The flexible sharing options offered by Google Sheets are both a tremendous asset, but they have some downsides too. For one thing, it can be hard to keep track of a spreadsheet's edits and changes when many people are collaborating on the same spreadsheet. We already covered how to use the Revision History in Google Slides, but sometimes that isn't enough. For some documents, we'd really like to get some kind of notification when someone else edits a spreadsheet.

Google Sheets does, of course, offer this service. It can be especially useful for a number of situations:

  • You're waiting for a budget manager to update their projections and you want to be notified when they make edits to the budget spreadsheet.
  • You're waiting for a credit card holder to complete coding their credit card statement.
  • You'd like to be notified when a direct report finished their SMART goals
  • You've shared a roster document with a lead teacher and you're waiting for them to complete it.
  • You've asked a Program Assistant to finish a school's MedAlert and you'd like to be notified when they make progress on it.

Note the common theme here: you're waiting for someone else to take an action on a spreadsheet and you want to know when they complete it. Also note that at time of writing, this feature is available for Sheets, but not for Docs or Slides.

How to Enable Spreadsheet Notifications

1. Open your spreadsheet. Reveal the 'Tools' menu, then click on 'Notification rules...'

2.  You'll be offered a simple dialog box to choose when and how you want to be notified when changes are made to the spreadsheet. For the first option, you probably want to select 'Any changes are made'. The only reason you'd want 'A user submits a form' is if the sheet is linked to a Google Form and you want to receive an email whenever a new form has been submitted.

3. For your second option, you have the choice of getting a daily digest or receiving an email whenever changes are made. Unless it's extremely important that you receive updates immediately when changes are made, I'd recommend opting for the daily digest. This will cut down on the number of email notifications you receive.

4. Click 'Save' and you're done! Bear in mind that you can set multiple notification rules for a single spreadsheet. If you really want to get the daily digest email and you want an email whenever changes are made, you can certainly do that. Just click the 'Add another notification rule' link and you'll be prompted to add more rules. When you're finished, click 'Done'.

Notification Emails

From now on, when someone edits your document, you'll get an email about it, either as-it-happens or in a daily summary. Here's an example email:

Now, the email you get is obviously light on details, but if you click on the 'Click here' link, you'll be taken straight into a revision history view of the document, which highlights the most recent changes. 

If you're suspicious of clicking on links in email (good for you!), you can also just go directly to your document through Drive and hit Ctl+Alt+Shift+H to view the Revision History directly. The notification emails also include a helpful link you can use to disable notifications. You can also, again, visit your document, go to Tools->Notification rules... and delete your Notification Rules that way.