Category Archives: Google Apps

Ultimate Guide to Google Sheets

zapier-sheets-guideZapier has published a free ebook called The Ultimate Guide to Google Sheets, and it mentions my “Insert and Delete Cells” Sheets Add-on!

The book takes readers first through a detailed Google Sheets tutorial, then dives into deeper features that help readers build their own custom tools and apps using Google Sheets’ most powerful features.

Here are links to the book:

– Zapier Learning Center: https://zapier.com/learn/google-sheets/
– Kindle store: https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Guide-Google-Sheets-spreadsheet-ebook/dp/B01IMV1NH2/
– iBooks store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/ultimate-guide-to-google-sheets/id1135333631

Sheets API access with PHP part 5: Querying rows

query-rowsThe Google Spreadsheets API allows you to send simple queries to retrieve subsets of the rows in your sheet – it’s as easy as appending the query to the end of the URL.

For example, if I have a column called “Quantity” and want rows with Quantity greater than 9, I would append ?sq=quantity>9 to the end of the URL and issue the GET request (don’t forget that column names are always converted to lowercase and spaces are removed).

The other method is to add the sq query parameter to the Guzzle $httpClient.  I’ve illustrated this in my example code.

See this page for more info.

 

Solved: cURL error 60 with Sheets API access from Windows

Broken_Lock_CurlIt turns out that my Google Sheets API instructions don’t work right away on Windows.  People running WAMP or XAMPP have been reporting “cURL error 60: SSL certificate problem: unable to get local issuer certificate”.

For some reason, cURL on Windows doesn’t come with a certificate bundle, so it can’t verify Google’s certificate to establish a TLS/SSL connection.  There are many articles out there making it sound really simple — just

  1. download a cacert.pem file
  2. add a line to your php.ini file: “curl.cainfo = path to cacert file

But it took me hours to work out the details.  First, the cacert.pem file that most people point you to (at curl.haxx.se/docs/caextract.html) didn’t work for me.  After a while, I found that the cacert.pem from Shane Stebner at flwebsites.biz/posts/how-fix-curl-error-60-ssl-issue made all the difference.  I haven’t figured out why.

Second, note that there are at least two php.info files on your system:  one for running php from the command line (mine is C:\wamp\bin\php\php5.5.12\php.ini), and another for when php is called by Apache (for me, that’s C:\wamp\bin\apache\apache2.4.9\bin\php.ini).  Since I’m running php from the command line, I only edited the first one.

I saved the cacert.pem file in c:\wamp and added this to my php.ini: curl.cainfo = c:\wamp\cacert.pem.  It didn’t matter which kind of slashes I used.

Hope this helps a few people start accessing Google Sheets with PHP!

Sheets API access with PHP part 4: Editing Cells

cellfeedHere’s how to get up to speed with the Google Sheets cell-based feed and PHP.

My previous posts have illustrated the use of Google’s PHP API client to interact with Google Sheets using list-based feeds.  This method is ideal for reading from and writing to spreadsheets that have a single header row, but isn’t useful for more complicated sheets.

The cell-based feed allows individual cells to be read and written.  I’ve written some example PHP code that implements the cell-based feed methods to help get you up to speed a little quicker.  Google documentation is here.

To start, follow the steps in this post to set up your service account, share a spreadsheet, and install the API client.  Then you should be able to adapt my example code to interact with your spreadsheet.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions!

Parsing Google Sheets data with PHP’s SimpleXML

SimpleXMLAKA: Sheets API access with PHP part 3

Continuing my series on using PHP to manipulate Google Spreadsheets, I’ve added a section to my code that reads the XML representation of a spreadsheet and then parses out the rows and columns.  Note that whenever you’re working with list-based feeds, we’re assuming that the first row contains column headings.

Using SimpleXML, it wasn’t difficult to parse out the cell data.  The biggest hurdle was learning about XML namespaces — at first, I thought that the XML had tags like “gd:etag” or “gsx:quantity” and had to learn that gd and gsx were namespaces.  In SimpleXML, several of the methods take a namespace as a parameter.  You can specify the prefix or namespace URL as described in the doc for the children method here.

I think it’s also possible to get the spreadsheet data as json, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Google Updates PHP API Client

new-improvedYesterday I updated my example PHP code for manipulating Google Spreadsheets with the Google-provided PHP API client.  If you tried getting it to work recently and were frustrated, take another look.  Google made major changes to the client that required changing my code.

