What Is an XLS File?

How to open, edit, and convert XLS files

What to Know

  • An XLS file is a Microsoft Excel 97-2003 Worksheet file.
  • Open one with Excel or Google Sheets.
  • Convert to XLSX, CSV, PDF, and others with those same programs.

This article describes XLS files, including how to open one and how to convert one to a different format, like Excel's newer XLSX format.

What Is an XLS File?

A file with the XLS file extension is a Microsoft Excel 97-2003 Worksheet file. Later versions of Excel save spreadsheets as XLSX files by default.

XLS files store data in tables of rows and columns with support for formatted text, images, charts, and more.

XLS files

Excel files that are macro-enabled use the XLSM file extension.

How to Open an XLS File

XLS files can be opened with any version of Microsoft Excel. If you don't have that program, you can use Microsoft's free Excel Viewer, which supports opening and printing the file as well as copying data out of it.

Your next best option is Google Sheets, Google's online spreadsheet tool that can open, edit, print, and convert XLS files. It will first automatically convert the file to Google's proprietary format, but then it'll function much like it would if it were open in Excel. Learn how to use Google Sheets if this is your first time.

If you don't like online apps, there are several other free Excel alternatives, including WPS Office and OpenOffice Calc.

Gnumeric for Linux, and Apple Numbers on macOS, are also able to open XLS files.

DocsPal is another free online XLS viewer. Since it runs online without needing any installation, it works in all browsers and operating systems. But it is just a viewer, so editing isn't allowed.

How to Convert an XLS File

If you're already using one of the spreadsheet programs we've already mentioned, converting is easiest via opening the file in that program and then saving it to a different format. This is by far the fastest way to save it to CSV, PDF, XPS, XML, TXT, and XLSX.

Google Sheets download format options

If you don't have an XLS editor installed, or don't want to install one, using a free document converter is another option. Zamzar is one example that works online to save the spreadsheet file to MDB, ODS, and others, including image formats like JPG and PNG.

If your file has data that you need in an open, structured format, the Mr. Data Converter online tool is a great option. It converts XLS to XML, JSON, and a number of other similar formats.

Still Can't Open It?

Is your file still unable to open properly using the suggestions from above? Be sure that you're reading the extension correctly and not confusing an XLR, XSL, XLW, or XSLT file with an XLS file.

How to Recover a Forgotten XLS Password

You can easily password protect XLS files using a program like Excel. You can also use the same program to remove the password. However, what do you do if you've forgotten the password to your XLS file?

A free password recovery tool can be used to unlock one that's been protected with a "password to open" password. One free tool you can try that should find the password is Word and Excel password recovery wizard.

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