Grist formulas are written in Python, the most popular language for data science. The entirety of Python’s standard library is available to you. For those with a spreadsheet background, we’ve also added a suite of Excel-like functions, with all-uppercase names. Here’s the full list of functions. Python formulas are evaluated in a sandbox, without internet access, and without a persistent filesystem.

Supported Python versions#

We currently support two versions of Python:

  • Python 3 (specifically 3.11 at the time of writing)
  • Python 2 (specifically 2.7)

Newly created documents on our hosted service use Python 3 by default, while older documents (created before November 2021 approximately) use Python 2 by default. To tell which version of Python a specific document uses, look at its Document Settings. The Engine setting may be python2, python3, or blank. A blank setting implies python2.

If you have editing rights on a document, you can change the Engine setting, and the document will then reload with all formulas now interpreted using the version of Python you have specified. We recommend caution in doing so. A formula that works as intended in one version of Python may give errors in another, or (worse) give the wrong results.


Some formulas may fail or give wrong results if used with a version of Python that is different from the one for which they were written.

Python 2 reached its end of life in January 2020, so if you look online for python help, the answers you find are more and more likely to be for Python 3. If you have a document that uses Python 2, and you’d like to switch it to use Python 3, we recommend reading Testing the effect of changing Python versions and Differences between Python versions. Be sure to check all tables and columns, and both regular formalas and trigger formulas. We’d be interested to hear your experience, and to help with any problems, on the community forum.

Self-hosted Grist may use any version of Python you configure it with, but bear in mind we actively test only the supported versions.

Testing the effect of changing Python versions#

Grist has some features that can help you evaluate the consequences of changing the Python version a document uses.

  • The Work on a Copy feature is useful to experiment with changing the Python version without affecting your document until you are ready. There is a “Compare with original” option that will let you visualize which cells changed, if any. Be sure to look at all tables and columns.
  • The Activity tab of Document History (with “All Tables” selected) lets you review in more detail what has changed.
  • Be careful to test any trigger formulas you may have, since the Python code in them won’t be exercised until you specifically trigger these formulas.
  • You can use the code viewer to quickly remind yourself of all formulas in a document, so you can systematically check them all.

Differences between Python versions#

There are important differences between Python 2 and 3. Formulas may need to be changed in order to give the same results when switching between Python versions. There are many online resources such as this compatibility cheatsheet which can help figure out what the issue is when you hit a difference, and get ideas on how to resolve it. Here, we list common cases we’ve seen in Grist formulas.

Division of whole numbers#

In Python 2, dividing whole numbers gives a whole number, so 9 / 2 is 4. In Python 3, it is 4.5. For a spreadsheet, this is a much more sensible answer, but if you rely on the Python 2 behavior, we suggest you switch to the // operator which is consistent between versions (9 // 2 is 4 for both).

For example the General Ledger template had a Python 2 formula for computing the quarter from a date (so a Date of 2021-08-15 gave a Quarter of 2021 Q3) as follows:

"%s Q%s" % ($Date.year, CEILING($Date.month, 3) / 3)

when switching to Python 3, this needed correcting to:

"%s Q%s" % ($Date.year, CEILING($Date.month, 3) // 3)

Otherwise Quarters became fractional!

Some imports are reorganized#

Python has a useful standard library, but some parts of it were moved around between Python 2 and 3. For example, several of our templates have formulas to construct URLs, to open custom searches for example, or to open a pre-populated email with calculated To, CC, and Subject values. Python has handy helpers for constructing URLs, but they moved around a bit between Python versions. Our Lightweight CRM example had a Python 2 formula like this to kick off a search for emails in Gmail:

from urllib import quote_plus
"Gmail search" % quote_plus($Email)

In Python 3, the import line needed changing to:

from urllib.parse import quote_plus

Subtle change in rounding#

Python 3 switches the built-in function round() from rounding the way many people learned in school (where when rounding .5, you always round up) to what is called “banker’s rounding” (where you round from .5 to the nearest even number). This is generally accepted as an improvement, mitigating a bias to larger numbers that can become significant at scale. But it could be a surprise to see numbers change like this in an established document.

If you really need Python 2’s rounding, replace any calls to Python’s round function with the Excel-compatible ROUND function. For example:

round($val, 2)

would be replaced with:

ROUND($val, 2)

Unicode text handling#

Python 2 does not shine at handling international text and emojis. We have mitigated many problems by setting the default encoding to utf8 for all documents. Nevertheless, when switching from Python 2 to Python 3, you may see type changes or errors. Consider this Python 2 formula to generate a one-way hash of an email address:

import hashlib

In Python 3 this fails with TypeError: Unicode-objects must be encoded before hashing, which can be resolved by replacing $Email with $Email.encode():

import hashlib