What Is an ODS File?

An ODS file could be a spreadsheet or a mailbox file. Here's how to know which one you have, plus how to convert or open it

What to Know

  • If your ODS file is an OpenDocument spreadsheet, open it with Calc, Excel, or Google Sheets.
  • Convert one to XLSX, PDF, HTML, or CSV with Zamzar or those same programs.
  • ODS files that are mailbox files are used with Outlook Express.

This article describes the two file formats that use the ODS file extension, and how to open or convert the one you have.

What Is an ODS File?

A file with the .ODS file extension is most likely an OpenDocument spreadsheet that contains typical spreadsheet data, like text, charts, pictures, formulas, and numbers, all placed within the confines of a sheet full of cells.

Outlook Express 5 mailbox files use the ODS file extension, too, but to hold email messages, newsgroups, and other mail settings; they have nothing to do with spreadsheets.

ODS files in Windows 10 that open with MS Excel

ODS also stands for some technology terms that are unrelated to these file formats, like on disk structure, online database service, output delivery system, and operational data store.

How to Open an ODS File

OpenDocument spreadsheet files can be opened with the free Calc program that comes as part of the OpenOffice suite. Included in that suite are some other applications, too, like a word processor and a presentation program.

LibreOffice (the Calc portion) and Calligra are two other suites similar to OpenOffice that can open ODS files as well. Microsoft Excel works, too, but it's not free.

If you're on a Mac, some of those programs above work to open the file, but so does NeoOffice.

Chrome users can install the ODT, ODP, ODS Viewer extension to open online ODS files without having to download them first.

No matter what operating system you use, you can upload the file to Google Sheets to store it online and preview it in your browser, where you can also download it to a new format (see the next section below to learn how that works). Zoho Sheet is another free online ODS viewer.

Even though it isn't super useful, you could also open an OpenDocument spreadsheet with a file unzip utility like 7-Zip. Doing this won't let you view the spreadsheet the same way you can in Calc or Excel, but it does let you extract out any embedded images and see a preview of the sheet.

You need to have Outlook Express installed to open ODS files that are associated with that program. See this Google Groups question on importing an ODS file from a backup if you're in that situation, but you're not sure how to get the messages out of the file.

How to Convert ODS Files

OpenOffice Calc can convert an ODS file to XLS, PDF, CSV, OTS, HTML, XML and a number of other related file formats. The same is true with the other free, downloadable programs from above.

If you need to convert ODS to XLSX or any other file format supported by Excel, just open the file in Excel and then save it as a new file. Another option is to use the free online converter Zamzar.

Google Sheets is another way you can convert the file online. With the document open, go to File > Download to pick from XLSX, PDF, HTML, CSV, and TSV.

Zoho Sheet and Zamzar are two other ways to convert ODS files online. Zamzar is unique in that it can convert the file to DOC for use in Microsoft Word, as well as to MDB and RTF.

Still Can't Open the File?

The first thing you should do if you can't open your file with the programs mentioned above is to double-check the file extension spelling. Some file formats use a file extension that might look like ".ODS" but that doesn't mean that the formats have anything to do with each other or that they can open with the same programs.

One example is ODP files. While they're actually OpenDocument presentation files that do open with an OpenOffice program, they don't open with Calc.

Another is ODM files, which are shortcut files associated with the OverDrive app, but they have nothing to do with spreadsheets or ODS files.

More Information on ODS Files

Files that are in the OpenDocument spreadsheet file format are XML-based, much like the XLSX files used with the MS Excel spreadsheet program. This means all the files are held in the ODS file much like an archive, with folders for things like pictures and thumbnails, and other file types like XMLs and a manifest.rdf file.

Version 5 is the only version of Outlook Express that uses ODS files. Other editions use DBX files for the same purpose. Both files are similar to the PST files used with Microsoft Outlook.

  • What is the character set of an ODS file?

    The character set of an ODS file often depends on the language used. Many programs that open or convert ODS files use the Unicode standard, which is a multilingual format. Programs including OpenOffice and LibreOffice allow you to choose the character set when opening or converting files, which can help if you're dealing with a non-Unicode character set.

  • How do ODS and XLS files differ?

    Some free spreadsheet applications and viewers, such as OpenOffice Calc and LibreOffice Calc, use the ODS file format. While you can open ODS files in Excel, some formatting and graphics details may be lost. For specifics, view the differences between ODS and XLSX files in Microsoft Excel.

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