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IMPORTDATA Function to Manually Import CSV Data to Google Sheets

IMPORTDATA lets you fetch data from published online CSV files. It’s a good solution, but not the best one. Why? It lacks advanced features that can improve user experience and productivity. We claim that can do better than IMPORTDATA, and this article is meant to prove that. So, let’s try out both solutions in real-life use cases to come to an unbiased verdict.

What is IMPORTDATA and how does it work?

IMPORTDATA is a Google Sheets function that imports data from a given URL in either CSV (comma-separated value) or TSV (tab-separated value) format.


    • URL is the location of a .csv or .tsv file containing the data to be imported. The URL must be specified, including the protocol.
    • Example:
  • IMPORTDATA(reference-to-cell)
    • reference-to-cell is a reference to a cell within Google Sheets, which contains the URL
    • Example:

IMPORTDATA formula examples

Case #1: Direct reference to the URL


Case #2: Reference to the cell containing the URL


IMPORTDATA pros and cons

  • Fast and simple implementation
  • No installation required
  • You can import data from online published CSV, TSV, and TXT files
  • You can adjust the number of rows and columns to be imported
  • Maximum of 50 IMPORTDATA calls on a single spreadsheet
  • You are not secured from data loss as each error cleans your data
  • Only manual re-import is available
  • The date values need to be manually updated to the date format  
  • IMPORTDATA alternative for automated CSV import is a tool that allows you to connect different data sources with Google Sheets, as well as Excel and BigQuery. It provides CSV as a source to import data from published online CSV files.

    Note: is available as a web app and a Google Sheets add-on that you need to install from the Google Workspace Marketplace.

    Here is how it works:

    • Sign up to, click the Add new importer button and name your first importer.
    • Choose a CSV as a source application.
    • Enter the URL of your CSV file. 
    • Jump to the destination section and choose the Google Sheets as your data destination to import data to.
    • Connect your Google account, select a spreadsheet file on your Google Drive and and a sheet to load data to. You can also create a new sheet by typing in a name. 

    Check out what an importer may look like:

    For automated imports of CSV data, enable the Automatic data refresh and configure the schedule: interval, days of the week, time preferences, and timezone.

    We blogged about this in detail in “Import CSV into Google Sheets Without Any Coding”. CSV importer pros and cons

  • Provides security from total data loss if any error occurs
  • Lets you use headers parameter to provide authentication credentials for data import from secured sources
  • Data re-import automation on a schedule
  • Lets you select the number of rows and columns, as well as the order of columns to be imported
  • Lets you import data to several destinations: Google Sheets, BigQuery, Microsoft Excel.
  • Lets you set up the target cell to get output where you need it
  • Lets you place data imported from multiple sources (with the same fields structure and order)
  • Lets you make more precise data import requests
  • The date values are automatically converted into the date format
  • Supports only 18 sources to export data from
  • No data filtering
  • IMPORTDATA formulas in real-life use cases

    Now, let’s check out how good both IMPORTDATA and are in real-life use cases. For this, we’ll inspect additional features available with each solution and demonstrate the outcome. Let the battle begin! 

    Data update on demand

    After the initial import, you may want to update the data fetched from your online CSV file. With IMPORTDATA, you’ll have to manually execute the function. With, you need to click on the Run button to update the data on demand. 

    Data update on schedule

    IMPORTDATA lacks any scheduling option. provides the automatic data refresh feature. You can configure the following parameters:

    • Select interval: Every 15 minutes/ 30 minutes/ Hour/ Day/ Month
    • Select day of the week: Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun
    • Select time preferences: From 0:00 to 23:00
    • Select time zone: From UTC−12:00 to UTC+14:00.

    QUERY + IMPORTDATA formula to import data with a selected number of columns 

    You can select the number of columns to be imported via IMPORTDATA. For this, you’ll need to apply a combination of two functions: IMPORTDATA and QUERY. For example, here is how you can select columns #1,#2, and #3:

     "Select Col1,Col2,Col3")

    Read our blog post about QUERY Google Sheets function to learn more data manipulation capabilities.

