Automatic Time and User Stamps Guide#

It is sometimes useful to know when a record was last updated or created, and by whom. Grist makes it simple to create columns that stamp the time or a user’s name to a record when it is updated or created. This makes it possible to sort records by age, determine how long a record has existed, or quickly track the most recent edit to its author.

This is especially useful when working in a team. Suppose you have a document tracking sales opportunities. It may be useful to know the last time a sales person took action on a particular opportunity, and further determine for how long that opportunity has been pending.

We’ve created a tutorial based on our Grant Application Tracker template. To follow along with this guide, start with this incomplete version of the template that is missing time and user stamp columns. We will recreate those together in this tutorial. Create a copy and edit the template as you follow along with this guide.

Open Tutorial Template

Template Overview: Grant Application Tracker#

In this template, an NGO focused on ocean conservation projects tracks their grant applications submitted to marine-focused foundations. Here’s a breakdown of the document structure.

  • The Applications Dashboard shows all applications, application details, foundation details, and related tasks in one helpful view.
  • Tasks by Staff lists the NGO’s personnel, the applications they’re overseeing, and tasks assigned to each team member.
  • Our Programs lists the programs the NGO is seeking to fund.
  • Our Funding Overview provides an overview of funding with two charts: (i) breakdown of funds in the fundraising pipeline, and (ii) breakdown of total funding awarded to specific NGO programs.
  • Foundations We Work With lists the foundations to which the NGO has applied for funding. This page also lists related applications and tasks.

Creating Time Stamp Columns#

Columns can stamp the time when a record was created or updated by using the NOW() formula. Let’s add a column to the Tasks table to track when a task was last updated. This can be accomplished in three steps.

  1. In the Tasks table, create a column labeled ‘Last Updated’ and in column types, select DateTime to select your desired format for date and time.
  2. Convert the column to a data column by clicking the ACTIONS dropdown in the creator panel. This prevents the formula from triggering whenever the document loads. Once converted to a data column, enter the NOW() formula. You will see two checkbox options below the formula.
    • Apply to new records triggers the formula only when a record is created.
    • Apply on record changes triggers the formula when a record is updated.
  3. Select Apply on record changes to open a submenu where you may select which fields, when updated, will trigger the formula. In this case, we’ll select Any Field which means that updating any field in this record will trigger the time stamp formula to update.

Great! You are now tracking when a task was last updated. Next, you may want to know who created a task because that person may have the most information about the task’s goals and parameters. That’s just as simple to create in Grist as time stamps.

Creating User Stamp Columns#

User stamps are created using the exact same steps as time stamps, expect for one detail — the formula is user.Name. Let’s add a column to the Tasks table to track who created a task.

  1. In the Tasks table, create a column labeled ‘Created By’ and in column types, select Text and modify the format if you wish.
  2. Convert formula column to a data column and enter the user.Name formula.
  3. Select Apply to new records so that the formula only triggers when a new record is created.

There are other possibilities available in addition to user.Name such as user.Email or a unique user.UserID. The user information available is the same as that in access rule conditions.

Note. It is still possible for a user to manually edit cells with time stamp or user stamp formulas. If you don’t want that to be allowed, use access rules to forbid it.

And that’s it! You’ve created columns that capture user and time stamp information based on specific triggers, such as when a record is updated or created. Great job!

Dig Deeper: Combining time and user stamps using formulas#

Typically it is best practice to keep time and user stamp information in separate columns so that you may later sort and filter by those columns. However, there may be times when it would be useful to capture both time and user stamp information in the same column. Let’s add such a column to the Applications table.

  1. In the Applications table, create a column labeled ‘Created At’ and convert to a data column. In column types, select Text.
  2. Enter the formula "{:%b %d, %Y} by {}".format(NOW(), user.Name).
  3. Select Apply to new records so that the formula only triggers when a new record is created.

Need more help? Visit the final template or contact us at