How to Convert Excel Documents to the PDF Format

4 easy ways to convert Excel files to PDF

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

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.

Why Use the PDF Format

Excel files require a specific program to read and edit them, so it can be hard to share such documents with people who don’t have the needed software. However, the PDF format is much more ubiquitous, so as long as there’s a PDF viewer installed on the computer, you can view the file without the need for a spreadsheet viewer/editor.

Use Microsoft Excel to Create a PDF File

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 XLSX to PDF, or the older XLS to PDF.

These instructions apply to Excel versions 2021, 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, and Excel for Microsoft 365.

Exporting on a Windows PC

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

  1. Open the File > Export menu.

  2. Choose Create PDF/XPS.

  3. Double-check that PDF (*.pdf) is selected next to Save as type. The other option is for making an XPS file.

    Excel's Publish as PDF or XPS window

    You can optionally use this time before making the PDF to enable or disable some advanced options. Go into Options in the save dialog box to do things like export only specific pages to PDF, export all the worksheets, and more.

  4. Choose where the PDF should be saved, and then select Publish.

Exporting on a Mac

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

  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.

    Screenshot showing how to convert an XLSX Excel file to PDF on a Mac

    Take note of the options just below the format selection drop-down 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. Select Save to convert the Excel file to PDF on your Mac.

Export to PDF With Google Sheets

Sheets is Google's online spreadsheet creator and editor. Since you can upload Excel files to Google Sheets, and because Sheets can export documents to the PDF format, it serves as a great way to convert XLSX/XLS to PDF on any computer.

  1. Open Google Sheets, and use the file picker button off to the right to browse for and open your Excel file.

  2. Go to File > Download > PDF (.pdf) to see a preview of the document as a PDF. You can edit what should be exported and some other settings.

    Google Sheets download as PDF option
  3. Select EXPORT to save the spreadsheet as a PDF.

Online Converters

Another option 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 this even easier, 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.

Another one we like, shown below, is FileZigZag. Upload your Excel file there and choose PDF as the target format. Select Start Converting to convert the Excel file to PDF and get the download link.

FileZigZag website ready to convert XLSX to PDF online

'Print' 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 that tool 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 with a free PDF printer. PDF printers work by having you 'print' the document to PDF, which is an easy way to send the Excel file to the PDF converter, after which the program will save it 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 drop-down menu next to Name to be the PDF printer you installed.

    Screenshot of a PDF printer used with Microsoft Excel Viewer

    In our example, we can choose Foxit Reader PDF Printer from the drop-down menu.

  4. Make any other changes you want to the print preferences, like to print a certain number of pages, and then select OK to launch the PDF printer software, Foxit PDF Reader in this case.

    Some PDF printers will open the program with further instructions, and others will save the PDF without any other prompts.

  5. That's it! You've created a PDF file from the Excel document!

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