Google Sheets Linking Spreadsheets Using an iPad

Published February 28, 2023

I’m aiming for the impossible. My goal is to use the iPad exclusively for my computing needs. Although I can get about 95% of what I need to accomplish done, there’s that old Windows-Google-iOS rivalry that sometimes makes it very difficult.


Action Buttons Not Displaying

There are times when the iOS user interface will not display an action button. Whether it’s the “Apply”, “Done” or even “Cancel”, sometimes the button just won’t display. At first, I thought the problem was my device so I’d reboot the iPad in hopes of a better experience. Unfortunately, the results were the same.

When such things occurred, I’d get on my Windows computer, access the very same page and complete the transaction. On the Windows computer, the appropriate action button displays just fine.

Google Sheets: Spreadsheet Calculations and Linking

More frustrating than action buttons not displaying is the inability to complete tasks such as linking cells in a Google Sheets spreadsheet. Anyone working with spreadsheets knows it’s better to link information from one sheet to the other to reduce typing redundancy and the possibility of typos. Just one typo will throw a monkey wrench into the calculations.

The Google, Windows, and iOS turf war had me jumping through hoops in order to link a few Google Sheets documents.

How to Link two Google Sheets Documents

Here’s a classic example of my frustration. Let me see if I can explain it simply.

I have two Google Sheets spreadsheets that I’ve created using my iPad. I want to take the information from a cell from spreadsheet A and have it auto-populate and update a cell on spreadsheet B. I followed the directions to the letter but kept getting an error, either #ERROR or #REF In other words, the cell linking wasn’t happening. The program kept telling me it couldn’t find Spreadsheet A.

Spreadsheet cannot be found

Having been down the “I don’t work well on iPads” road before, I decided to attempt the task on a Windows computer.

Fortunately, I have a mini PC attached to the side of the desk and next to the computer monitor (that doubles as an iPad external monitor) is my iPad. I use an A/B switch to toggle between the computer and iPad. It comes in handy when I run into other Google/Microsoft sympathetic websites that won’t allow me to complete a task on the iPad.

The minute I signed onto the computer and accessed the Google Sheets spreadsheet, a message popped up on my iPad that said, “Please use a desktop web browser to connect this sheet.” UGH!

Use desktop browser to link

For the record, the formula to import data from one Google Sheets document to another is:

=IMPORTDATA(“sheet_url or key”, “Tab!cell”)

Unfortunately, when on the iPad, the formula does not work if, you insert the name of the spreadsheet in the “sheet_url or key” placeholder (error #1 on my part). You must insert the actual url or key. I opted for the key.

To find the key, open the document from a desktop web browser. In the URL bar you’ll see something like this:

The key is the set of characters between the forward slash after the "d" and the forward slash before "edit" as highlighted above.

Once you have the key, insert it into the formula surrounded by double quotes.

The second part of the formula represents the Tab name and cell number you want to link to the second document. For example, if I wanted to link cell D45 in the March tab from spreadsheet A it would look like this:

=IMPORTDATA(“1-8_NumDQ6h1ptMj5kqV6poEzefUc4vHYwQbd-1uKUBM”, “March!d45”)

After I inserted the key, tab, and cell location using a desktop web browser, all worked well.

Prepare Before Travel


So, if I’m on the road equipped only with my iPad, I’ll have to stop at a library somewhere to use one of their Windows computers to link the appropriate information in my spreadsheet. Fortunately, linking spreadsheets isn’t a daily task. I’ll just make sure to do all of my linking at home before hitting the road.

Felicia (aka Low Tech Grandma) is a wife, mother, grandmother, freelance writer and low-tech blogger.

Last Modified: 25 August 2023

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