Kind of the inverse of this question.

I frequently download CSVs from outside sources as part of my programming work. I like to examine their data in Excel because, let's face it, Excel is an ideal tool for this sort of thing.

Except for one behavior: Excel attempts to outwit the data in the CSV, and therefore, if something looks like a number (like, say, many ISBN/EAN codes), Excel will treat it as such. And if this number is really big (like pretty much all ISBN/EAN codes), Excel will turn the number into scientific notation. Finally, if the number isn't particularly big, with most of these data formats, that indicates that Excel has decided that my number shouldn't have leading zeroes.

So ... Is there a way to open a CSV (via double-click if possible, but I'm willing to compromise here) in such a way that I can have Excel 2007 treat all the columns as text?

  • 8
    You sir, have great restraint. I would not have been able to ask this question without uttering profanity, because I find this behavior to be @!#$!@$ ANNOYING. – dreftymac Mar 25 '10 at 18:43

You can, but it takes a couple of manual steps. These steps are from Excel 2003, but I'd assume the wizard is similar in 2007:

  1. Rename the file as TXT. Don't double-click it.
  2. Open Excel
  3. Click File, Open
  4. Locate and double-click the text file
  5. It should open a "Text Import Wizard"
  6. In step one, choose "Delimited"
  7. In step two, uncheck "tab" and check "comma"
  8. In step three, scroll-over to the last column, shift-click to select all columns, then click "Text" as the format.
  9. Ignore the annoying "Number stored as text" warnings everywhere

Goes pretty fast with some practice.

  • This is what I wound up doing today. – John Rudy Sep 8 '09 at 23:13
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    This was helpful, thanks. As far as I can tell there isn't any other way of doing this. Changing the columns to 'Text' format after opening (without doing what you said) doesn't work either, the scientific notation remains until the cell is edited. Very annoying, and probably worthy of being considered a bug. – Karl Nicoll Jul 13 '12 at 9:02
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    @KarlNicoll It's actually worse than that; if you don't have the text type specified before the input is performed, it actually loses precision on the imported values (the last few digits of the "number" are rounded to zeroes). – BradC Oct 19 '15 at 16:36
  • wow. excel sucks. going back to open/libre office – javadba May 3 '18 at 13:53

The key to importing as a text, using the text import wizard is to prevent to original data import from saving as csv values. Since excel is the default for such files, it would "do its damage" before you get the file. so first download the file, do not double click to open it. Go the downloaded file and change the extension to 'txt' eg "mydata.txt" Now open excel and import changing the column you want preserved as text.


What I've noticed is that you can change the format on the column to 'number' and set the decimal places to 0. This will display the full value in Excel after importing the file. The critical component here is that you MUST do this every time you open the CSV in order to retain the significant digits and prevent rounding. The issue with rounding the number seems to only occur if you save the CSV file prior to adjusting the number format. I've learned to keep backup copies for those moments of weakness when I forget about this silly 'feature'. I haven't been able to find a way to turn this off completely.

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