    With, you can also cut off unnecessary columns. For this, there is the Fields parameter, where you need to type relevant column names separated by a comma. An extra benefit is that the order of names you specify will result in the order of columns for output. An important note is that you have to be sure such headers are the first row in the output result.

    QUERY + IMPORTDATA formula to import data with a limited number of rows

    Both solutions also allow you to limit the total number of rows to be imported. For IMPORTDATA, you’ll need the QUERY function again. For example, here is how to limit your output to 10 rows:

     "Select * limit 10")

    In, you can cut off the unnecessary rows using the limit parameter in the URL query string field.

    You can also skip rows from the top of the CSV file. This is useful when you want to cut off notation data before table structured data or column headers. For this, you need to specify the number of rows to be skipped in the Skip rows field of the CSV importer. Otherwise, will import all rows by default.

    QUERY + IMPORTDATA formula to import data with conditions

    Again, a combination of QUERY and IMPORTDATA broadens your importing capabilities. You can set up conditions for fetching data. For example, let’s import values in the Settle column that exceed 115: 

     "Select * where Col5 > 115",1)

    With, you can use the URL query string field to make more precise requests, such as time ranges, users, and so on. This feature is usually available if you pull data from secured connections for API-styled requests. So, the parameters available will differ.  

    Import data from secured CSV URLs

    In the examples above, we fetched data from a publicly available CSV file, which did not require any authentication. It contained an API key attached to the URL (csv?api_key=eVEFx_xdJBXEHGnmu3sc), so IMPORTDATA had no issues with pulling data from there. However, the function won’t work the same as with secured URLs. For example, let’s try to import a Clockify report from a CSV file:

    With, you can cope with this task using such fields as Request headers, Request body, and HTTP method. Parameters will always differ depending on the app you’re fetching data from. Here is what it may look like:

    Check out our blog posts Connect Jira Server to Google Sheets and Connect Clockify to Google Sheets for details.

    Append imported data

    If you want to place data from multiple sources that have the same structure and order of columns, provides the APPEND mode in the Destination section. You can set up a few importers and fetch data from all the CSV files without any distortion. This is quite useful for cases when you need to combine monthly reports into a single year report.  

    If you want to do the same using the IMPORTDATA function, you’ll have to manually place formulas to cells and apply the QUERY function to skip the first row. 

    Date format recognition

    The data fetched with IMPORTDATA and differ a bit:

    Google Sheets does not recognize date values and, hence, you’ll have to update their format manually after the import. With, you won’t need to spend your time on this. 

    TL;DR comparison table

    Check out the table with a concise comparison of main features of IMPORTDATA and its alternative. 
    Each error cleans your dataError dependency You are always safe from data loss if any error occurs
    Maximum of 50 calls on a single spreadsheetLimitations Google Sheets limits or Google Sheets API limits 
    No support has been officially claimedImport from CSV links with authenticationAvailable
    Not supported Data update on scheduleAvailable
    Available with the help of the QUERY functionData import with a selected number of columnsAvailable 
    Not supportedColumns reorderingAvailable 
    Available with the help of the QUERY functionData import with a limited number of rowsAvailable 
    Available with the help of the QUERY functionAdvanced requestsAvailable 
    Not supportedImport data from secured URLsAvailable 
    Not supportedAppend imported dataAvailable 
    ManualDate format recognitionAutomatic

    Which solution should I choose for my needs?

    If you import data from online published CSV docs from time to time, IMPORTDATA is likely a good fit. It’s simple to use and does not require any prerequisites. Moreover, you can enhance its import capabilities if you combine it with the QUERY function. with its CSV importer is the best option for recurrent import of CSV from online published URLs, cloud storages, public-facing servers, and many more. You can automate data fetching and benefit from lots of available features. Besides, the team is working on different ready-to-use integrations, such as Jira Cloud, Xero, and others. Check them out on our blog. Feel free to provide your feedback in the comments section, and good luck with your data!

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