The NOW function is a simple date function used to return the value of the current day and time. That is all it does. However, this function is useful in building dynamic formulas that use the resultant date and time when used together with other date functions available in Sheets.

Note that the NOW function returns date and time. If you want just the date, use the TODAY function which operates in the same way but returns just the date.

Video Explanation

Purpose

The NOW function returns the value of the current day and time. As explained further in how to use dates and times in Google Sheets formulas, the value is actually an integer for the day plus a decimal for the time but will typically be displayed as a date and time to the user.

Syntax

=NOW()

Note that you need the quotes even though there should be nothing in them. The sole purpose of this is to irritate you and make you wonder why. There is no answer, just live with it!

Examples

Example 1 - Plain and Simple

A simple example of the NOW function.

FormulaDescriptionResult
=NOW()Output the current date and time (not really "now" but what today was when this was written!)1/24/2017 6:206:24

Example 2 - Separating the values of a date and time.

Different date values examined using various functions.

Time valueTickmarkYEARMONTHDAYHOURMINUTESECONDFormatted as number
7/30/20161201673000042,581.00
7-30-20162201673000042,581.00
6/1/2017 2:32 PM32017611432042,887.61
July 31, 20164201673100042,582.00
12:30 PM518991230123000.52
4/11/2017 11:24:146201741111241442,836.48
4/11/20177201741100042,836.00
 818991230000 
19189912310001.00
0.2510189912306000.25
4300011201792200043,000.00
  • 1 A random date typed in using slashes.
  • 2 A random date typed in using dashes. Note that it is processed the same way as the date with slashes.
  • 3 Typed a random date in and added a time. Now notice the hours and minutes being extracted.
  • 4 Typed in a date but spelled out. This also works, but it won't work if you write the day as "31st" instead if 31.
  • 5 If you only type in a time, the "zero" date is 12/30/1899.
  • 6 Entered with the NOW function. This will change constantly in the linked Google Sheet.
  • 7 Entered with the TODAY function. This will change daily in the linked Google Sheet.
  • 8 A blank cell is December 30, 1899. Similar to tickmark 5.
  • 9 Typing a 1 increments the value in number 8 above by 1 day. In other words "1=12/31/1899". It is just a matter of how it is displayed which can be controlled by going to the Format menu and choosing Number.
  • 10 Just a decimal with no whole number increments the value by hours, minutes and seconds instead of days.
  • 11 To get near the present date, you need to start with 43,000 days away from 12/30/1899.

Example 3 - Using NOW in formulas

You may be raising baby cheetahs in your front yard and be curious of the last time that you fed them which of course you use a spreadsheet to track.

Tip: Add the rounding function to display less decimals such as =ROUND((NOW()-(A2+B2),0)

This cell would be more meaningful if it were formatted using Format -> Number -> Time.
ABCD
1Last feeding dayLast feeding timeTime since last feeding - FormulaTime since last feed - Result
21/23/201711:25 PM=NOW()-(A2+B2)0.2942467824

 Live examples in Sheets 

Go to this spreadsheet for the examples of the NOW function shown above that you can study and use anywhere you would like.