Tag Archives: xlsx

Convert CSV to Excel – How to open CSV and save as Excel

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CSV files are commonplace nowadays. Hence knowing how to convert CSV to Excel is a useful skill. CSV files are especially useful when wanting to save a table worth of data in a simple to read format. CSVs are also easy files to create and read from – as they are basically text files with a .csv file extension. That means they easily open in Wordpad, Notepad, Word and virtually any other text editor.

CSV fileCSV (Comma-separated values) – in computing these are text files that store tabular data (numbers and text in columns):

  • Each row represent a single record
  • Each column represents a certain property
  • Each “cell“, or in other words columns within a row, are separated by a certain delimiter. Usually a comma , character (but not only!)
  • Usually the first row is the header – contains names for each column

Today I want to show how you can quickly convert a CSV file into an Excel XLSX file. I will base this tutorial on the following example of a CSV file:

Sample CSV (Comma-separated values file)
Sample CSV (Comma-separated values file)

Open the file in Excel

Simply double click on the file or if needed right-click and Open with the file in Microsoft Excel. The file should open showing only a single Worksheet like shown below:

CSV file opened in Excel
CSV file opened in Excel

If columns in a CSV are separated by your default Windows list separator the columns will be separated automatically without needing to proceed further. Where to find you default Windows locale list separator? Control Panel->Region and Language->Additional Settings->List Separator. In my case it was a ;

Select first column and proceed to Text to Columns

Select the entire first column where all your data should be located. Next click on the Text to Columns button in the DATA ribbon tab:

Data ribbon: Text to Columns
Data ribbon: Text to Columns

Proceed according to Wizard instructions

This is the hard part. Text to Columns need additional information on the delimiter and format of your columns.

Delimited or Fixed width?

CSV files are usually delimited using a specific character (like a comma or semicolon), in this case select Delimited. Sometimes however columns are fixed width, separated by spaces, in this case select Fixed width. Next click Next to proceed.

Text to Columns Wizard: Step 1
Text to Columns Wizard: Step 1

Select delimiter

Assuming your columns are separated with a specific delimiter you need to provide this delimiter in the Wizard. Look at the Data preview to make sure your columns will be separated correctly. When finished proceed with Next

Text to Columns Wizard: Step 2
Text to Columns Wizard: Step 2

Format your columns (optional)

The last step is to format your columns if needed. If your columns represent Dates or you want to pull a column containing numbers/dates as text instead – be sure to format it appropriately. Usually, however, you are fine with hitting Finish:

Text to Columns Wizard: Step 3
Text to Columns Wizard: Step 3

Admire your Excel converted CSV file

If you have proceeded according to the steps above you should have a neatly formatted spreadsheet like the one below.

Convert CSV to Excel file
Convert CSV to Excel file

One last thing as Steve Jobs used to say… Remember to save the file as an Excel XSLX (or XLSB or similar) file:
save csv

Convert multiple CSV to Excel with VBA

If you have multiple CSVs you want to convert or pull into an Excel file the above approach may be a big burden. So lets use some VBA macros to help.

Import entire CSV

The below is take straight from my Read file in VBA blog post. This pulls a single file into the destRng Excel range.

Dim ws as Worksheet, destRng as Range, fileName as String
Set destRng = Range("A1")
Set ws = ActiveSheet
fileName = "C:\text.csv" 'Replace with file name
With ws.QueryTables.Add(Connection:= "TEXT;" & fileName & "", Destination:=destRng)
    .FieldNames = True
    .RowNumbers = False
    .FillAdjacentFormulas = False
    .PreserveFormatting = True
    .RefreshOnFileOpen = False
    .RefreshStyle = xlInsertDeleteCells
    .SaveData = True
    .AdjustColumnWidth = True
    .RefreshPeriod = 0
    .TextFilePromptOnRefresh = False
    .TextFilePlatform = 852
    .TextFileStartRow = 1
    .TextFileParseType = xlDelimited
    .TextFileTextQualifier = xlTextQualifierDoubleQuote
    'Select your delimiter - selected below for Comma
    .TextFileConsecutiveDelimiter = False
    .TextFileTabDelimiter = False
    .TextFileSemicolonDelimiter = False
    .TextFileCommaDelimiter = True
    .TextFileSpaceDelimiter = False
    .TextFileTrailingMinusNumbers = True
    'This will refresh the query
End With

Import selected CSV rows

Now a more interesting and complex scenario – let us assume we want to import just some rows of our CSV. Fortunately Excel (as well as Access) support SQL queries. We can therefore do a simple SELECT query to upload all records or add some filtering (using WHERE clause), grouping (using GROUP BY clause) and etc.

'Assuming file looks like this. File path: C:\test.csv
'"Col1", "Col2", "Col3"
'1     , 2     , 3
'11    , 12    , 1
'2     , 5     , 6
Set rs = CreateObject("ADODB.Recordset")
strcon = "Provider=Microsoft.Jet.OLEDB.4.0;Data Source=C:\;" _
& "Extended Properties=""text;HDR=Yes;FMT=Delimited"";"
strSQL = "SELECT * FROM test.csv WHERE Col1 > 10"
rs.Open strSQL, strcon, 3, 3
   col1 = rs("Col1")
   col2 = rs("Col2")
   col3 = rs("Col3")
Loop Until rs.EOF

The above will only pull the second row as Col1 is > 10.

Convert CSV to Excel tips

CSV files are usually used when a file contains a large amount of data. Excel tends to bloat pretty quickly although it compresses the data pretty well. Nevertheless you might find yourself struggling with Excel performance or even experiencing an Excel crash. What to do? Save the file as an XLSB – read more here.

