What Is an ELM File?

ELM files explained, and how to open one

What to Know

  • An ELM file is an Office Theme file.
  • It's used by Microsoft Office.
  • Eternal Lands Map is another format that uses this extension.

This article explains the different file formats that use this file extension, as well as how to open the different kinds of ELM files.

What Is an ELM File?

A file with the ELM file extension is an Office Theme file. These are settings files used by Microsoft Office programs and Microsoft FrontPage. They are uncompressed files that hold all the different parts of the theme, and might also reference external JPGs or other images and files.

The fantasy MMORPG video game Eternal Lands uses the ELM file extension, too, for Eternal Lands Map files. They are sometimes stored with GZ compression and are therefore named *.elm.gz.

ELM files in Windows 10

Despite their similar file extensions, ELM files are entirely different from EML (Mail Message) files. There are more examples of these possible mix-ups at the bottom of this page.

How to Open an ELM File

ELM files are used by Microsoft Office programs but can't be opened directly by them. In other words, even though you may have files with this extension in your Office installation directory, you can't manually open one in Word or Excel, for example.

The now discontinued Microsoft FrontPage web design program uses ELM files, too.

Since Office Theme files are normally entirely text-based, any text editor can open them as well—see our Best Free Text Editors list for some of our favorites. ELM files opened as text documents don't let you use the file like you'd expect, but instead just shows some detail about the theme in text form.

The free Eternal Lands game uses Eternal Lands Map files.

If you find that an application on your PC does try to open the file but it's the wrong application or you'd rather have another installed program open it, see our How to Change the Default Program for a Specific File Extension guide for making that change in Windows.

How to Convert an ELM File

ELM files used by Microsoft products probably can't be converted to any other format and still do what they do. They're used by the appropriate programs automatically, and those only, so conversion to a different format is unnecessary.

If for whatever reason you do want to convert an ELM file to something like HTM, TXT, or another text-based format, you can do so with a text editor. But again, this would produce a file that would no longer function properly with Microsoft products and would only be useful to make it easier for you to read the text contents of the file.

Eternal Lands game is probably the only other software that uses ELM files. Since they're of an entirely different format from Office Theme files, they most likely need to remain in their original format (with the .ELM extension).

You can't usually change a file extension (like .ELM) to one that your computer recognizes (like .JPG) and expect the newly renamed file to be usable. An actual file format conversion using one of the methods described above must take place in most cases.

Still Can't Open It?

It's common for some file formats to appear related because their file extensions are related. But that's not always true.

For example, EMM shares two of the same letters as ELM, but it's reserved for documents created by the MindMaple software. EL is a similar one that's used by the Emacs app as a text file.

If your file doesn't pertain to the formats mentioned above, it's best to restart your research to learn more about the format and its compatible programs.

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