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How to Use Split Function to Split Cells in Google Sheets

In the fast-paced world of data-driven decision-making, spreadsheets have become indispensable for professionals and enthusiasts alike. With its user-friendly interface and powerful capabilities, Google Sheets has emerged as a go-to platform for handling data. 

However, one common challenge that often arises is dealing with cells containing multiple pieces of information jammed together like a traffic jam during rush hour. 

But don’t fret. Today’s article will show you how to split cells in Google Sheets. But before we jump into the practical aspects of today’s post, let’s quickly explore a unique scenario that will require you to split cells in Google Sheets. 

Unique Scenario for Splitting Cells in Google Sheets

Let’s imagine you have just taken over a small, family-run business. The first task you face is to manage their contact list. But there’s a hitch – the contact details for each customer are all crammed into a single cell. Names, email addresses, phone numbers, and even notes about their preferences are jumbled together, forming an indecipherable mess.

As a savvy spreadsheet user, you know that a properly structured database is key to optimizing your marketing efforts and fostering strong customer relationships. However, manually separating all this information feels daunting and time-consuming.

But fret not. With Google Sheets’ cell-splitting magic, you can swiftly transform this chaotic contact list into a structured and organized database, saving you precious time and effort.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, wait till we get to the practical aspects of today’s guide, and you’ll be super amazed at just how easy it is to split cells in Google Sheets. 

Split Cells in Google Sheets using the split function

Now that we have provided some background on how to split cells in Google Sheets and added a unique scenario that helps you understand the concept better; let’s quickly show you how to use the Split function to split cells in Google Sheets. 

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s understand the Split function and how it can help you split cells in Google Sheets. 

The SPLIT function in Google Sheets is a tool that helps you break down text in a cell into smaller parts. It does this by using a specific character or set of characters as a guide for dividing the text.

Here is what the Split function syntax looks like: 

Let’s quickly explain the Split function syntax so you get the bigger picture: 

  • Text: This is the text you want to split. You just need to tell the function which cell contains the text you want to break apart.
  • Delimiter: This is the character or set of characters that you want to use as the “dividing line” for the text. For example, if you choose a comma as the delimiter, the text will be split every time the function encounters a comma.
  • Split_by_each (Optional): This is an extra setting you can use to decide how the delimiter should be treated. If you set it to TRUE, the delimiter will be treated as a complete word, meaning the function will split the text only when it finds the entire word. If you set it to FALSE, the function will split the text around each individual character of the delimiter.
  • Remove_empty_text (Optional): This setting lets you choose whether you want to get rid of any empty parts after the text is split. If you set it to TRUE, empty parts will be removed. If you set it to FALSE, empty parts will be included in the result.

By using the SPLIT function, you can quickly organize and separate text in Google Sheets, making it easier to work with and analyze the information in your cells.

Using the Split function: Practical example

Got a grasp of the Split function and its syntax parameters? Awesome. Now, buckle up as we embark on an exciting journey to implement this newfound knowledge. Together, we’ll dive into the practical world of Google Sheets and uncover the magic of splitting cells. 

To demonstrate how to use this function to split cells in Google Sheets, we will use the following sample data: 

Now that we have our sample data looking all nice, let’s show you how to put the Split function to work to split cells in Google Sheets. 

Step 1: Choose the cell where you want to split the result to be generated

Pick the cell where you want to see the split result. In our case, it’s B2. So, go ahead and click on B2 in your spreadsheet.

That’s it. You’ve taken the first step towards mastering cell splitting in Google Sheets. Easy peasy.

Step 2: Enter the Split function formula

Now that we’ve picked the cell where our split result will appear (let’s stick with B2), the next step is a piece of cake.

Head to the “formula bar” at the top of your Google Sheets, like a chef going to the recipe book. Now, in that magic bar, type in the following formula exactly as it is:

Step 3: Hit Enter

You’re almost there. Now that we have the Split function formula correctly typed in (just like the example above), the last step is super easy. Just press the “Enter” button on your keyboard.

It’s like giving the green signal to Google Sheets, and instantly, like magic, it will split your data into separate columns right where you want it.

Here is what our spreadsheet now looks like after typing in the Split function formula: 

Step 4: Generate results for the other names

From the picture above, you can see that we’ve only filled in the result for one person’s full name. Now, we want to do the same thing for the rest of the names without having to repeat all the steps we did before. Luckily, Google Sheets has a helpful ” auto-fill ” feature that can save us time and effort.

