How to Convert Excel Documents to PDF Format

3 Easy Ways to Convert Excel to PDF

Illustration of an Excel to PDF conversion

Icons by Dryicons (Excel and PDF

There are a number of ways to convert an Excel file to the PDF format. A popular reason to do this type of conversion is so that the Excel file is easier to open and read on other computers, phones, and tablets, all without having to have a spreadsheet program or app installed.

Because Excel files, like XLSX and XLS documents, require a specific program (usually Excel) in order to read and edit the file, it can be hard to share Excel documents with people who don’t have programs like that.

However, the PDF format is much more ubiquitous than MS Excel’s file formats, so as long as there’s a PDF viewer installed on the computer (or a PDF reader app on the phone/tablet), the document can be read just like any other PDF file, without the need for a spreadsheet viewer/editor.

Note: It’s very important to understand what it means when you convert an Excel document to PDF. Excel files that remain in the XLSX or XLS format are 100% editable with Excel or another similar spreadsheet program (e.g. OpenOffice Calc and LibreOffice Calc), but PDFs are not. While there are PDF editors available, they don't usually work as well as editing the raw file (i.e. editing the Excel file with Excel, for example, in this case).

Excel

If you’re working with Excel documents, there’s a good chance you already have Excel on your computer. If so, you can easily convert XLS to PDF, or the newer XLSX to PDF.

Windows users can convert Excel documents to PDF through the Export menu:

Screenshot showing how to use Excel to convert an XLSX file to PDF
Converting an Excel File to PDF (Windows).
  1. Open the File > Export menu.
  2. Click or tap Create PDF/XPS.
  3. Choose a folder on your computer to pick where the PDF should be stored.
  4. Double-check that PDF (*.pdf) is selected next to Save as type:. The other option is for making an XPS file.
    1. You can optionally use this time before making the PDF to enable or disable some advanced options. Click/tap Options in the Publish as PDF or XPS window to do things like export only certain pages to PDF, export all the worksheets, and more.
  5. Choose Publish to save the Excel file to PDF.

If you’re on a Mac computer, making a PDF from an Excel file can be completed through the Save As menu item:

Screenshot showing how to convert an XLSX Excel file to PDF on a Mac
Converting an Excel File to PDF (Mac).
  1. Go to File > Save As to open a pop-up box for saving the Excel document.
  2. Next to File Format: at the bottom of that window, choose PDF.
    1. Take note of the options just below the format selection dropdown box. You can choose Workbook or Sheet to convert either the whole workbook to PDF (all the sheets that have data in them) or just the sheet that’s open right now.
  3. Click or touch Save to convert the Excel file to PDF on your Mac.

Online Converters

Another option to save Excel as PDF is to use a file converter. Since XLS and XLSX files are documents, you can use a free document file converter.

There are even some online Excel to PDF converters that make it even easier to save Excel documents to the PDF format, and since they work with any web browser, they can convert Excel to PDF on any operating system.

A few of our favorites include Smallpdf, iLovePDF, Soda PDF, and Online2PDF.

Screenshot showing how to convert XLSX to PDF online with FileZigZag
Using FileZigZag to Convert XLSX to PDF Online.

Another one we like is FileZigZag. Upload your Excel file there and choose PDF as the output format. Then, just enter your email address and hit Convert to get a download link to the PDF in your email.

‘Print’ to PDF

Screenshot of a PDF printer used with Microsoft Excel Viewer
Using MS Excel Viewer With Foxit Reader PDF Printer to Convert XLSX to PDF.

If you don’t have Excel installed, you can still save the XLSX or XLS file to PDF with Microsoft's free Excel Viewer program. However, since Excel Viewer is only an Excel file viewer (not editor), you have to install another program along with it to make it support the PDF conversion.

One way is through a free PDF printer. PDF printers work by having you “print” the document to PDF, which is essentially an easy way to send the Excel file to the PDF converter, after which the program will save the document to the PDF format.

  1. Open Excel Viewer and select the Excel file you want to convert to PDF.
  2. Use the button at the upper left-hand side of the program to select Print.
  3. Change the printer from the dropdown menu next to Name: to be the PDF printer you installed.
    1. In our example, we can choose Foxit Reader PDF Printer since that's what's installed.
  4. Make any other changes you want to the print preferences, like to print a certain number of pages, and then click or touch the OK button to launch the PDF printer software, Foxit Reader in this case.
    1. Note: Some PDF printers will open the program with further instructions, and others will save the PDF without any other prompts.