How To Swap Columns in Google Sheets

Posted by Matthew on December 16, 2018

In much the same way Docs is Google’s answer to Microsoft Word, Sheets is Google’s alternative to the MS Excel spreadsheet software, though they don’t function exactly the same. The great thing about Sheets is that it’s web-based software you can open within your browser that can be shared between multiple people. Thus, it’s not surprising that many prefer to set up spreadsheet tables with Google’s spreadsheet application. When it comes to sheer convenience, Sheets has a lot going for it. For starters, swapping table columns is more straightforward in Sheets.

Swap Table Columns by Dragging Them

Google Sheets users will often need to swap table columns around in their spreadsheets. That does not mean swapping the actual spreadsheet columns around, but just the table cells included within them. For example, if you had cell ranges in the A and B columns, swapping them around would move the first table column range to B and the second to A, while the actual A and B remain in the same place.

Swapping table columns is slightly more straightforward in Google Sheets because you can do so just by dragging one column over another. Excel users also need to press and hold the Shift key when dragging columns, as mentioned in this Tech Junkie post. Dragging and dropping is probably the best way to swap table columns around in Sheets.

For an example, open a blank spreadsheet in Google Sheets. Then input ‘Column 1’ and ‘Column 2’ in the A and B columns. Enter ‘Jan’ in A2, ‘Feb’ in A3, ‘March’ in A4 and ‘April’ in A5. Enter some random numbers in the cells B2 to B5. It doesn’t matter what you include in that column just so long as your table is pretty much the same as the one shown in the snapshot below. It just needs to be enough to give you an idea of what you’re doing.

Click the column header A to select it. The cursor should become a hand. Then click the A column header again, and hold the left mouse button. Drag the first table column over column B. That will swap the table columns around as in the snapshot directly below.

Now Column 1 is in B and 2 is in A. Furthermore, you can also swap multiple table columns around at the same time. As an example, enter ‘Column 3’ in C and ‘Column 4’ in D. Your spreadsheet should then be something like the one below.

First, click the A column’s header to select it. Next, press and hold the Shift key and select column B, which lets you select multiple columns without de-selecting the first one. The two columns should be selected as shown directly below.

Now click the column A header and hold the left mouse button. Drag Column 2 and 1 over the C and D columns, and let go of the left mouse button. That will swap Column 2 and 1 with Columns 3 and 4, as shown below.

Swap Table Columns by Copying and Pasting

You don’t need the Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V (Command + C and Command + V if you’re using a Mac) copy and paste hotkeys to swap table columns in Google Sheets. Nevertheless, Sheets users can swap columns around by copying and pasting them despite the restrictions of the Windows clipboard. You can only copy one cell range at a time to the clipboard, but can still swap table columns by pasting a second copy of the table to a blank area of the spreadsheet.

You can try this in your Google Sheets spreadsheet by selecting the cell range A1:D5. Press the Ctrl + C hotkey to copy the table. Select the cell range F1:I5, which includes exactly the same number of rows and columns as the copied table, and press Ctrl + V. That pastes a second table into the spreadsheet, as shown below.

Now you can copy and paste the table columns from cell range F1:I5 over the first table. For example, select column H and press the Ctrl + C hotkey. Then select column B and press Ctrl + V to paste Column 3 into B as below.

Column 3 is now in both the B and C columns of the first table. You can restore Column 1 in the first table by selecting the G column and pressing Ctrl + C. Click the C column header, and press the Ctrl + V hotkey. Column 1 will then be in the C column of the first table.

As such, you have swapped Column 1 and Column 3 around in the first table by copying and pasting them. There’s still a second table on the spreadsheet to delete. Select the cell range F1:I5, and press the Del key to erase the duplicate table. This method is a little more circular than just dragging the columns where you need them to be, but it’s still perfectly functional.

Swap Columns With Power Tools

Google Sheets also has loads of add-ons that expands its tools. Power Tools is one of those add-ons, which you can find by following this link. Among its various features, it also includes a handy Shuffle tool.

When you’ve added Power Tools to Sheets, click Add-ons > Power Tools > Start to open the sidebar shown in the snapshot directly below. Next, click Data and Shuffle to open options that you can adjust table layouts with. That includes an Entire columns option that you can swap columns with.

First, select the Entire columns option. Then click the column A header and hold the left mouse button. Drag the cursor across to the B column header to select both columns. Press the Shuffle button to swap Column 2 and 3 around.

So there are a few different ways you can swap columns around in Sheets. For anyone looking for a little more instruction on the topic, this YouTube video also shows you how to swap columns and rows around in your Google Sheets spreadsheets.

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