7 Great Google Spreadsheet Gadgets

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Turn text into a QR code.
Inside Google Docs' spreadsheet component, you’ll find gadgets that endow the app with powers that even Excel users will envy. Included are tools for creating animated pie charts, producing QR codes, generating organizational charts, and more. You can also plot data in color by country on a map, and you can publish a map with your office location marked on it. All of these tricks are easy to pull off--I’ll show you how.

1. Make Your Own QR Codes

QR codes are ubiquitous these days. They’re a great way to share contact details, URLs, product information, and other brief amounts of text.

To create a QR code in a Google Docs spreadsheet, first type the text for the code into one or more adjacent cells in a column of the spreadsheet. Choose Insert > Gadget > All, locate the QR Code gadget, and click Add to spreadsheet. When the Gadget Settings dialog box appears, drag over the cells containing the text for the code, click OK, and then click Apply & Close. The generated QR code will display in the gadget dialog box.

You can drag the gadget dialog box--as you can all gadget dialog boxes--and place it anywhere on the spreadsheet. To see the options for working with any gadget, click the down arrow in the top corner of the gadget dialog box. The options for the QR Code gadget include using 'Publish Gadget' to obtain some code that you can use on your website to display the QR code. You can also use Print Screen on the code and then insert it into a document or other publication.

2. Make Your Own Custom Google Map

The Map gadget uses content from Google Maps to display the addresses you have entered as markers on the map.
Pictures convey more information than words do, and a map offers the easiest way to show people where your office and other places of interest are located. The Map gadget lets you create a custom Google Map with pointers to the places you want to highlight, and it's simple to use.

To begin, type a list of addresses, one per row down a single column. If you want a tooltip to appear over the map location when someone hovers over the marker, type the text for this item in the cell to the right of the address. For example, to produce a map of local farmers' markets, type each address in one cell and the name of the farmers' market in the adjoining cell to the right.

Choose Insert > Gadget > Maps, and click Add to Spreadsheet. Now select the range of cells containing your address and tooltip data, and then enter a title for the map in the Title box. If your data includes tooltips, select the Last Column as Tooltips checkbox, and then click the Zoom Using Mouse Wheel checkbox. From the 'Map type' list, select the type of map--Normal is a good choice--and then click Apply & Close.

The gadget dialog box will now show a map with the addresses plotted on it. As with the other gadgets, you can publish the Map gadget for use on your website to show your business locations or places of interest to your customers.

3. Create Quick and Easy Organization Charts

Organization charts are handy for describing how your business is set up, but they also work well for diagramming website designs and displaying any other data in a hierarchical arrangement.

The Organization Chart gadget can create a hierarchical chart showing the design for your website or the management structure of your business.
The first step in producing an organization chart is to create the data on which it will be based. In one column, type each employee’s name, or whatever other text should appear in each box in the chart. In each adjoining cell to the right, type the corresponding manager’s name, or whatever information you wish to display in the box at the next higher level in the chart. Don't put any top-level information--such as the highest manager's name or a website’s home page--in the first column, because they have nothing above them in the hierarchy.

If you want two lines of text in a box, type one line and press Alt-Enter to start a second line. Confirm that the spelling of each name or box label is identical wherever you use it, or the chart won't render correctly. If necessary, copy the contents of a cell rather than retyping it to make sure that each entry that should be identical--such as "home" in the example illustrated here--remains so.

Now choose Insert > Gadget > Diagrams > Organization Chart, and click Add to spreadsheet. Select the cells in the two columns containing the data, and click OK. Type a title in the Title box, and click Apply & Close. The organization chart will appear in your spreadsheet.

Next Page: Produce an Interactive Table

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