CSV is a plain text format, XLS is an Excel Sheets binary file format.
What are the differences between CSV and XLS (Excel) file formats?
The difference between CSV and XLS file formats is that CSV format is a plain text format in which values are separated by commas (Comma Separated Values), while XLS file format is an Excel Sheets binary file format which holds information about all the worksheets in a file, including both content and formatting.
Let’s take a closer look at each format:
CSV files are file formats that contain plain text values separated by commas.
CSV files can be opened by any spreadsheet program: Microsoft Excel, Open Office, Google Sheets, etc. You can open a CSV file in a simple text editor as well. It is a very widespread and popular file format for storing and reading data because it is simple and it’s compatible with most platforms. But this simplicity has some disadvantages. CSV is only capable of storing a single sheet in a file, without any formatting and formulas.
Here’s an example CSV spreadsheet:
And this is the same file in txt:
1,The Shawshank Redemption,Frank Darabont,1994,28341469
2,The Godfather,Francis Ford Coppola,1972,134821952
3,The Dark Knight,Christopher Nolan,2008,533316061
4,12 Angry Men,Sidney Lumet,1957,0
XLS files are Microsoft Excel’s workbook files in use between 97-2003. Later Excel versions use the XLSX extension. XLS and XLSX file formats contain all the information from the worksheets in a workbook, including formatting, charts, images, formulas, etc.
This extension is specifically created for Microsoft Excel, but it can be opened by Google Sheets as well. Just upload the XLS or XLSX file to your Google Drive and you will have the option of opening it as a Google Spreadsheet.
You can also open XLSX files with the free Microsoft Office Excel Viewer. With this free viewer, you can print and copy data from your XLS or XLSX file, which might be all that you need.
You can open and edit both CSV and XLS (XLSX) files online too, just upload them to your Google Drive and open them with Google Sheets. After editing them you can export any Google Sheets file in both CSV and XLSX extension.
Microsoft Excel is capable of reading CSV files, but depending on your computer’s regional settings, it might mess up the separator (semicolon instead of comma) and eliminate leading + or 0 (which messes up phone numbers and zip codes).
A simple solution to this is to change the filename extension from CSV to txt and after opening the .txt file in Excel, manually specifying the delimiters, encoding, formatting of columns, etc.
While Excel (XLS and XLSX) file formats are better for storing more complex data, CSV files are supported by nearly all data upload interfaces. If you are planning to move your data between platforms, export and import it from one interface to another, you might be better off with the CSV file format.
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