Using variables in Smartsheet task names

Red Hat uses Smartsheet to generate product release schedules, so that’s what I use for Fedora Linux. I generally copy the previous release’s schedule forward and update target release date. But then I have to search for the release number (and the next release number, the previous release number, and the previous-previous release number) to update them. Find and replace is a thing, but I don’t want to do it blindly.

Recently, I figured out a trick to use variables in the task names. This way when I copy a new schedule, I just have to update the number once and all of the numbers are updated automatically.

First you have to create a field in the Sheet Summary view. I called it “Release” and set it to be of the Text/Number type. I put the release number in there.

Then in the task name, I can use that field. What tripped me up at first was that I was trying to do variable substitution like you might do in the Bash shell. But really, what you need to do is string concatenation. So I’d use

="Fedora Linux " + Release# + " release"

This results in “Fedora Linux 37 release” when release is set to 37. To get the next release, you do math on the variable:

="Fedora Linux " + (Release# + 1) + " release"

This results in “Fedora Linux 38 release” when release is set to 37. This might be obvious to people who use Smartsheet deeply, but for me, it was a fun discovery. It saves me literally minutes of work every three years.

This post is modified from a post I originally published on Blog Fiasco. This post’s featured image by J Taubitz on Unsplash.

Ben is a principal program manager at Red Hat, focused on the Fedora Project. He is the author of Program Management for Open Source Projects. Ben is an Open Organization Ambassador and frequent conference speaker. His personal website is Funnel Fiasco.

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