What are CSV and XLS(Microsoft or OpenOffice) files ? What is the main difference between these two files ?

  • Note that a native Open Office Calc file has an extension of ods, and is totally different to either a CSV or an XLS file, being XML wrapped using a zip
    – Mark Baker
    Jun 19, 2010 at 20:23

5 Answers 5


CSV : means Comma Separated Values. it is a plain text (ansi) format.
XLS : is the main binary file format for all eXceL SpreadsheetS

  • comment myself: the new (since Excel2007) main file format for excel is the xlsx-file format, or with macros the xlsm-file format.
    – OlimilOops
    Dec 28, 2016 at 18:38

CSV files hold plain text as a series of values (cells) separated by commas (,) in a series of lines (rows). You can actually open a CSV file in a text editor and read it yourself. Many applications are capable of reading CSV files, and many languages provide built-in functions that simplify reading/writing CSV format.

XLS is an MS Excel workbook binary file, which holds information about all the worksheets in a workbook, comprising both content and formatting (number masking, colouring, conditional formatting, etc), and can also hold additionals like charts, images, etc. XLS files can only be read by applications that have been especially written to read their format, and can only be written in the same way.


CSV files are intentionally designed to be widely supported; any OS or application that imports or exports data usually has CSV support.

They do nothing else but hold data - no text formatting for example.

Excel files hold the same data, but in binary format. This allows the file to save specifc Excel features - charts, formatting, etc.

  1. Excel is a spreadsheet application that saves files into its own format while CSV is a standard of saving tabular information into a delimited text file
  2. CSV is a very old method of saving tables compared to Excel
  3. CSV files cannot store other information like formatting while this comes standard in Excel
  4. Files saved in excel cannot be opened or edited by text editors while CSV files can.

.csv file type can contains plain text and no formatting other than what is in what column. The .xls file type contains data and and also formatting

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