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Rather than manually inserting times and dates into a Google Sheets spreadsheet, you can use the NOW and TODAY functions. These functions show the current time or date, updating as your spreadsheet changes or on a regular basis.

While the NOW and TODAY functions regularly update, you can quickly insert a non-updating time or date stamp using keyboard shortcuts.

Adding the Current Time and Date Using NOW

Adding the current time and date in a Google Sheets spreadsheet using the NOW function is almost too simple. The NOW function requires no extra arguments, but you’ll need to format any cells using NOW only to show the time.

To start, open your Google Sheets spreadsheet or create a new one, click on an empty cell, and type =NOW().

Once inserted, your Google Sheets spreadsheet should default to using standard formatting for NOW formulae that displays a timestamp with both the current time and date.

The NOW Function used in Google Sheets, providing a timestamp with the current time and date

Google Sheets will also default to using the date and time formatting appropriate for your locale, which you can change in your Google Sheets settings by clicking File > Spreadsheet Settings. The above example uses UK date formatting (DD/MM/YY).

Usually, the timestamp generated by a formula using the NOW function will update only when your spreadsheet changes. You can change your spreadsheet settings to update every minute or every hour additionally.

To do this, enter your Google Sheets settings (File > Spreadsheet Settings), click on the “Calculation” tab, and then select the update frequency from the “Recalculation” drop-down menu.

To change how often cells update in Google Sheets, click File > Spreadsheet Settings, click on Calculation, then select the frequency from the recalculation drop-down menu

Finding the Date Using the TODAY Function

If you want to display the current date only, you can use the TODAY function as an alternative to NOW. Formulae using the TODAY function typically display dates in the DD/MM/YY or MM/DD/YY format, depending on your locale.

Like NOW, the TODAY function has no arguments. Click on an empty cell and type =TODAY()to insert the current date.

The TODAY function used in Google Sheets to display the current date

Cells with a TODAY formula will update each day. You can change the formatting to use text or numbers if you’d prefer.

Formatting Your NOW or TODAY Formula

As we’ve shown, the NOW function usually defaults to showing a timestamp that displays both the time and date.

If you wanted to change this, you’d need to change the formatting for any cells using the NOW function. You can also change the format of any formula using the TODAY function in the same way.

To display the current date only, select your cell (or cells) and click Format > Number > Date. To display the current time without the date, click Format > Number > Time instead.

To change a formula using the NOW function to display only the time or date, click Format > Number and then click either Time or Date

You can customize your date or time formatting further by clicking Format > Number > More Formats > More Date and Time Formats.

Additional Google Sheets date and time formatting options can be found by clicking Format > Number > More Formats > More Date and Time Formats

From here, you can customize the date and time formatting to use text, number, or additional characters like a forward slash.

This can be applied to both NOW and TODAY formulae.

Click Format > Number > More Formats > More Date and Time Formats to change your date or time formatting in Google Sheets

With custom formatting applied, formulae using the NOW function can be used to display the current time or date in your Google Sheets spreadsheet in various formats.

The NOW function in Google Sheets, with various formatting options to display the time, date, or both

Inserting Static Times or Dates into Google Sheets

If you want to add the current time or date into your Google Sheets spreadsheet, but you don’t want it to update, you can’t use NOW or TODAY. You’ll have to use a keyboard shortcut instead.

To insert the current date, click on your empty cell, and then click the Ctrl+; (semi-colon) keys on your keyboard.

To insert the current time, click Ctrl+Shift+: (colon) on your keyboard instead.

Ben Stockton Ben Stockton
Ben Stockton is a freelance tech writer from the United Kingdom. In a past life, he was a UK college lecturer, training teens and adults. Since leaving the classroom, he's been a tech writer, writing how-to articles and tutorials for MakeUseOf, MakeTechEasier, and Cloudwards.net. He has a degree in History and a postgraduate qualification in Computing.
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