Columns

Smartsheet columns are similar to columns in a typical spreadsheet, but also have special properties that make using your sheet easier and more powerful.

Columns in Smartsheet

Learn about different column types such as the primary column, text/number, contact list, date, dropdown list, checkbox, symbols, auto-number and system columns. Change the name, layout, and order of any column in your sheet. You can also show or hide columns and lock columns you don't want editors to change.

Column Type Reference

Column types help you get better control over what data is allowed in columns—use specific types to ensure more consistent data entry. In Smartsheet, you’ll work with default columns and configurable columns:

Who can use this capability

Permission requirements icon Licensed users  with Owner or Admin permissions to the sheet can to add or edit a column. 
Plan availability icon All plan types.


Default Columns

Every sheet has a primary column. This column is mandatory and cannot be deleted from a sheet. The value in this column is frequently the main descriptor for the row: it will always have a type of Text/Number. The primary column type cannot be changed. (For more information, see Work With the Primary Column: Overview and Best Practices.)

 These columns display icons to alert you to certain row-specific content or activities:

  • The Attachments column Attachments column. The Attachments icon will appear on each row with an attachment. Click the icon to review the attachments.
  • The Comments column Comments Column JT. The Comments icon will appear on each row containing comments. Click the icon to review the comments.
  • The Row Action Indicators column Row Action Indicators column. This column will display an icon for Pending Reminders Reminder, Update Requests Update Request, Locks Lock, and Allocation AlertsAllocation Alert associated with the row.

    NOTE: If multiple row actions exist for the row, the column will display multiple icons.

Configurable Columns

Text/Number

This column type can include text, numeric values, or any combination of the two. Text/number is the best choice for comment columns that might have long entries or number-focused columns, such as the projected expense for a sheet tracking a budget.

You can apply formatting to a text/number column to display values in currency or percentage format by clicking the column header and then clicking the Currency Format or Percentage Format button in the toolbar.

NOTE: If the first character of a number is zero followed by another digit or by a letter, Smartsheet will prepend the value with an apostrophe and store it as text. It does this so that the leading zero will be retained and displayed with the number. If you want the number to be stored as a number—so that you can perform calculations with it, for example—you'll need to double-click the cell and remove the apostrophe and any leading zeros.

Contact List

This is the best choice for columns such as Assigned To, Owner, Approved By, and so on. This column type enables you to assign rows to collaborators shared to a sheet or to contacts from your Smartsheet Contact List. You can also use the column to send Reminders to shared collaborators and generate reports that show a list of tasks assigned to a specific team member.

When you use this column type, you have the option to specify preferred contact values in the Values box. Acceptable values for this list are a contact name and email address, a name only, or an email address only.

Contact List Column Properties

If you’ve set up preferred contacts in the contact column, you’ll be able to quickly access them by clicking the dropdown arrow  in a Contact list cell or corresponding Smartsheet form field—In the cell, you’ll also see contacts and email addresses that have been assigned to other rows on the sheet. 

NOTE: A Smartsheet Form field associated with a contact column will only include preferred contacts. If no preferred contacts have been set, anyone submitting through the form must type the contact’s name or email address rather than selecting from a list. 

You can add to the list by manually typing a new name or email address into a cell. As you type, the list will expand to display a relevant list of matching contacts from your Smartsheet Contacts List, as well as from the User Management screen (available with multi-user plans).

Add Contact

TIP: If you start typing a name or address and aren't seeing the list auto-resolve, this means you don't have any contacts matching what you've typed. Add the contact to your list to make sure that you can run reports and send reminders to them. Click the dropdown arrow  in the cell then select Add New to add the contact to your list and assign it to the row.

To remove names or email addresses from the auto-resolve dropdown list, remove them from the other cells in the column and from the Edit Column Properties form. People who are shared to the sheet will always appear as suggestions when you type in a Contact List column.

