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I am working on a project that uses a CSV file supplied by the client to populate a database. The client is to create the spreadsheet, then save it as a CSV to be uploaded, which is then parsed into a database.

The problem is, whenever the client saves the excel spreadsheet as an MS-DOS .csv file, many of the special characters get converted to question marks "?" (symbols such as ' " / ). However, if we then open the CSV file and manually replace each ? with the right character it works fine.

The problem is that the data file is HUGE, and we can't reasonably do this, so I was hoping there was a way to save it. We have tried exporting as Unicode and ASCII to no avail. We have also tried uploading to google docs, and re-saving, however, it also breaks those characters.

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migrated from Aug 25 '12 at 16:15

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If you are on excel 2007, in the File save as dialog there is just left of the save button a Tools drop down.If you choose weboption and on the tab Encoding you can select a specific encoding. Try if that is of any help – rene Aug 24 '12 at 21:43
What is an example of that text? – enderland Aug 24 '12 at 21:58
The problem is not reproducible. Make sure that the data is actually what you describe and not some characters that cannot be represented in the MS-DOS encoding. – Jukka K. Korpela Aug 24 '12 at 22:12

I have found that the lost character issue only happens (in my case) when saving from xlsx format to csv format. I tried saving the xlsx file to xls first, then to csv. It actually worked.

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This doesn't work for me. I still get ? in csv file – thanos.a May 6 at 8:27

Ensure you are choosing to save as a CSV (Comma Delimited) and not a CSV (MS-DOS), as DOS doesn't support UTF-8 characters.

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A possible workaround is to save it as Unicode Text (2007 has it, not sure about previous editions), which saves it as a tab-separated text file.

This file preserved my unicode characters (in my case I was working with asian characters) while producing some sort of delimited text file which you can then run through external tools to convert to a csv if necessary.

My input did not have tabs embedded within each cell, however, and I am not sure how that would be handled.

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I've been having this issue for a while now, and finally dedicated some time to figure it out! I was able to (seemingly) fix the issue by saving as "Windows Comma Separated (.csv)". I tried it from a .xlsx and a .xls, both converted over to a .csv just fine. Hope this helps - let me know if any issues pop up with this method. I'll report back if I see anything over the next few weeks.

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Welcome to Super User. Glad to see you jump right in to answer questions. – CharlieRB Jan 14 at 16:53

Here's what works for me:

  1. Make data corrections in Excel or CSV
  2. Save file As Unicode Text
  3. Open NOTEPAD
  4. Open the Unicode file you just saved using NOTEPAD
  5. Use your cursor to highlight a blank area that holds a single tab 5a. Use the space between the Acquire Id and the Request Type because this holds ONE TAB!
  6. Hit Cnrl-C to copy the tab character
  7. Type Cnlr-H to open the Replace function box
  8. Click in the Find What text box and type Cnlr-V to paste the Tab
  9. Click in the Replace With Text box and type a comma
  10. Click Replace to test it one time. Confirm the tab in the file is replaced with a comma
  11. Click Replace All
  12. Click Cancel
  13. Save the file and Exit
  14. In Windows Explorer change the file extension to .csv
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Even i faced the issue with special characters while downloading the japanese terms in .csv format.However when i saved the .csv file in Text format(Tab delimited) the japanese characters where populating perfectly. Then i just copied data from text file and pasted in a spreadsheet. Worked well!!!

Thanks, Vaishakh

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This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. – Ramhound Jul 21 '15 at 14:59

Found the best solution ever:

From link:

1-Click on the start menu

2-Select control panel

3-Find Regional and Language options on classic mode or type its name on the search bar on just top right of the control panel window

4-Click on advanced tab and click locales

5-Click on Persian or Arabic or your desired UTF-08 encoding program that you’d like to save with Excel into CSV

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  1. Download and install Unicode CSV Addin for excel.
  2. Save the csv from the new "Unicode CSV" menu as shown in picture below.

enter image description here

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