Difference Between CSV and Excel Files (11 Suitable Examples)

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We can save our Excel spreadsheet in a vast number of formats. Among them, Comma-Separated Values (CSV) and Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet (xls)/ Excel are two widely used file formats. In this article, we will show you the possible difference between CSV and Excel files. If you are also curious about it, follow us.

Overview of Excel File

Nowadays, any business professional today would struggle to survive without Excel. They can save, handle, analyze, and export data using Excel in the appropriate ways. It is also a very structured and ordered file format that was created especially for a set of data and to connect the specifics from several independent tables. The outlook of a general Excel file will be like the image given below:

Representation of Excel File

Overview of CSV File

A Comma-Separated Values or CSV file is a basic style of a plain text file that organizes tabular data according to a predetermined format. Its standard format is determined by its rows and columns of data, where each row is terminated by a newline to start the following one and each column is separated inside each row by a comma. A visual representation of CSV is shown below for your convenience:

Representation of CSV File

How to Understand the Differences Between CSV and Excel Files: 11 Suitable Examples

Using some easy examples we will demonstrate the difference between a CSV and Excel file.

1. Full Definition

The full meaning of CSV is Comma-Separated Values. On the other hand, the full form of an Excel file is Microsoft Excel or MS Excel.

2. Introducing Period

Microsoft Excel or MS Excel was first launched in the year of 1987 for professional purposes. The induction of CSV in Excel came in 2005. So. before 2005, there was no such a term in the Excel directory.

3. Classification

MS Excel is a tool that can store according to our desire, do data analysis and show the analysis result. You can see that we have stored some data in our worksheet, and after our desired analysis, Excel will show us an accurate result.

Basic data analysis to show difference between CSV and Excel

Paradoxically, CSV is a file format or file extension that can store some data without any particular format.

Representation of CSV File

4. File Extension

While we save our Excel spreadsheet as a CSV file, we have to save it in .csv format. Excel has multiple types of .csv file formats. All of them save the Excel spreadsheet data with comma separation. They are listed below:

  • CSV UTF-8 (Comma delimited)
  • CSV (Comma delimited)
  • CSV (Macintosh)
  • CSV (MS-DOS)

Different types of CSV extension to show difference between CSV and Excel

But, when we save an Excel file, we will save it in .xls or .xlsx, or .xlsm format.


  • .xls represents the Excel 97-2003 Workbook
  • .xlsx stands for the Excel Workbook
  • .xlsm states Excel Macro Embedded Workbook

Different types of Excel extension

5. Data Storing Method

The CSV file stores the dataset in plain text format. Most of the time, it kept a comma separator between each data to separate them. Sometimes, some other signs are also used to keep specific formats. You can notice it in the attachment below:

Representation of CSV File

However, Excel stores the data in a binary format. For each entity, Excel has some defined value in its memory. Excel use them and convert the whole number into a binary number and store them in your device memory.

Data patterns of Excel

Read More: How to Import CSV Data into Excel

6. Data Types

In Microsoft Excel, we can store our data in various formats. From the Insert tab of the Excel ribbon, we can add Images, Charts, SmartArt, Text Boxes, Symbols, Equations, and many other items to represent our data.

Inserted items difference between Excel file and CSV

Consequently, the main advantage of using Excel is its immense number of built-in functions. More than 300 regular and professional functions are programmed in the Excel directory.

Applicable function difference between Excel file and CSV

In addition, by embedding the VBA code, you can set your own customize working formula.

Ironically, in a CSV file, you cannot do any of this. You can only keep some plain text with the comma separator.

Read More: How to Convert CSV to XLSX without Opening

7. Launching Platform

As the CSV file only stores plain text with a separator, this file can easily open using any text editor on your device instead of Microsoft Excel. In our previous section, we opened it with the Notepad tool.

Besides that, you can also open the file using the Wordpad application.

Opening CSV file in WordPad to show difference between CSV and Excel

In contrast, the file you saved in an Excel format (.xls, .xlsx, .xlsm) can’t able to open it without the Microsoft application.

Read More: How to Convert CSV to Excel with Columns

8. Internal and External Link

In Excel, we can easily set relationships between multiple sheets of a workbook or several workbooks. It reduces our manual data editing time and makes the work much earlier and easier.

Establishing Relationship in Multiple Excel Files

Whereas you can’t establish any type of relationship in a CSV file, as it stores only plain data.

Read More: How to Import CSV into Existing Sheet in Excel

9. Data Manipulation

In a CSV file, you cannot do the data manipulation work. But, in an Excel file, you can perform all sorts of data manipulation and data analysis easily.

10. File Size

As the CSV file only stores plain data, the file size remains pretty small. As a result, we can save a large file in short storage capacity using this file extension. If you check the file size, which is attached to this article, titled Income List.csv, it is only 349 bytes.

Conversely, Excel files usually contain multiple types of formats and other elements. Thus, the size of the files is quite large. For example, you can look at the Excel file attached to this article. Though the file contains the same amount of data, its size is 11.0 KB or 11000 bytes, which is around 31.5 times larger than the CSV format.

Read More: How to Compare 2 CSV Files in Excel

11. Application Area

CSV file is generally used by professional persons, and it requires a lot of experience and patience. While Excel files are used by common people. You will notice in every office of every sector people are using Microsoft Excel to fulfill their daily needs.

In the conclusion, we can say that we have explained the difference between CSV and Excel files briefly.


The difference between the CSV and the Excel file is summarized below based on our previous discussion:

Comparison Basis Excel File CSV
Full Form Microsoft Excel / MS Excel Comma-Separated Values
Launch 1987 2005
Class Tool File Format
Extension .xls, .xlsx, .xlsm .csv
Data Storing Method Binary Code Plain Text
Data Types Multiple
(Images, Charts, SmartArt, Text Boxes, Symbols, Equations, Shapes, and so on)
Plain Text
Launching Platform Only Microsoft Excel Any Text Editor
(Notepad, WordPad, etc.)
Internal and External Link Applicable Not Applicable
Data Manipulation Applicable Not Applicable
Size Large Small
Area and people Mass People Professionals

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That’s the end of this article. I hope that this article will be helpful for you and you will be able to understand the difference between CSV and Excel files. Please share any further queries or recommendations with us in the comments section below if you have any further questions or recommendations. Keep learning new methods and keep growing!

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Soumik Dutta
Soumik Dutta

Hi! I am Soumik. I have completed my Bachelor of Science in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. I have found my calling in Machine Learning and Data Science, and in pursuing so, I have realized the importance of Data Analysis. Excel is one excellent tool to fulfill the purpose. I am always trying to learn every day about different features of Excel and trying to share here what I am learning.

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