I have an interesting situation in Excel 365.

I one column I have phone numbers of my contacts. By looking in a cell it looks like this:


But when I export file as text file TAB delimited, the same number turns into:


Please notice the question mark, which is not visible in a cell.

What is the issue? How to show these kind of hidden characters in Excel?


  • what happens if you convert the column to text before you export? – Albin Jan 9 at 17:42

Excel exports text files with Windows-1252/CP-1252 character encoding.


So if you have a UTF-8 character that does not fit within the Windows-1252 character set, then it will be exported corrupted.

There is no known way to export text files correctly with Excel because it is a known bug with no UTF support, as you can see from the thousands of answers I linked to.

Some alternative ways to export is to copy & paste to Google Sheets then export a TSV or use Open Office to read the Excel file and export with UTF8.

Sometimes UTF has non-printing characters to control where diacritical marks show and join separate letters into one in other languages.


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