Date

The cells in this column will display a calendar icon that collaborators can click to choose a specific date. You can also manually type in dates or use keyboard shortcuts to populate the cells. Date columns must exist in the sheet to enable dependencies or to display items in the Calendar view.

The dates will appear in the format set up in the Personal Settings of your Smartsheet account.

Date column select date

Dropdown List (Single Select)

This column displays a list of values from which you can choose a single value.

Single-select dropdown list choose value

When you select this column type, you'll have the option to type the values that you want to appear in the list. Separate each list item onto a separate line by pressing Enter or Return on your keyboard.

To remove an item from the Dropdown List, select it and then press Backspace or Delete.

For more information about Dropdown List columns, see Maintain Consistency in Data Collection with Dropdown Columns.

Dropdown List (Multi Select)

This column displays a list of values that you can choose one or more values from. When you select this column type, you'll have the option to type the values that you want to appear in the list. Separate each list item onto a separate line by pressing Enter or Return.

Multi-select dropdown list choose value

For more information about Dropdown List columns, see Maintain Consistency in Data Collection with Dropdown Columns.

Checkbox

The column presents a checkbox that can be checked or unchecked. A checkbox will appear in the cell only if a value has been entered into another column in that row.

Symbols

A Symbols column will display a visual image. Use a Symbols column to describe the status of a row.

You cannot add your own (custom) symbols to the column.

To see the full list of available symbols, see Available Symbols in the Symbols Column.

Auto-Number/System

This type of column will automatically generate values for every row in the sheet that contains data. Auto-numbering can be useful when you want to assign row IDs, part numbers, invoice numbers, or customer numbers without manually typing them in. System columns can show you who created each row, who last modified each row, the time each row was created, and the last time each row was modified. 

When you set them up, System column cells are initially empty: the values will be generated as soon as you click Save to save the sheet.

For more information, see Auto-Numbering Rows and System Columns.

Use the Best Column Type for Your Data

Column types help you get better control over what data is allowed in columns—use specific types to ensure more consistent data entry. You can also add a column description to provide more information about your column.

For information about the different column types in Smartsheet, see Column Type Reference.

Who can use this capability

Permission requirements icon Licensed users with Owner or Admin permissions to the sheet can add or edit a column. 

Plan availability icon All plan types.


Edit a column to change its type

To change an existing column type, using the Column Properties window: click the dropdown arrow  under the column header and select Edit Column Properties.


Edit Column Properties, Restrict to dates only selected

NOTES:

  • Even when a column property is set, it's possible to type text freely into a cell (one exception is read-only System columns).
  • If you’re the sheet Owner or are shared to the sheet with Admin-level permissions, you can prevent others from adding free text by checking the Restrict to checkbox when you edit column properties or create a new column. For more information, see Control Data Entry and Allow Only Specific Values in a Column.
  • If a column is enabled in the project settings of a sheet, its type will be displayed as Date/Time, Duration, or Predecessors and the column type won't be editable.

Include a Column Description

Explain important information about a column in a custom tooltip; people can access the information by hovering over an information icon below the column header. Use a column description, for example, to document how you want a particular column to be used and what type of data you expect the column to contain.

Viewing Column Description

NOTES:

  • You must be the sheet Owner or shared with Admin-level permissions to add or edit a column description.
  • The column description has a limit of up to 250 characters (this limit may vary depending on the language or character type you use).
  • Column descriptions are visible only in sheets—they cannot be viewed in reports or dashboards.

Create a column description

  1. Right-click a column header and select Add Column Description.

    The Column Description window appears.
    Add Column Description 
  2. Type your column description in the form and click the OK button to set the description.

An Information icon appears below the column header.

That's it! Now anyone shared to the sheet can view the column description by hovering over the information icon.

Edit column description information

  1. Right-click the column header and select Edit Column Description.
  2. In the Column Description window, make your desired changes and click OK.

