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Is it even fair to compare Notion with Google Sheets and Google Sheets with Notion?
Let’s dig a little bit deep into the different features both provide and how they compare with each other.
What is Notion?
Notion is the all-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases. It is one workspace for every team, more than just a doc or a table, you can customize Notion to work the way you do, in Notion’s own words.
For the purpose of this post, we will be focusing specifically on databases and how they work in Notion.
What is Google Sheets?
You can create and modify spreadsheets directly in your web browser with Google Sheets, no special software is required. Multiple people can work at the same time, you can see people’s changes as they happen, and every modification is automatically saved. It is all the power of spreadsheets and more.
You can use Google Workspace Add-Ons to give Sheets even more power, for example, fetch data from different APIs, send emails, connect with other Google tools, etc.
Differences between Notion and Google Sheets
Let’s now explore specific features and how you can accomplish similar results in each product.
Notion recently introduced a template gallery where you can find templates created by Notion and members of the community. You can submit your own templates and they will be available for everyone to use in the gallery if it is approved based on the selection criteria.
Templates are amazing because they not only involve databases but also dashboards, organization structures and specific use cases like CRMs, habit trackers, OKRs management, meeting notes and more. There is a whole market around templates in the Notion community where users offer them for free or for a small fee. Just search “notion template” in Gumroad and you will understand what I mean.
The situation in Google Sheets it’s pretty similar. From within the product there is a template gallery where you can find templates created by Google and others created by popular add-ons like Supermetrics or Quickbooks.
Doing a quick search in Google about “Google Sheets templates” you will also find dozens of websites that offer templates, free or with changes depending on how complex the template is.
We can say then that in both cases we have amazing options around templates with premade databases, dashboards and structures that we can reuse in our projects. I call it a tie.
Create a website
Both Notion and Google Sheets have options to publish your pages or spreadsheets as a website so people can easily access them, but let’s explore a little bit more about what additional third party options we have for each product.
In Notion we can name two main players, Super and Potion. Both offer custom domains, styles, great SEO by default, pretty URLs, and a lot more, including password protected pages 🙌. It is up to you to decide which one you want to use.
Now you are probably thinking that Google Sheets is gonna lose this round, but it’s not. Add-ons to the rescue!
The main player in this category is Sheet2Site, which is an add-on for Google Sheets that allows you to publish your spreadsheets as a website. It has multiple templates that you can choose from, and you can also customize the look and feel, create tables with filters and search, and much more.
In Notion you can create columns of type formula in databases which allows you to format data, reference other properties from the same page and make use of more than 60 of Notion defined functions to work with your data. You can find the full reference here. What is important to note is that you can’t define your own functions or reference data from other pages, you can only reference data from the same page.
Formulas is one of the superpowers of spreadsheets and more specifically of Google Sheets. You have access to more than 450 which includes among others financial and statistical types of functions that are really complex. There are also special formulas created by Google from which we can mention
SPARKLINE that are amazing. Last but not least is the ability to define your own formulas and use them in your spreadsheets, didn’t you know that? Custom formulas are defined using Apps Script, which is also the programming language that is used to create custom add-ons for Google Sheets.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to use all the 450 Google Sheets formulas in Notion? Or even create our own formulas?
The different property types available in Notion databases it’s what makes it powerful. You can define a date property and only dates will be valid values. The same with other property types like numbers, text, select and multi select. You can also apply different colors to select and multi select options to make it visually appealing and easier to read. There are also a huge range of number formats for currencies, percentages or just numbers.
Validation works a little bit differently in Google Sheets. We need to use the Data Validation feature to define rules for specific cells, columns, rows or a particular range of cells. List from range or list of items is similar to the select property in Notion, same for number, text, date or checkbox validations. Sheets is a little bit more powerful as we can apply custom validation rules using formulas and make validation more complex and dynamic.
I’d say both provide amazing options, Notion being easier to start with and use while Google Sheets is more complex but more powerful.
Filters and Sort
Notion has the concept of views, where a single database can have multiple views which allows you to present your data in different formats. Views are great because they allow you to filter and sort your data in a way that is easy to understand and easy to use. You can create complex filters and sort rules and then use linked databases to show the same data in different ways.
Something similar happens in Google Sheets, where we need to mix two concepts, views and filters as well. We can apply filters to a single column or a range of columns, and we can sort a single column or a range of columns. We can filter data by colors, values, conditions and even custom formulas. Once we enable filters, we can then create different views that show different data based on the filters that we have selected.
We enter in Google Sheets speciality here. Pivot tables are used to summarize data in a table. You can create pivot tables with different types of data, such as numbers, dates, text, and even custom formulas. You can also create pivot tables with different dimensions, such as rows, columns, and values. You can also create pivot tables with different aggregation functions, such as sum, average, count, min, max, etc and the values are automatically calculated as the main table changes.
There is no concept of pivot tables in Notion unfortunately. To be fair, there are some cases where we can get away by using board views where we can show the sum, average, etch for each group but it falls short when we want to show more than one level of grouping like the image above.
In Notion2Sheets we are planning to solve this as soon as Simple Tables are available in the API, so we will keep you posted on the progress.
Another great feature of Google Sheets is the ability to create charts. You can pick between a good range of types, like bar, line, pie, area, etc. Take a look at the full list here. Charts are highly customizable and can be used to show data in a variety of ways. Additionally you can use the Publish to web feature to share your charts with others without sharing the entire spreadsheet.
Notion doesn’t support charts natively but there are a number of integrations that bring charts to Notion connected to databases. We believe that even if Notion adds support for them in the feature, it will be difficult to match the options and customization that Google Sheets offers.
One of the things that make Google Sheets so powerful and versatile is the ability to extend it with Apps Script and to be able to install and use add-ons from the Google Workspace Marketplace. You can send emails from your spreadsheet using Mail Merges, you can connect and get data from any third party API and you can write your own custom formulas to manipulate data. I recommend you to explore the marketplace and see what add-ons are available for you.
There is currently no official way to extend Notion with custom in-app functionality but thanks to the official API you now have a number of great integrations that you can use with Notion to fill the gaps in the product.
With all the facts written down, now it is time to answer the question…
The truth is that you don’t need to pick one or the other, you can have the best of both worlds using Notion2Sheets. Once you have your Notion database in sync with Google Sheets you can:
- Create pivot tables based on your Notion database and embed them back in Notion.
- Create charts based on your Notion databases and embed them back in Notion.
- Use synced columns from Notion2Sheets and third party add-ons to get data from APIs and show the data in Notion databases.
- Use synced cells from Notion2Sheets to connect values with Notion blocks and build amazing dashboards.
I hope you now have a better idea of the differences and how you can use the best tool for the job without leaving the context of your Notion workspace.