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I use Excel (and occasionally Numbers), but I want to be able to share with users of Google Docs and LibreOffice (and I may want to switch in the future). What's the most compatible format to save my Excel spreadsheets in?

I'm asking as a question here rather than merely Googling for a list of formats that LibreOffice and GoogleDocs support (although I'm doing that too, and will post the answer if no one else does) because there are likely to be hidden "gotchas" that only someone who has experience using all of the above applications is going to know about. Answers that include personal experience will be preferred over those that only post a link to the relevant facts on google.com and libreoffice.com.

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closed as not constructive by Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007, Renan, Indrek, Diogo, Nifle Sep 22 '12 at 21:42

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3 Answers 3

The *gotchas" occur when a file is imported or exported. This is not something you can avoid by saving to a more application-independent format (such as .ods) because Excel still has to translate into that format — and MS Office export filters do not have a good reputation. There are third party ODF plugins for MS Office that are said to do a better job; I have no experience with these.

You might get better results saving as .xls and using the import filters on LibreOffice or Google Docs. The important thing to remember is that translation is unavoidable and translation errors are hard to predict. You can only decide what works for you by trial an error.

The good news is that there's less ambiguity in spreadsheets than in other document formats. So translation gotchas are fewer and less painful.

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.xls and .xlsx work better than the other formats Excel works with.

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Can you elaborate? Also, I would guess that .xlsx would be the best, but that's only a guess. Can you confirm or deny that it's better than plain 'ol .xls? –  iconoclast Sep 22 '12 at 1:52
    
Yes, ".xlsx" works the best these days(as long as you are not an Open office 2/ Office 2003/ something old user). The thing wit all file formats is the added functionality they come with. ".xlsx" has the most amount of functionality and recognition these days. As techie007 mentioned, ".csv" is also great but doesn't come at par with ".xlsx". Here are some reasons as to why these new XML based formats are awesome msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa338205(v=office.12).aspx –  Gutsygibbon Sep 24 '12 at 14:07

Does your Excel spreadsheet contain formulas or macros? If not then .CSV (Comma-Separated Values) is probably the most compatible across platforms.

Comma-separated values are old technology and pre-date personal computers by more than a decade: the IBM Fortran (level G) compiler under OS/360 supported them in 1967.

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Given all the extra and confusing dialog boxes M$ forces you to jump through, working with CSV files in Excel is about as fun as urinating on spark plugs. And I pretty much always have either formulas or formatting or both. –  iconoclast Sep 22 '12 at 1:56

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