CSV vs XLS - 5 best practices for working with both data formats

Are you dealing with structured table data on a daily basis? You might be keen to know the pros and cons of the two most popular spreadsheet formats that help millions of people to manage, update, and store important data. CSV or a comma-separated values file and an Excel workbook or XLSX are mostly interchangeable, and both are used equally by individuals and corporations in their daily routine. However, there are several differences between CSV and Excel formats.

Difference between CSV and Excel files?

A CSV is a comma-separated values file that stores data in a tabular format. Microsoft Excel file is a standard editable file format of a popular spreadsheet processor, which is used in business analysis, human resource management, operations management, and performance reporting.

Let's review the top 5 differences between CSV and Excel files.

Here is the comparison table, which lists the most important features of CSV and Excel file formats.

# Feature CSV Excel / XLSX
1 File extension .csv .xls / .xlsx
2 Primary format Series of ASCII text Binary Interchange File Format
3 Data limits 32,767 characters per cell 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns per sheet
4 Computer resources requirement Low Medium
5 VBA Coding, support No Yes
6 Functions & formulas support No Yes
7 Data formatting No Yes
8 Multimedia support No Yes
9 Multiple sheets support No Yes
10 External linking of data No Yes
11 Associated programs All text editors, spreadsheets and database management systems Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice
12 MIME type text/comma-separated-values application/vnd.ms-excel

As a key takeaway, I may state that Excel is a superior file format in comparison to CSV.

Although CSV is a much faster and widely adopted format, it can't manipulate data. You might be wondering, are these formats interchangeable, or do users need to use both formats?

The answer is that CSV and Excel spreadsheets can work in tandem with each other, they have their own goals and use cases. Now, let's review how to work with both data formats in order to get the maximum value from them.

Using CSV vs XLSX for personal and business projects

Although the Excel file format is good for the majority of spreadsheet needs, it lacks suitability, your data in CSV files can be recognized by the majority of applications. Want to know the best part? Here is how to take most of the advantages of CSV and XLSX data formats:

  1. Microsoft Excel is a good software to analyze data and do computation with formulas. For instance, you can make a summary of huge data. Excel files can be saved as CSV or converted to CSV online with a service like https://cloudconvert.com/xls-to-csv to import that data to the majority of other services, such as CRM or Analytics.
  2. Vice versa, you can export data from some software applications or popular services to CSV in a few clicks. After that, such data can be imported into Microsoft Excel for further analysis or other calculations.
  3. You can store data from several CSV files in a single Excel workbook as spreadsheets. All you need to do to achieve that is to import data from every CSV as a separate sheet.
  4. Since CSV files can hold many more rows in comparison to Excel workbooks, you can use that format to collect and store immense data volume.
  5. Because of its specificity, data in CSV looks less readable, it is less suitable for humans. Thus, import data from CSV to Excel to format it properly, print it and present it to your colleagues.

What's the bottom line?

Both formats are designed to serve their purposes. The best practice for using CSV is data exchange, whereas XLSX helps you with data formatting and manipulation. Keep in mind that you can always convert CSV files into Excel format and back with a plethora of free online service. Most provides you with the best quality of data recognition and high velocity of conversion, so you can do your job quickly and accurately.

Who uses XLS and CSV files?

Businesses and people use the various files formats for various reasons. These file formats can be utilized by freelancers for storing information for billing and payment and for better management of financial information. Small Businesses: Many small businesses utilize Excel sheets or CSV files for their finances, such as forecasting revenues and analyzing revenue monthly. XLS files provide an overview of data and provide many different data analysis tools. Accountancy: A financial analyst can use XML spreadsheets or csv to monitor expense and earnings.

What is an XLS file?

XLS files contain specific excel spreadsheets which Microsoft Excel uses. It opens exclusively for Microsoft Excel programs and other text processing systems such as Google Docs may open XLS files. XLS file types can sometimes be xls or. Microsoft Word versions may differ. When you save an Excel document, the text editor cannot open that file. XLS files can store several files and thousands of pages of information and is more suitable for storage and bookkeeping applications. How do we use Spreadsheets?

Opening xls and xlsx files

It was specifically developed for Microsoft Excel but is easily accessible via Google Sheets. Upload XLS or XLZ files to a Google drive and open to a Google Spreadsheet. Then open XLSX files using Excel Viewer. With this free viewer you can print XLS or XLSX files - almost everything you need. The file is easily accessible and edited via the internet using Google Sheets and CSV. After editing the text file, you are able to download Google sheet files as a XLSX extension.

Difference between CSV and Excel

CSV and Excel are the same file extensions that contain a data file. In CSVs, with comma-separated values, the information is text with separated spaces. Excel and xls. The information is shown in table format in columns. A CSV file extension does not include formatting. Excel allows you to format a file to your specific requirements. CSV is the format of the Excel data stored in an online database and helps business organizations conduct their business operations.


XLS files are different than CSV. Both are capable of using different types of applications, both for business and personal use, although both have restrictions that could restrict your usage. Here is an important distinction between these two:

Editing and saving

CSV files have a large advantage of being easily opened via a simple text editor or another program. CSV Files are free of any software for opening, editing and saving the data from the computer. The file Xls is also executed by Microsoft Excel, and these extensions can be identified using the extension.xls or xlsx. The XLS file is capable of running with other software such as: Docs OpenOffice Google Chrome extensions.

What is a CSV file?

CSV is the format for compiled text and comma-separated data. CSV files are both simple and flexible and can consume less storage and be open to the majority of text editor, word processing software. CSV files are typically very sensitive to local settings on a computer and may misunderstand a comma that separates identifying information. Changing extension name in TXT will solve this problem. Cv and open the document using the text editor in the browser.