Very soon I hope to figure out and demonstrate Google’s new Execution API, which lets you write Google Apps Script (javascript) which is called by your web apps.  This would allow for much more power manipulation of Google Sheets (and other docs) from web code.

Sheets API access with PHP part 2: Editing Rows

row-xml-previewMy previous Sheets API post demonstrated how to add rows to Google Sheets with PHP.  Some readers were interested in editing or deleting rows.

Google has a very informative reference here that describes the list-based feed for manipulating sheets.  All of my scripts have been using this method, which requires the sheet to have a single header row (I’d been lucky to use that format without knowing the requirement).  I use the example HTTP code from Google’s reference pages to give me guidance for my PHP.

I’ve added a file to the gist demonstrating how to edit a row.  Here’s what you need to know:

  1. When you get the sheet list feed (Section 3 of the first file in the gist), you need to add a header (“GData-Version” => “3.0”) to the GET request so that the Etag is returned for each line.
  2. Once you have a list of entries and find the one that you want to edit, you need to grab its Etag, Id, and the edit URL (see lines 1, 2, and 9 in the image above, and click on the image to see the whole entry).
  3. Now you just need to issue a PUT request to the edit URL and include the XML with the Etag, Id, and updated sheet data.

Hope this helps a few people!

Dreaded Google Apps error: “We’re sorry, a server error occurred. Please wait a bit and try again.”

a-server-error-occurredPeople who use my Insert and Delete Cell Add-on for Google Sheets have been reporting this error.  I was unable to recreate the error until someone shared a spreadsheet with me and I found the culprit: merged cells.

What’s going on?

merged-cellsWhen you insert cells and shift the existing contents down, my Add-on selects the range of cells from your selection to the bottom of the sheet and moves it down.  But if there are merged cells below your selection, the new range doesn’t make sense and an error is generated.  The same thing happens if you try to delete and shift up, or if you try to shift left or right with merged cells to the right of your selection.

Why not catch the error and generate a friendly error message?

I’ve been trying, but this error isn’t triggering the try – catch section of my code.  There also isn’t a way to detect merged cells without trying some strange tricks that would take a lot more time than I have.  I’ve opened a bug report with Google about this.

This error seems to be Google’s version of “We’re not sure what happened, and hope that if the customer tries again it might go away”.

Google Sheets API access with PHP

api-test

Note on 8 February 2017: Google has released the Sheets API v4 and is now providing PHP sample code and improved PHP support for Sheets in the PHP API client.  My series of articles is now largely obsolete.  See https://developers.google.com/sheets/api/quickstart/php

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Google has been sending out messages saying that several of their APIs are going to be discontinued (for example, the Document List API).  As a result, I tried to modify my custom Google Spreadsheet-populating PHP script to use the new Drive API.  After way too much wasted time, I discovered that the Drive API can create sheets and read their metadata, but can’t add rows — for that we can keep using the Spreadsheets API.

I was successful at converting the authentication portion of my script from the old ClientLogin to OAuth with a Service Account (the script runs behind the scenes of a web site and populates a Google spreadsheet that the web site user has no knowledge of).

It wasn’t as simple as I’d hoped because the Google-provided PHP client for the Drive API doesn’t know about the Spreadsheets API.  I had to dig around the PHP libraries to piece together authentication codes and Google_Http_Requests.  Then Google changed the PHP client to use Guzzle, so I recently made that change.

So, if anyone else out there is interested in the combination of PHP, the Spreadsheets API, and OAuth with Service Accounts, this could save you some time.

The code is available in a public Gist at https://gist.github.com/karlkranich/de225928665dc6b83667

Here are the step-by-step instructions to get this to work:

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How to Insert and Delete Cells from Google Spreadsheets

[update on 9/24/2014:  This has now been published as a Google Add-on.  Please see this page.  To install the Add-on, just search for “insert cells” when browsing for Add-ons from Google Sheets]

I haven’t been able to find a way in Google Spreadsheets to insert a cell (or cells) in the middle of a spreadsheet and tell the existing content to shift down or to the right.  Similarly, I’d like to be able to select cells to delete, and have them fill in by content shifting up or from the right.

So, I created a Google Apps script to add “Insert Cells” and “Delete Cells” menus to Google Spreadsheets.  Right now, you need to copy the code from github and paste it into the Script Editor in Google Spreadsheets (see the Tools menu).  Hopefully I’ll get the code cleaned up enough to have Google approve it as an Add-on soon!

Watch the video for a demonstration.