How to Extract a Google Sheets Substring: A Step-by-Step Guide

Published: February 19, 2024 - 3 min read

Julian Alvarado

Need to isolate specific text within your data in Google Sheets?

Extracting substrings is key. Whether it’s pulling initials from names or dates from timestamps, mastering Google Sheets’ text functions like LEFT, RIGHT, and MID will transform your data handling.

This guide walks you through these functions, ensuring you can parse text effectively for clearer insights.

Basics of String Manipulation in Google Sheets

Understanding Text Functions

In Google Sheets, text functions are formulas that specifically handle text-based data. They allow a user to perform operations like concatenation, comparison, and modification of text strings within cells.

Each function has a specific syntax which determines the order and form of arguments that a user should provide.

Identifying Substrings

A substring is a part of the original string located within a cell or a range of cells.

To identify substrings effectively, one must understand patterns within the text, such as the consistent location of numbers or letters that may denote particular information, like a product code within a larger text string.

Utilizing Built-In Functions

Google Sheets supports built-in functions like LEFT, RIGHT, and MID to extract substrings from a text string in a cell.

  • LEFT: Grabs characters from the start.
  • MID: Fetches text from any position.
  • RIGHT: Extracts from the end.

For example, suppose we want to extract the first name, last name, and title in cell A2.

Extracting the first name 'John' using the LEFT function in Google Sheets.

To extract the first four characters from “John Doe – Sales Manager”, use “=LEFT(“John Doe – Sales Manager”, 4),” which yields “John”.

Using the MID function in Google Sheets to extract 'Doe' from a full name.

To grab “Doe” from the middle, enter  “=MID(“John Doe – Sales Manager”, 6, 3).”

Extracting the title 'Manager' using the RIGHT function in Google Sheets.

And for the last seven characters, “=RIGHT(“John Doe – Sales Manager”, 7)” gives us “Manager”.

Applying extraction formulas to adjacent cells in Google Sheets by dragging the fill handle

Advanced Substring Techniques

When dealing with substrings in Google Sheets, advanced techniques usually entail regular expressions and extraction of specific data types.

These methods facilitate more sophisticated data manipulation and parsing, allowing for targeted extractions and refined control over the text processing.

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Regular Expressions for Extraction

Regular expressions (regex) can be utilized for pinpointing and extracting complex patterns within strings. To employ regex within Google Sheets, functions such as REGEXEXTRACT, REGEXREPLACE, and REGEXMATCH are indispensable.

For instance, to extract an email address from a text string that contains additional information, you might encounter a cell with content like “Contact:, Phone: 555-1234”.

Extracting detailed information using REGEXEXTRACT in Google Sheets

To isolate the email address, you would use: “=REGEXEXTRACT(A2, “b[A-Za-z0-9._%+-]+@[A-Za-z0-9.-]+.[A-Z|a-z]{2,}b”)”

Isolating an email address with REGEXEXTRACT in Google Sheets from mixed text

This formula looks for a pattern that matches email addresses and extracts the first occurrence from the cell in A2.

In scenarios where you need to find and extract all occurrences of a specific pattern, such as hashtags in a social media post, you could use a combination of REGEXEXTRACT and ARRAYFORMULA.

If the cell contains “#hashtag1 in some #hashtag2 text”, to extract all hashtags, you would apply: =ARRAYFORMULA(REGEXEXTRACT(A3, “#w+”))

Extracting multiple hashtags from text using ARRAYFORMULA and REGEXEXTRACT in Google Sheets

This replaces any character that is not a word character or a space with nothing, effectively removing them.


Mastering substring extraction in Google Sheets streamlines data manipulation, paving the way for more insightful analyses.

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Julian Alvarado Content Marketing
Julian is a dynamic B2B marketer with 8+ years of experience creating full-funnel marketing journeys, leveraging an analytical background in biological sciences to examine customer needs.
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