The video below demonstrates how to use the auto-fill option in Google Sheets to generate the results for all the other names quickly. It’s a simple and convenient way to complete the task without doing everything manually.

Understanding the Split formula we used in the above example 

The Split function formula we deployed above took the cell reference as the first argument and the delimiter as the second argument. This simply means that it takes two pieces of information: the cell you want to split and the character that will be used to divide the text.

Since we wanted to split the cell content before and after the space character in the above example, we simply specified a space character ( in double quotes) as the second argument. 

Similarly, if you have a column with addresses where commas separate each part, you can use the SPLIT function with a comma as the divider to split the address into different columns.

It’s important to note that the SPLIT function is an array formula, meaning you cannot change or edit just a part of the formula’s result. If you want to modify the output, you’ll have to delete the entire result and start over. However, you can convert the result into a static value first and then edit it if needed.

One advantage of using the SPLIT formula is that it’s dynamic. This means that if you make any changes to the original text, the split result will automatically update accordingly. Also, if you add more data to be split, you can copy and extend the formula to cover the new records, and it will split them as well.

But sometimes, you may want to quickly split cell content into columns without dynamic updates. In such cases, you can use another useful feature in Google Sheets called “Text to Columns.” It serves a similar purpose but doesn’t automatically update when the source data changes.

By using these functions, you can efficiently manage and work with your data in Google Sheets.

Using Split Text to Columns

Now that you’ve learned how to split cells in Google Sheets using the “Split” function, let’s explore another nifty technique called “split text to columns.” It’s like having an extra trick up your sleeve.

Although this method gives almost the same result as the “Split” function, the way you do it is slightly different. Don’t worry; it’s just as easy. So, buckle up, and we’ll guide you through the simple process of splitting text into columns in Google Sheets.

Imagine you have a dataset like the one below with information, including addresses all grouped together in one column. However, you want to break down these addresses and put each part (like street name, city, zip code) into separate columns.

Here is how to go about that: 

Step 1: Select the cells that have the addresses that you want to split

First, highlight the cells containing the addresses you wish to split. So take your cursor and highlight the cells that hold these addresses. The selected cells get highlighted, ready for the next magical step.

Step 2: Data tab > Split text to column

Now that we have highlighted the cells we want to split (the ones with the data we want to separate), we need to follow these steps:

Go to the “Data” tab in Google Sheets. You can find this tab at the top of the screen. Scroll down the options in the “Data” tab until you see the one called “Split text to columns.”

Click on “Split text to columns.” This action will start the process of separating the data in the highlighted cells into different columns.

If you’re still a bit confused about how to do it, don’t worry. The image below can help you understand the process better.

After executing the steps we detailed above, Google Sheets will automatically split the text into different columns. Here is what ours looks like: 

Looking at the image above, you can see that Google Sheets automatically guessed what we wanted, so it added the separator automatically. 

Assuming that didn’t happen, we will need to manually select the separator, in which case we will have to select “Comma” as our separator. 

Note: When you use “Split Text to Columns” in Google Sheets, it will take the cells with the text you want to split and replace them with the new separated parts.

From the above example, you can clearly see that column A, which had the complete address, no longer has the full address. So, it’s important to know that the original data in column A will be replaced with the split results. If you want to keep the original data, there are two ways to do it:

  • Make a copy of the entire Google Sheets document before using the “Split Text to Columns” feature. This way, you’ll have an extra version with the original data.
  • Alternatively, you can copy and paste the address from column A to another empty column (for example, column E) and then use the “Split Text to Columns” feature on column E. This way, the original address in column A will stay intact.

Final Thoughts 

Finally, you’ve conquered the art of splitting cells in Google Sheets like true data wizards. Throughout this journey, we learned about two fantastic methods – the “SPLIT” function and “Text to Columns” – both serving as your trusty allies for organizing data effortlessly.

With the “SPLIT” function, you can elegantly split cells in Google Sheets using specific delimiters, bringing structure to your data with just a few keystrokes. And if you need quick splits without dynamic updates, “Text to Columns” has got your back.

Remember, Google Sheets is your magical playground for taming unruly data. You’ve now equipped yourself with valuable skills to easily handle addresses, names, and other data elements.

As you continue to explore the vast world of spreadsheets, don’t be afraid to experiment and discover new tricks. Embrace the power of Google Sheets, and let it empower you to analyze, organize, and visualize data like a pro.