CSV v XLS: the differences

There are a lot of file extensions to keep track of, and many people find themselves getting confused about which is the best option to use. This is often the case with CSV and XLS files. They both handle data from spreadsheets, so what’s the difference?

CSV files

CSV is a plain text file, so all of the values contained within it are separated by a comma. In fact, that’s where the name comes from, as it’s short for Comma Separated Values.

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According to a Big Commerce blog post, most social media websites sell potential customer data in CSV format as it downloads to a database very quickly. They’re very easy to export, import and convert across to other formats.

In fact, you can open a CSV file from any other spreadsheet program, including Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel and Open Office. You can also open a file in even the most basic text editor, so it’s extremely simple to use yet is compatible across multiple platforms.

Unfortunately, CSV will only store one single sheet within a file, and it will not include any formatting or even a single formula.

XLS files

XLS is a binary file format capable of holding huge amounts of information, encompassing the file contents as well as formatting and formulas. Since 2003, the files have adopted the XLSX extension, but they are compatible with one another.

Although they were created specifically for Microsoft Excel, XLS files can be opened by other spreadsheet programs, too.

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Which is better, CSV or XLS?

Nowadays, converting one file type to another is easy. Rather than having to laboriously transcribe data by hand, there are loads of helpful tools available. If you want to convert PDF to Excel, for example, just head to https://pdftables.com/convert-pdf-to-excel, and it’s done in a moment.

The decision of which file extension to use, CSV or XLS, depends entirely on how you plan to use the data contained within the file. Where there’s a need for the data to be kept with formatting and formulas intact, XLS is the obvious choice.

CSV files, on the other hand, are supported by almost every available data upload interface. If you need to import and export it across multiple interfaces or keep moving it between platforms, CSV is the better option

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