This guide covers everything you need to know about the Google Sheets TODAY function, including its definition, syntax, use cases, and how to use it.
What is the TODAY Function? How Does It Work?
The TODAY function in Google Sheets gives you today’s date. The TODAY function in Google Sheets automatically gives you today’s date without you typing it in. So, if you open your sheet tomorrow, it’ll show tomorrow’s date in that same spot.
But be careful because if you use this function a lot, it might slow down your sheet since it updates often. If you want the date and not the time, use TODAY(). But if you want both the date and time, use the NOW function.
For example, if you type TODAY() in a cell, you’ll see today’s date. When you open the sheet tomorrow, that cell will show tomorrow’s date without you doing anything. It’s a handy tool, but be mindful not to overuse it.
The syntax and arguments for the function are as follows:
The TODAY function doesn’t require any arguments. The parentheses are empty.
Usage notes related to Syntax and Arguments:
- TODAY updates itself every time you make changes in the sheet. If used too much, it might slow down your sheet.
- It only gives you the date, not the time. If you want both, use the NOW function.
- The date that TODAY returns will always represent the current date at the last time the spreadsheet was recalculated. It will not remain at the date when the function was first entered into the spreadsheet.
- Even though the TODAY function doesn’t require any arguments, you still need to include the parentheses after the function name. If you leave out the parentheses, Google Sheets will not recognize it as a function and it will not work correctly.
- The TODAY function doesn’t take any arguments, so if you try to put something inside the parentheses, it will result in an error. This function is designed to simply return the current date, without any modifications or conditions.
Examples of How to Use the TODAY Function
Here are some practical examples of how to use the TODAY function in Google Sheets:
Example #1: Simple Use of TODAY Function
The simplest use of the TODAY function is to display the current date. To do this, type =TODAY() in any cell and press Enter. The cell will then display the current date, which updates automatically daily.
Example #2: Calculating Age
The TODAY function can be useful for calculating someone’s age based on their date of birth. Suppose cell A1 contains a birth date. You can calculate the age by using the following formula:
This formula subtracts the year of birth from the current year to provide the age.
Example #3: Calculating Days Until a Future Date
You can use the TODAY function to know how many days are left until a future date. Suppose a future date is entered in cell B1. The formula =B1-TODAY() will give you the number of days from the current date to the future date.
Example #4: Calculating Days Since a Past Date
To see how many days have passed since the date you’ve put in cell C1, simply use the formula =TODAY()-C1. This will show the number of days between that old date and today.
Example #5: Checking if a Date is in the Past
If you want to see if a date in cell D1 has already happened, use =TODAY()>D1. If it says TRUE, then D1’s date is before today. If it says FALSE, then D1’s date is today or a future date.
Example #6: Creating a Dynamic Date Range
You can use the TODAY function to create a dynamic range of dates that automatically updates each day. Suppose you want a range of 7 days starting from today. You can enter the formula =TODAY() in cell E1 and =E1+1 in cell E2, then drag cell E2 down to E7. This will create a list of dates from today to 6 days in the future, which updates automatically each day.
TODAY: Common Mistakes & Problems
When using the TODAY function in Google Sheets, you may encounter a few common mistakes and problems. Understanding these issues can help you avoid them and use the function more effectively:
- Incorrect Syntax: Always write it as TODAY(). Don’t add anything inside the parentheses, or it’ll give an error.
- Function Auto-Updates: Remember, TODAY() changes to the current date every day. If you want a specific date to stay the same, type it in yourself.
- Time Zone Differences: TODAY() uses the timezone from your Google Sheets settings, not your computer. Make sure they match if you want accurate dates.
- Using in Calculations: TODAY() gives a date number, not the date you see. When doing math with dates, also use functions like DATE, YEAR, MONTH, and DAY.
- Cell Formatting Issues: If you see a number instead of a date, you need to format the cell to show dates.
- Using in Array Formulas: Be careful using TODAY() in big formulas; it can slow down your sheet. Instead, put TODAY() in one cell and refer to that cell in your formula.
Why Is TODAY Not Working? Troubleshooting Common Errors
If you’re using the TODAY function in Google Sheets and it’s not working as expected, it could be due to several reasons. Let’s look at some of the most common errors, their causes, and how to correct them.
Cause: This error typically occurs when the TODAY function has been supplied with an argument. The TODAY function in Google Sheets does not take any arguments, so anything included in the parenthesis will cause this error.
Solution: To correct this, use the TODAY function without any arguments. For instance, use “=TODAY()” instead of “=TODAY(value)”.
Cause: This error occurs when a cell reference is not valid. If you’ve deleted a cell referenced in a formula using the TODAY function, Google Sheets will return a #REF! error.
Solution: To resolve this, identify the cell that has been deleted, and then adjust your formula to exclude that cell or replace it with a valid cell reference.
Cause: This error appears when Google Sheets does not recognize the text in a formula. If you have misspelled the TODAY function or used incorrect syntax, you will encounter a #NAME? error.
Solution: Check your formula to ensure you’ve typed “TODAY” correctly and used the correct syntax. It should be written as “=TODAY()”.
Cause: This error is not common with the TODAY function, but it may occur if Google Sheets encounters a number that’s too large or too small in a formula.
Solution: Check the formula for any numbers that might be causing the problem and correct them if necessary.
Circular Dependency Detected
Cause: This error occurs when a formula refers back to its own cell, either directly or indirectly. For example, placing “=TODAY()+A1” in cell A1 would create a circular dependency.
Solution: To fix this, revise your formula so that it does not refer back to its own cell.
Invalid Date Error
Cause: This error can occur if the date returned by the TODAY function is used in a context where a date is not acceptable. For instance, if you try to multiply the date by a number, Google Sheets cannot interpret the result.
Solution: Ensure the date returned by the TODAY function is used in a valid context, typically with other date or time functions.
Using TODAY With Other Google Sheets Functions
Combining the TODAY function with other Google Sheets functions can help you create more complex and dynamic formulas. It can be used to calculate the number of days between today’s date and another date, to find out how old something is, or to calculate the time until a future event. Below are a few examples of how you can use the TODAY function with other Google Sheets functions.
The DATEDIF function calculates the number of days, months, or years between two dates. When combined with the TODAY function, it can calculate age or the number of days until a future event.
Usage: DATEDIF(start_date, end_date, “unit”)
Example: If you want to calculate a person’s age in years, you could use the following formula: =DATEDIF(A1,TODAY(),”Y”). In this example, A1 would be the person’s birthdate.
The EDATE function lets you find a date a certain number of months before or after a given date. When used with the TODAY function, you can easily figure out a date in the future or the past from today.
Usage: EDATE(start_date, months)
Example: If you want to calculate the date that is 3 months from today, you could use the following formula: =EDATE(TODAY(), 3).
The WORKDAY function calculates the end date after a specified number of workdays from the start date. When combined with the TODAY function, it can calculate a future date based on workdays.
Usage: WORKDAY(start_date, days, [holidays])
Example: If you want to calculate the date that is 10 workdays from today, you could use the following formula: =WORKDAY(TODAY(), 10).
The DAYS function calculates the number of days between two dates. When combined with the TODAY function, it can calculate the number of days since a past event or until a future event.
Usage: DAYS(end_date, start_date)
Example: To find out how many days have passed since a date you put in cell A1, just use the formula =DAYS(TODAY(), A1). This will tell you the number of days between that date and today.
For more details on the TODAY function, check out the official documentation at the Google Docs Editors Help Center.