

One restriction in Google Sheets that can hamper large projects is the cap on the number of cells allowed per spreadsheet. 

Specifically, Google places a firm limit of 5 million cells across all worksheets in a Sheets file. Once this maximum is reached, users get a prompt blocking any attempts to add more rows or columns. 

This constrained ceiling on cells can cramp the style of power users with large data sets to analyze or models to build. Complex financial models and scientific data sets often demand more than 5 million cells to house all the information required. 

So, major number-crunching tasks often necessitate upgrading to paid spreadsheet tools without such ceilings, especially for collaborative team sheets that fill up faster. 

While the 5 million limit seems generous, bulkier projects can run up on it quicker than expected. Being aware of this ceiling helps prevent hitting frustrating data walls mid-workflow.

The Limit on Columns

Google Sheets also limits your sheets’ width by capping the maximum columns per worksheet. You can only have up to 18,278 columns from A to Z before Google cuts you off.

Trying to insert more columns past this limit brings up a dead end. Even if you haven’t hit the total cell limit, Google prevents adding more columns once you reach the end of the alphabet.

This can be problematic for specific projects that need to capture lots of categories or attributes in a single sheet using columns. Wide format tables for things like product catalogs, inventory databases, and scientific observational studies often demand robust columns.

Hitting the column wall may force you to prematurely split up related data that is better structured in one sheet. Knowing the width boundaries can help guide how to best organize your data if you anticipate utilizing much of the alphabet for columns. 

This is another area where upgraded spreadsheet tools offer more latitude if you routinely bump into the column constraint.

Endless Rows (To A Point)

Google Sheets lets you build sheets with as many rows as possible, removing the old 40,000-row maximum. This is great news for large databases and vertical data sets.

However, you will still hit a limit due to the 5 million cell cap across the entire spreadsheet. So, while rows may seem endless, going too wide with columns means you’ll max out cells sooner, even with fewer rows.

For example, with only 26 columns, you can only have about 192,000 rows before hitting the cell limit. So, rows are essentially unlimited until all those cells are used up. Being aware of this interaction between rows and cells helps plan sheets efficiently.

Limited Tabs In Total

Google Sheets does not limit the number of tabs or sheets you can create. You can add as many tabs as needed to organize your data.

However, tabs still have a hidden cap based on the overall cell limit. The 5 million cell maximum restricts how many total sheets your spreadsheet can hold.

Each sheet gets 26,000 cells from 100 rows x 26 columns by default.  So, if you stick with default row and column numbers, you can only have around 192 sheets before maxing out cells.

After hitting the 5 million cell mark, Google will prevent adding more tabs even if the tab count is lower. So, while tabs themselves are unlimited, the shared cell pool limits total tabs depending on their size. Knowing this interaction helps you to plan sheets efficiently.

Cap On Maximum Cell Values

One of the limitations of Google Sheets is the maximum value allowed in each cell – 1.79769E+308. While gigantic, this restricts huge numbers from being entered.

Attempting to input values greater than this limit returns an error noting the cell value ceiling has been reached. For example, typing in =144*144 yields the notification that the maximum possible cell value is 1.79769E+308 – no number bigger can be accommodated.

Realistically, most Google Sheets users will never require such enormous figures. But those working with massive datasets or performing complex mathematics may hit this wall unexpectedly. Financial projections, statistical analysis, physics calculations, and computational data modeling are examples of where gigantic numbers might emerge.

Final Thoughts 

As we’ve seen, Google Sheets has some boundaries to be aware of. In today’s guide, we showed you some of the limitations of Google Sheets you should know. For instance, reaching the maximum number of cells per spreadsheet or columns per sheet can restrict large projects. More so, the allowed maximum value per cell may be too small for complex math and science work.

However, Google Sheets is still quite capable of many daily tasks. Understanding its limitations lets you explore its full potential while avoiding issues down the line. For simple collaborative data sharing and analysis, Sheets has terrific free options to try before needing to upgrade to more advanced spreadsheet software.

Being aware of the current limitations of Google Sheets helps match your work to the best tool. And remembering its restrictions allows you to anticipate when and where you may need a more customizable, high-powered spreadsheet application. 

But don’t let a few boundaries stop you from benefiting from the convenient online collaboration and efficiency Sheets can bring to your next project.