Google Sheets

How to use the FLATTEN function in Google Sheet


Google Sheets is a powerful tool for organising and analysing data. One of its handy functions is FLATTEN, which allows you to simplify complex arrays. In this article, we’ll break down the process of using the FLATTEN function in a way that’s easy to understand for 8th standard students. Let’s dive in!

The FLATTEN function is a powerful tool that allows you to transform a range of cells or an array into a single column. This can be particularly useful when working with data that needs to be consolidated or analysed in a linear format.

Understanding the FLATTEN Function

The FLATTEN function in Google Sheets is used to convert a multi-dimensional range into a single column. This can be incredibly useful when dealing with datasets that have multiple levels of nesting.

What is a Multi-Dimensional Range?

A multi-dimensional range in Google Sheets refers to a set of cells that are organised in rows and columns, similar to a table. However, in some cases, these ranges can have sub-tables within them.

When to Use FLATTEN?

FLATTEN comes in handy when you want to simplify complex data structures. For example, if you have a table with nested arrays and you want to analyse the data more efficiently, FLATTEN can help by converting it into a single column.

How to insert the FLATTEN function in Google Sheets:

There are few steps to follow for inserting the ‘FATTEN’ function in Google sheets.

  • Type “=FLATTEN” or go to “Insert” “Function”“Array”“FLATTEN”.
How to insert the FLATTEN function in Google Sheets
How to insert the FLATTEN function in Google Sheets


=FLATTEN(range1, [range2, …])

  • range1 – this first range to place into a single column
  • range2 – This is an optional argument. You can continue to place additional ranges in the formula here


1. Example:

Flatten will append arguments in the order they are included in the formula. Arguments need not be range references.

Formula in cell H4 : =FLATTEN(“TOP”,A1:F5,”MIDDLE”,A6:F10,”LAST”,A11:F15)

Step 1: Open Your Google Sheet: Launch Google Sheets and open the spreadsheet containing the data you want to work with.

Open Your Google Sheet
Open Your Google Sheet

Step 2: Select a Cell and Enter the Function

Select a Cell and Enter the Function and specify Rows and Columns
Select a Cell and Enter the Function and specify Rows and Columns

Step 3: Press Enter: Hit the Enter key to apply the function. The selected array will now be displayed based on the provided conditions.

How to use the FLATTEN function in Google Sheet

How to use the FLATTEN function in Google Sheet

How to use the FLATTEN function in Google Sheet

2. Example:

A more complex example, using the CONCAT (&) operator and SPLIT to do a simple cross join or Cartesian product on two lists.

Formula in cell E12:=ArrayFormula(SPLIT(FLATTEN(A1:A3 & “|” & TRANSPOSE(B1:B2)), “|”))

How to use the FLATTEN function in Google Sheet

Tips for Optimization:

Select the Right Range:
  • Make sure you’re selecting the range of cells that you want to flatten. This could be a single column, row, or a rectangular range.
Avoid Using Large Ranges:
  • Using very large ranges can slow down your spreadsheet, so try to keep the range reasonably sized.
Combine FLATTEN with Other Functions:
  • FLATTEN works well when combined with other functions like FILTER, QUERY, SORT, etc. This allows you to manipulate your data before or after flattening.
Transpose if Necessary:
  • Depending on your data structure, it might be more appropriate to use the TRANSPOSE function first to get it in the right orientation for FLATTEN.
Use Named Ranges for Clarity:
  • If you’re working with complex data sets, consider using named ranges to make your formulas more readable and easier to manage.
Limit the Use of Array Formulas:
  • While FLATTEN works well with array formulas, using them extensively can slow down your spreadsheet. Use them judiciously.
  • If you’re working with multiple rows or columns of data, consider using ARRAYFORMULA to apply FLATTEN to the entire range at once.
Check for Errors:
  • Ensure there are no errors in your formula. If there is an error in the source data, it can affect the output of FLATTEN.
Clear Unnecessary Data:
  • If you have unnecessary data or calculations in the same sheet, consider clearing them out to reduce the computational load.
Limit Recalculation Frequency:
  • You can set your spreadsheet to recalculate less frequently (e.g., every minute instead of every change) to improve performance.
Consider Data Extraction Tools:
  • If you’re frequently working with complex data in Google Sheets, you might want to consider using Google Apps Script or other data extraction tools to handle the task more efficiently.
Use the QUERY Function for Complex Operations:
  • For more complex data operations, especially involving multiple criteria or data sources, consider using the QUERY function in combination with FLATTEN.

