Tips from Support: All About System Columns

Kelly Anthony's blog - May 14 2013 - 2:30pm

With the latest Smartsheet update, we added a new column type that gives you the ability to automatically keep track of certain data points like a “modified by” date or “created by” date – also known as System Columns.  

System Columns are really handy for instantaneously keeping track of certain data points. They immediately add certain types of data into your rows, tracking information like the date a new row was added, or the name of the person that last updated a row.  

This week, we want to give you some tips and tricks to customize one of these new System Columns – the Auto-Number Column, to fit your processes and streamline your collaboration.  

Automagic!  Using Auto-Number System Columns

Automatically adding a unique identifier to a row is helpful in so many different scenarios: requests for help, customer orders, maintenance updates... the list goes on.

You can use the Auto-Number column to assign a simple value (e.g. 1, 2, 3) to new row submissions. If you’d like to make this column a bit more powerful and specific to your processes, change the Display Format criteria to create a combination of numbers and letters that provide context for your unique process.

Here are some examples of how you could use the Auto-Number Column to help streamline your processes:

  • Track Submissions by Quarter Looking to break sheet submissions down by quarter? An Auto-Number Column is perfect for this. At the beginning of the quarter, insert a Prefix value of “Q1-” in the column Display Format.  With this formatting updated, when new items are entered to your sheet, the Row ID will automatically include “Q1-” in front of a unique number.  When Q2 rolls around, all you need to do is update the Prefix from “Q1-” to “Q2-”.  

The unique numbers will continue, with the new quarter added as a prefix.  If you would like a new starting number at the beginning of each quarter, all you need to do is enter a Starting Number of “1” to the Starting Number field in the formatting form.

  • Track Submissions by Date Another handy prefix for Auto-Number Columns: add a date prefix to the Auto-Number Column to combine an automated unique ID with the date.  In the prefix field, add “{MM}/{DD}/{YY} -”.  This specifies to append the date in MM/DD/YY format to the prefix before a unique ID number.

There are four other types of system-generated Columns to choose from, in addition to Auto-Number:

  • Created (Date) This System Column is super handy for keeping track of the exact date and time that a row was created – GREAT to use with web forms!
  • Created By Use this System Column to keep track of the email address of any collaborator who created a row.
  • Modified (Date) Use this System Column to keep track of the last time a change was made to each row. 
  • Modified By This System Column will automatically keep track of the email address for the last person who updated data in a row.

NOTE: For both ‘Modified (Date)’ and ‘Modified By’ columns, Discussion updates, new attachments, and formatting changes (like a different font color) are not logged in this column.

A few other handy things to know about the new System Columns in Smartsheet:

  • Each type of System Column can only be used once in each sheet.
  • The cells in System Columns start out empty, and will generate value as you and others input data and save your sheet.
  • The values in System Columns are display-only.  You can adjust the formatting options for System Columns to adjust the appearance of these values.
  • If you change an existing column in your sheet to a Modified Date/By or Created Date/By system column, you will overwrite any existing cell data you have in those columns.

What are your ideas for using System Columns to save time?  Let us know.

Til next week, dig in and explore!

- Support Team


date modified for specific cell

I've been looking everywhere for how to find the last modified date for a specific cell. I would like to find out when a checkbox value is changed to 1 so I can automatically know when it was completed. Any suggestions?

Re: date modified for specific cell

Hi Mike,

Checking the cell history is the only way to get this information, which is a manual process. Thanks for the suggestion of an automatic way to get this information, I've shared it with our Product team!


Created by - Web forms

The Created by column always displays as "" when a row is generated by a form submission. It seems that this field should be able to automatically pass in the user name when a collaborator of the sheet fills out the form. This is a major disadvantage compared to Google drive forms and sheets which collects the user name (gmail) automatically.

Re: Created by - Web forms

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the suggestion – I've shared your feedback with our product team to consider for future Smartsheet enhancements.

In the meantime, you can try adding a field to your web form for users to submit their email address along with all of the other information you're collecting.

Thanks again,

System Columns

A time stamp system column would be great. It would allow for so many more uses of the smart sheet.

Re: System Columns

Hi Stuart,

The System Column option 'Created (Date)' acts as a time stamp. It automatically notes the date and time something new is added to your sheet - pretty handy!


Post new comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Facebook Twitter Google Plus LinkedIn Email