Excel XLSB vs XLSX file format. The Pros and Cons of XLSB Files

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An XLSB file is a Microsoft Office Excel Binary file. Information inside XLSB file is stored as binary data compared, while in usual XSLX files data is stored as XML files which are then compressed.

Working with large Excel files is often a drag. They open slower, they take an eternity to save and they often need to be uploaded to the Cloud to be shared with your coworkers or family. Why not explore the benefits of the XSLB file format then (sometimes mixed up with XLSB)?

What is an XLSB file format?

This is what is inside an XLSX (or XLSM) file (image on the right). What do you mean inside? – you ask.

Inside an XLSX file
Inside an XLSX file

XLSX and XLSM files are in fact compressed archives with XML files inside. That is because Microsoft has opened the Excel file format and decided to break the insides into XML files. When an XLSX or XLSM file is saved Excel needs to break it down into separate XML files, compress it and finally save it as XLSX or XLSM.

The XLSB file format on the other hand is a binary Excel file. It resembles the old XLS file format which was also a binary file.
What happens when Excel wants to save an XSLB file? Not much really. It mostly dumps the binary data into a binary file and saves it as XLSB.

XLSB advantages (XLSB vs. XLSX)

  • XLSB files are smallerSmaller file size – the Excel binary file uses noticeably less space. This is more noticeable especially when working with large Excel files. In some cases I heard of there being XLSB files that required 10% of the original file size – this is more visible with VERY large files
  • XLSB files save or open fasterOpens/saves more quickly – loading binary data is faster than parsing text (XML) files – similarly as you would compare opening a book in Spanish and having to translate every sentence to English as opposed to picking up a ready translated copy. Similarly, when saving the file – the binary format is more efficient than dumping the data back into the XML and then compressing it. From my experience XLSB files open and get saved 2x faster
  • XLSB files support longer formulasSupports formulas above the 8192 character limit. In other file formats they don’t save properly

Yahoo! Well it would seem there is nothing less obvious to do then to start working only on the XLSB file format. However, it’s not a straightforward decision as there are some minor setbacks. Here are some that come to mind…

XLSB disadvantages (XLSB vs. XLSX)

  • Compatibility – the XLSB Excel format is not supported by Excel 2003 and earlier versions, which frankly is less of a problem nowadays
  • Security (VBA) – with the distinction between the XLSM and XLSX format you know which files may or not contain VBA macros. With XLSB you won’t know for sure. So beware when opening XLSB files from unknown sources or from people/websites you don’t trust
  • You can’t make changes to the Excel Ribbon when working on an XLSB. You must temporarily save your file as XLSX or XLSM, makes changes and save back as XLSB.
  • Lack of interoperability with third-party tools. XLSB is a binary file format unlike the open XML XLSX and XLSM files. Hence you often won’t see your XLSB files working everywhere – like in OpenOffice

Other suggestions when working with large Excel files or datasets

I usually start with the quick wins suggestions and leave the more complex for desert. The XLSB file format is a good start and often won’t require that you meddle with the data/formatting/content of your workbook, rightfully as you shouldn’t have too. However, from time to time there will be those moments when that won’t be enough and you just won’t be able to work any longer with a slow and large Excel file. Here are some useful tips:

  • Reduce the file size by deleting unused cells
  • Save data files without formatting – formatting may account for a lot of storage space and if you are simply working with a dataset and don’t need formatting save your file in .xml format
  • Save data files without formatting – formatting may account for a lot of storage space and if you are simply working with a dataset and don’t need formatting save your file in .xml format or as a .csv
  • Turn automatic calculations off – often even not so large Excel files cause Excel to freeze or crash. That may be because of an abundance of Excel formulas having to recalculate each time a change is made etc. Try to turn Calculation Options to Manual to get rid of this problem
  • PowerQuery Add-In – Excel has its limitations when working with large datasets. The Excel PowerQuery Add-In by Microsoft has been designed to handle Big Data and complex data queries to external databases or datasources. PowerQuery will allow you to work more efficiently with these data sets and will not limit the amount of records you can handle within a single Excel Worksheet

Common myths about XLSB

Do XLSB runs formulas faster than XLSX?

  • Not true

XLSB file are only loaded and unloaded faster (saved and closed) than XLSX files. Afterwards both formats run in RAM memory with similar performance on the same Excel engine. Hence, you won’t see your Excel formula’s running significantly faster. However, if you do save your file frequently you will definitely notice that the XLSB file format saves faster.

Do XLSB files crash more often?

  • Not true

The XLSB file format does not in any way increase the probability of crashing. However, if the file does crash it may be harder to recover. XLSB are binary files, where XLSX and XLSM files are in fact compressed XML files – text files in XML format. Therefore, in a critical situation you have definitely a better chance of reading a text file than a binary file. Then again I wouldn’t worry about this too much.

Can XLSB files be opened only via Excel?

  • True

Binary Excel files are (usually) not supported by other Office Suites (such as Open Office). This is because by introducing the *X formats (docx, xlsx etc.) Microsoft introduced an open file format that allowed these other programs to open as well as edit these files more easily than before. For this reason be aware when working with the binary Excel format when working with collegues who might want to use alternative programs to collaborate with you.


On a daily basis I would recommend sticking to XLSX and XSLM as standard Excel file formats. It is worth reaching out to the XLSB file format whenever you file starts running slow or uses an enormous amount of space.

XLSB will actually not benefit small Excel files and you might even see small XLSB files taking more space than small XLSX/XSLM files. Your clients / coworkers may also have doubts when opening XLSB files as Excel treats these file formats with an extra dose of caution.

Use the XLSB file format MAINLY with very LARGE Excel files.