This blog post describes how to connect a spreadsheet (3 columns, 10 rows) to a formatted schedule displayed on your ScreenScape digital signage screen. Edits to the spreadsheet result in updates to the screen. Expect the setup process to take approximately 30 minutes for a user with intermediate computer skills.

A few weeks ago I posted about a simple technique for connecting your display to a Google spreadsheet. It’s useful for many reasons: spreadsheets make it easy to collaborate with others, and mass data entry actions like cut-and-paste are simple. Spreadsheets have formulas and data tools built in. It’s one of the first applications we all learn. It’s also an easy way to share data in a structured format. But first and foremost, it’s useful because spreadsheets are what people are already using today. If it ain’t broke…

A real world application for this technique is the humble Schedule. Most schedules are based on a grid of information, and they often start their existence as a simple spreadsheet. Going forward, the easiest thing to do would be to just leave it in that format. Let the schedule data live permanently as a spreadsheet, and let other software (like your digital signage) react to that as a data source.

Taking these steps to connect your schedule spreadsheet as the source for your ScreenScape display, even if it takes more setup time up front, will make life simpler in the long run.

  • Step 1: Create the spreadsheet (using Google Sheets)
  • Step 2: Connect the spreadsheet (using Zapier)
  • Step 3: Create your screen content (using ScreenScape)

A spreadsheet powered schedule

 

Step 1: Create the schedule (using Google Sheets)

Make your own copy of this spreadsheet

  • Sign in to Google or create an account if you don’t have one already
  • Copy this spreadsheet template: ScreenScape Schedule RSS Template
  • Rename your copy as necessary
  • Enter your schedule information into the spreadsheet. When the information changes, make your edits directly to the original spreadsheet.

 

Step 2: Connect the spreadsheet (using Zapier)

Screenshot_210

    • Create an account on Zapier if you don’t already have one.
    • Create a new zap with these step by step guidelines
    • IMPORTANT: Use your spreadsheet from Step 1 with the worksheet called ‘Zapier Integration’. When you copied the spreadsheet in Step 1, this sheet was created automatically.
    • Copy and Paste the URL of your new Zapier RSS to a convenient place, like Notepad. You’ll need to key in this URL in Step 3.
    • Test and Save your new zap. The Zapier system is now connected to your Google spreadsheet, and will automatically generate an RSS file from that sheet every few minutes.

Screenshot_209

  • For added insurance, make a small edit to your schedule. For example, change a word or capitalize a letter. Then manually Run your zap from your Zapier Dashboard. This last check will make certain the RSS file is generated in time for Step 3. If you get to Step 3 and your URL is rejected, come back and repeat this action.

 

Step 3: Create your screen content (using ScreenScape)

Create your screen content in your ScreenScape account

  • Login to ScreenScape
  • Create a new content item using the template ‘Spreadsheet powered schedule’ in the Schedule collection
  • Enter the URL of your Zapier RSS, for example https://zapier.com/engine/rss/123456/MySchedule
  • Save and Publish your new content item

 

When you run your ScreenScape display, the data in your schedule will mirror the data you’ve entered in your spreadsheet. When your schedule information needs to be updated, make your edits in your spreadsheet.

There are a few important items to note with this solution:

  • Updates in your spreadsheet won’t appear on your screen instantly – it takes a few minutes for each automated step to execute. First Google communicates to Zapier, then Zapier posts the new data in their RSS, then your ScreenScape display sees the new data and downloads it.
  • Once it’s created, don’t change the format of your spreadsheet. This is important! Moving or adding columns, changing headers, or renaming sheets will break the automated connection between the spreadsheet, the Zapier RSS, and ScreenScape. If you do have to make these edits, don’t forget to go back into Zapier and edit your zap appropriately.
  • If you have more than one schedule, like a ‘DAY 2’ for the example here, just repeat the process above for each unique schedule. So for each unique schedule, create a new copy of the spreadsheet, a new zap, and a new ScreenScape content item.

If you have an idea for a different application of this spreadsheet-to-ScreenScape technique, let us know!