The difference between CSV and XLS formats

The difference between CSV and XLS formats

In the corporate world, competition for higher positions is exclusive in-house. However, once you decide to enter the wild jungles of freelancing, the fight for survival becomes even more fierce. Essentially, you’re going against millions of remote workers around the world. Now, if you want a good roof over your head and you want to keep buying nice things for your dogs, then you need to become a jack of all trades.

Now, before you can boast about having a Lean Six Sigma black belt, there is one skill you need to master. You must know the ropes around Excel. Whether you’re a freelance accounting professional, bookkeeper, data scientist, or reports analyst, Excel will be an indispensable part of your work. Even remote workers from other industries use it to monitor their finances. Unless you’re using a task tracking program, you might be using Excel to create your time tracking spreadsheets. Indeed, the app offers a wide range of practical uses.

You may be doing your tasks as usual when all of a sudden, a client sends you a file containing important data. However, you wonder why it’s in the .csv format. While a .csv file is not as popular as other Excel document formats like .xls and .xlsx, a lot of people still use it. In some instances, files that are available for download from the Internet are in CSV format. Despite that, most Excel users try to avoid this file format, especially since the data looks less appealing in it.

Don’t return that CSV file to your client out of frustration! You don’t need to pull your hair out figuring out what to do with it. In this post, we are going to show you the difference between CSV and XLS files.

What Is a CSV File?

What is CSV file?

When you open a .csv file, you will notice that it only contains plain text values which are separated by commas. So, you can use a simple text editor to open it. On the other hand, you can still open a CSV file, using other spreadsheet programs, including Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, and Open Office, among others. Because of this file format’s simplicity, it is compatible with most platforms. This is also the reason why it is widely used for storing and reading data.

What Is an XLS File?

Even if you’re a remote worker, as long as you handle data, you’ll need to use Excel. You need this program for processing, storing, analyzing, and exporting data. Highly organized and structured, the XLS file format was specifically designed for tabular data. It efficiently correlates details from various independent tables.

What is xls file?

From the 1997 to 2003 editions of Excel, Microsoft used the XLS file format. In later versions, the XLSX extension was introduced. XLS and XLSX files contain worksheet information, including formulae, charts, formatting, and images, among many other details. Basically, when you think about Excel vs CSV, the former is a more visual and comprehensive way to present and process data.

Using Microsoft Excel to Open a CSV File

As we’ve mentioned, you can use Microsoft Excel to open a CSV file. However, depending on the regional settings of your PC, the program might replace the comma with a semicolon. When opening a CSV file, Excel can mess up other details like the phone numbers and zip codes. It removes the leading + or 0, harming the veracity of the data.  The workaround for this is to convert the CSV file into .txt format. Once you open the /txt file in Excel, you can manually specify the encoding, delimiters, and column formatting, among other details.

CSV vs. XLS: Which Is More Platform-Friendly?

The .xls and .xlsx file extensions were specifically developed for Microsoft Excel. However, you can still open them, using Google Sheets. All you need to do is upload the XLS or XLSX file to your Google Drive. Once you double-click the file, you will be given the choice to open it as a Google Spreadsheet.

Meanwhile, you can also use the free Microsoft Office Excel Viewer to open files with a .xlsx or .xls extension. What’s great about this freeware is it allows you to copy and print data from your XLSX or XLS file.

It is worth noting that you can open and edit CSV files online as well. As with XLS and XLSX files, you can upload them to your Google Drive and open them with Google Sheets. Once you’re done working on the file, you can export the spreadsheet in both .csv and .xlsx formats.

Excel vs. CSV: Which Format Should You Use?

If you don’t need the flashy graphs and charts of Excel, you’ll probably only need to use the CSV format. After all, it keeps the data in plain text within a series of cells, separated by commas. On the other hand, Excel spreadsheets are binary files. This means that they will retain various kinds of information in terms of formatting and content. So, when you export a file from the Internet into a .xls or .xlsx file, it will retail the charts, formatting, visuals, and images.

The advantage of CSV files over XLS files is that the former can be opened and viewed, using any text editor. Meanwhile, you can only open Excel spreadsheets, using programs that are designed to process .xls and .xlsx files. Basically, CSV files are compatible with a wider range of operating systems and applications.

Now, if you want to ensure that you can keep and view your data everywhere, it is better that you save it in .csv format. On the other hand, if it’s crucial that you keep your data’s formatting, you should use the .xls format. In many ways, Excel overshadows CSV, especially in terms of data analysis and visualization. However, no matter how basic CSV may be, it still has its practical use. Moreover, it is accessible everywhere.

The CSV file format is ideal for the following scenarios:

  • Opening your file on different PCs
  • Layout and formatting are not crucial
  • Uploading your file online

The XLS and XLSX file formats are ideal for the following scenarios:

  • Presenting highly visual data
  • Creating captivating data charts
  • Using Excel formulae and functions

We hope this guide helped you understand the difference between CSV and XLS files. Now, if you’re a freelancer and you’re still using Excel to create your timesheet, we suggest that you switch to an easier method. We recommend that you use a task monitoring app like Traqq. You can use this tool to manage and track your tasks. With its simple and user-friendly interface, you can make the billing process more transparent and easier.

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