Real-World Application:

Survey Responses:
  • Imagine you have collected survey responses where each respondent provided multiple answers. Using FLATTEN, you can convert these responses into a single column for easier analysis.
E-commerce Transactions:
  • In an e-commerce spreadsheet, you might have orders with multiple items in each. FLATTEN can help you convert the item details into a single column for easier inventory management or reporting.
Time Series Data:
  • If you have time series data with multiple variables for each time point, you can use FLATTEN to transform it into a single column. This can be helpful for time series analysis.
Data Cleaning:
  • When dealing with messy data, you might have information in different columns that should be in a single column. FLATTEN can help consolidate this information.
Exported Data from APIs or Databases:
  • Sometimes data exported from APIs or databases can come in a nested format. FLATTEN can be used to bring this data into a more usable format.
Multi-Choice Questions in Surveys or Forms:
  • If you’re analysing survey responses with questions that allow multiple choices, FLATTEN can help you structure the data for better insights.
Social Media Analytics:
  • Social media analytics often involve extracting and analysing data from posts or comments. FLATTEN can be used to process nested data structures commonly found in social media APIs.
Financial Data:
  • In financial spreadsheets, you might have transactions with multiple categories. FLATTEN can help you create a single column of categories for budgeting or reporting.
Employee Information:
  • If you have employee records with various details like name, contact information, and job history, FLATTEN can be used to structure this data more effectively.
Data Integration:
  • FLATTEN can be used when integrating data from different sources with varying structures. It helps to standardise the format for easier analysis.
Inventory Management:
  • In an inventory spreadsheet, items may have multiple attributes like name, SKU, and quantity. FLATTEN can be used to organise this information.
Data Aggregation:
  • When aggregating data from different sources or departments, FLATTEN can be used to unify the format for centralised reporting and analysis.


Mastering the FLATTEN function in Google Sheets opens up a world of possibilities for efficient data analysis. By following this step-by-step guide designed for 8th standard students, you’re well on your way to becoming a spreadsheet pro. Remember to select the right range, combine FLATTEN with other functions for enhanced results, and practise with sample data to build confidence.

Understanding how to work with nested arrays and knowing how to reverse the process using TRANSPOSE adds an extra layer of proficiency. With these tips, you’ll be able to navigate complex datasets with ease, making data analysis a breeze.


Q: How do I unflatten data in Google Sheets?
A: To revert the flattened data back to its original format, you can use the TRANSPOSE function. This will switch rows and columns, effectively unflattening the data.

Q: Can I use FLATTEN with nested arrays?
A: Yes, FLATTEN is particularly useful for dealing with nested arrays. It will help simplify the data and make it easier to work with.

Q: Is FLATTEN available in all versions of Google Sheets?
A: Yes, FLATTEN is a standard function in Google Sheets and is available in all versions, including the free version.

Q: How can I combine FLATTEN with other functions for more complex analysis?
A: You can use FLATTEN in conjunction with functions like FILTER or SORT to refine and organise your data before applying the FLATTEN function. This allows for more precise and useful outputs.

Q: What should I do if I’m unsure about the range to select for FLATTEN?
A: It’s crucial to select the correct range. Double-check your selection to ensure it accurately represents the data you want to work with, and avoid including extraneous cells.

Q: How can I practise using FLATTEN if I’m new to it?
A: Start by experimenting with a small sample of your data. This will help you familiarise yourself with how FLATTEN interacts with different types of data structures.

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