The NOW function in Google Sheets is useful if you want to return the current date and time as a date value.
Table of Contents
NOW function in Google Sheets is similar to the
TODAY function but the
NOW function returns both date and time while the
TODAY function returns only the date.
Even though it seems like a simple date function, that does nothing more than returning the value of the current date and time, it can be very useful when used to build dynamic formulas.
Let’s take an example.
Say you have recently had a baby and want to use a spreadsheet to track her feeding so you would always know how long has passed since the last feeding.
So how do we do that?
NOW function is quite simple but if you combine it with the date and time of the last feeding, you will be able to tell the exact time since the last feeding just by glancing at a sheet.
Let’s take a look at the syntax of the
NOW function before showing you some real examples of how to use it in Google Sheets!
The Anatomy of the NOW Function
The syntax (the way we write) the
NOW function is as follows:
=the equals sign is how we begin any function in Google Sheets.
NOW()is our function. Note that you will still need the function’s round brackets even though there are no arguments.
⚠️ A few notes you should know when using the NOW function in Google Sheets:
NOWfunction is one of the Google Sheets volatile function, meaning it will update on every edit made to the worksheet in which it is. You can go to the upper menu and select File > Spreadsheet settings to change when the worksheet recalculates. You cannot turn off the recalculation of volatile functions. Common actions that trigger worksheet recalculation are entering new data, adding or deleting rows or columns, and hiding or unhiding rows (but not columns)
NOWfunction will show the current time at the moment of entering the function. The time and date will not update unless you update the sheet or change when the worksheet recalculates.
How To Use NOW Function In Google Sheets
Let’s take a look at
NOW function and how it works in Google Sheets, before showing you some real examples of how to use the
NOW function with other formulas.
- First, click on on the cell where you want to show your result to make it active. For this guide, I will use the cell A5.
- Then, start off the function by typing the equals sign ‘=’. After that, start typing the name of our function, which is ‘NOW’. As you start typing, you will see the auto-suggested box with the names of the functions that start with the same letters. You can choose the
NOWfunction from this box, or close it and continue typing.
- Since there are no arguments, we can close the function’s round brackets ‘()’. You can enter the brackets manually or hit your Enter key, which will automatically close the bracket on the function and output the result of the formula you have just entered.
How To Change When The Worksheet Will Recalculate
- To change when the worksheet will recalculate, go to the upper menu and select File > Spreadsheet settings. This will open a pop-up window named ‘Settings for this spreadsheet’. Go to the ‘Calculation’ tab and choose how often are volatile functions updated. There are three options to choose from – on change, on change and every minute, or on change and every hour.
- Choose the option that suits you and click on the ‘Save settings’ button in the lower right corner of the pop-up window.
A Real Example Of How To Use NOW Function In Google Sheets
Now, let’s see some real examples of how to use
NOW function along with some other Google Sheets functions.
So let’s get back to our baby feeding schedule! 👶
- First, we should enter the last feeding date. Click on the cell A2 to make it active. As mentioned before, the
TODAYfunction will return only the date, unlike the
NOWfunction that will return both date and time.
- Type the equals sign ‘=’, and start typing the name of the function, which is ‘TODAY’. the auto-suggested box with the names of the functions that start with the same letters will pop-up. You can close it, or you can choose the
TODAYfunction, just make sure you choose the right one.
- This function also does not need any arguments so you can type the function’s closing round bracket ‘)’ or you can hit the Enter key on your keyboard, to automatically close the bracket on the function and output the result of the formula you have just entered.
- Now, click on the cell B2. To enter the time of the last feeding, we will use the
TIMEfunction. Type the equals sign ‘=’ and the name of the function (TIME) or choose the function from the auto-suggested box with the functions that start with the same letters.
- Enter the hours, minutes, and seconds, all separated with a comma ‘,’ and close the function (by entering the closing round bracket ‘)’ or hitting the Enter key on your keyboard).
- And, finally, the
NOWfunction! Click on the cell C2. Enter the equals sign ‘=’, the name of the function (NOW), and the functions round brackets ‘()’. This time, do not hit the Enter key since we will have to add something to the formula.
- Enter the minus sign ‘-‘ and open the round bracket. Now you should enter the cell reference of the cell that contains the last feeding date (A2). Enter the ‘+’ sign and enter the cell reference of the cell that contains the last feeding time (B2). Close the round bracket or hit Enter on the keyboard.
- As you can see, you will get a number that probably will not mean much to you. So how to turn that number into the actual value we can use? Go to the upper menu and choose Format > Number > More Formats > Custom number format.
- Choose ‘h:mm:ss’ and click on the ‘Apply’ button below.
That is it! You can now see the exact time that has passed since the last feeding. You can try it yourself by making a copy of the example spreadsheet using the link attached below:
Now, when you now to use the NOW function in Google Sheets, you can learn how to use various other Google Sheets formulas as well, so you can create even more powerful formulas. 🙂