What Is an ELM File?

This is either a Microsoft theme or a map file used by the Eternal Lands video game

What to Know

  • Some ELM files are themes used by Microsoft Office or Microsoft 365.
  • Others are map files used by the Eternal Lands video game.
  • In either case, these files are not designed to be opened manually.

This article describes two file formats that use the ELM file extension, plus how to open both types.

What Is an ELM File?

A file with the ELM file extension is an Office theme file. These uncompressed settings files used by Microsoft's Office and FrontPage programs 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 map files that end with the .ELM file extension. 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 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 365/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 discontinued Microsoft FrontPage web design program uses ELM files, too.

Since MS Office themes 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. When opened as a text document, the file won't be able to be used like you'd expect, but instead it will just show some detail about the theme in text form.

ELM file opened in notepad as a text document
ELM file opened as a text file.

The free Eternal Lands game uses ELM map files.

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 is probably the only other software that uses ELM files. They most likely need to remain in their original format (with the .ELM extension).

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.

Elm is also the name of a programming language, so 'elm files' used in that context are completely unrelated to either of the file formats discussed above.

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