    Maintain Consistency in Data Collection with Dropdown Columns

    You can use the Single Select and Multi Select dropdown column types to standardize the collection of key information:

    • Allow collaborators to select one or more values that apply to them
    • Easily track and report on the standardized values collected

    Who can use this capability

    Permission requirements icon Licensed users with Owner or Admin permissions to the sheet can add or modify columns. Licensed users with Editor-level sharing permissions or higher can modify dropdown list values in cells within unlocked rows and columns.

    Plan availability iconAvailable on all plan types.

    Set up a dropdown column in your sheet

    To create a Dropdown List column:

    1. Click the dropdown arrow below a columns header and select Insert Column Right or Insert Column Left, depending on where you want to place the additional dropdown column.

      The Insert Column window appears.

      Insert Column window
    2. Type the name of the column in the Name box.
    3. Select the Dropdown (Single Select) or Dropdown (Multi Select) column type.
    4. Type the values that you want to appear in the list under Values.  (You can separate each list value onto a new line by pressing Enter or Return.)
    5. To restrict users from entering free text values, check Restrict to dropdown values only.
    6. Click OK.

    NOTES:

    • Values in Dropdown cells are ordered based on their order of appearance in the values list.
    • Values may contain punctuation, letters, numbers, and emojis.
    • If the text equivalent of a hyperlink is inserted under Values, it will appear as plain text in the values field, but is a clickable hyperlink when selected from the dropdown.
    • Email addresses under Values will appear as plain text in the dropdown.


    That’s it! The Single Select or Multi Select dropdown column is inserted into your sheet. Now you can start collecting standardized values from collaborators.

    Edit Dropdown column properties

    If you want to add or remove values from the dropdown list, you can do so by editing the dropdown column properties.

    To edit the column properties:

    1. Click the dropdown arrow below a column's header and select Edit Column Properties.

      The Edit Column Properties window appears.

      Edit Column Properties window
    2. Modify the values listed under Values.

      To remove a value from the dropdown list, select it and then press Backspace or Delete.

      NOTE: Values in a Single Select or Multi Select dropdown field on a form will need to be modified in the Edit Column Properties window.

    3. Click Save.

    Note the following if you decide to switch between column types:

    • When switching between Single Select and Multi Select dropdown column types, the values listed under Values in the column properties will remain the same. The only difference is that Single Select allows you to select a single value from the dropdown list, while Multi-Select allows you to select multiple values.
    • When switching from a Single Select or Multi Select dropdown column type to a non-dropdown column type, any cells that contain a single dropdown value will be shown as text, and any cells that contain more than one dropdown value will be shown as line-delimited text.
    • When switching from a non-dropdown column type to a Single Select or Multi Select column type, the entire content of each cell will be captured and added as one value in the Values section of the dropdown column properties.
    • When switching from or to single-select or multi-select column types, reports containing those columns will need to be updated.

    Choose the right dropdown column type

    When you select values from dropdown columns on the sheet, the dropdown list will appear differently based on the dropdown column type selected.

    The Single Select dropdown column will allow you to select a single value from the dropdown list:

    Single-select dropdown list choose value
    The Multi Select dropdown column will allow you to select one or more values from the dropdown list by checking the checkbox next to each value:

    Each value selected from a Multi Select dropdown will be captured in the cell.

    Multi-select dropdown list choose value
    To remove captured values from cells, double-click the cell and click the X next to the captured value you want to remove, or uncheck the checkbox next to the value in the dropdown list.

    Tips and best practices for working with dropdown columns

    Keep the following in mind when modifying cells in dropdown columns:

    • If the dropdown column has not been restricted to list values only, you will be able to enter a free text value in the cell by double-clicking the cell and typing the value. These free text values will be added to the dropdown list in the cell it has been added to, but will not be added to the Values section of the dropdown column properties. 
    • In Multi-Select dropdown columns, free text values are saved alphabetically at the end of the cell they are added to.
    • There’s no limit to the number of values that can be selected in a Multi-Select dropdown column (up to normal cell character limits).