A few most likely basic questions on smartsheets

I am a new user and have a few questions on the smartsheets that I am developing.

  1. I have instrument users in a drop down list, but that list changes, so it is easier for me to enter the new user, but what I want is to have that user be part of the drop down values list. That does not seem to be possible or am I missing something.
  2. I am not entirely positive what the primary column is for. I generally have my sheets sorted by instrument users or grad students, but apparently the primary column cannot be a drop down list. I did not want these columns as text, because there is always a risk of an error of duplicating the name. So I have been creating a second column as drop down list, but leaving the primary column blank. Could it be a number, so each user or each student has an assigned number. I am just not sure how crucial this primary column is. I have not used it on my reports. I generally sort by user or student or instrument, or type of student.
  3. I am trying to avoid making a smartsheet with 50 columns. I am wondering how I can run a report off two smart sheets. For example I have a spreadsheet of current grad students and postodcs and it has a bunch of columns relevant to their training at UW Madison. Once they are done, they become alumni and I have their contact info (email, phone, address), position, etc. So it makes sense to keep them separate, but then I would have to in essence enter them twice. Or could I use that primary column in each smartsheet as their ID. For example I may need to have some data from both sheets for a report. But not sure how to set that up.

I may have more questions as I learn. This community has been great, so I truly appreciate the help


  • Genevieve P.
    Genevieve P. Employee Admin

    Hey @Freia66

    Welcome to Smartsheet and the Community! 🙂 I'd be happy to help answer your questions.

    1) There currently isn't a way to automatically update a dropdown list in the Column properties based on what you enter in a cell in that column within the core Smartsheet application. Data Shuttle can update column dropdowns automatically, as can Bridge, if you have access to them.

    2) The Primary Column is used as the main identifier for the row - the value in that cell appears in some workflows, it's the default label for Gantt charts, it's currently the only label that appears in a Calendar View task bar, etc. When you Group rows in a Report, the Primary column has to be the left-most column. Most importantly, it's the column that shows the + or - signs when you use Hierarchy (parent and child rows). Here's more information: Work With the Primary Column: Overview and Best Practices

    Totally understandable that you need the "users" value to be selectable in a dropdown list! You could use it as a number list, sure.

    If you run into any of the features where having their name in the Primary column would be better, or would display in a nice way, you can always use a formula to repeat the same value or bring together multiple cell contents into that Primary cell:

    =[User Name]@row + " - " + Instrument@row

    3) Having two sheets makes sense to me, then a Report if you need to see all the data together. You could use a Move Row workflow to move alumni to the Alumni sheet so they're only listed once. As long as your column names and types are the exact same in both sheets, they'll appear in the same columns in the Report.

    Here's a webinar that may help you get started with Reports: SmartStart: Reporting