What Is an XLSM File?

Excel uses XLSM files to store macro-enabled workbooks

What to Know

  • An XLSM file is an Excel macro-enabled workbook file.
  • Open one with Excel or Google Sheets.
  • Convert to XLSX, CSV, PDF, etc. with those same programs.

This article explains what XLSM files are, how to open one on all your devices, and how to convert one to a different file format.

What Is an XLSM File?

A file with the XLSM file extension is an Excel macro-enabled workbook file created in Excel 2007 or newer.

These files are identical to Microsoft Excel Open XML Format Spreadsheet (XLSX) files, with the only difference being that XLSM files will execute embedded macros that are programmed in the Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) language.

Just like with XLSX files, this format uses XML and ZIP to store things like text and formulas into cells that are organized into rows and columns. The data can be cataloged within separate sheets, all stored in a single workbook file.

XLSM files

How to Open an XLSM File

XLSM files have the potential to store and execute destructive, malicious code through macros. Take great care when opening executable file formats like this that you received via email or downloaded from websites you're not familiar with. See our List of Executable File Extensions for a listing of file extensions to avoid and why.

Microsoft Excel (version 2007 and above) is the primary software program used to open and edit XLSM files. They can be used in older versions of Excel, too, but only if you install the free Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack.

You can use XLSM files without Excel with free programs like OpenOffice Calc and WPS Office Spreadsheets. Another example of a free Office alternative that lets you edit and save back to this format is Microsoft Excel Online.

Google Sheets works, too, Details for how to do that are below.

Quattro Pro, a part of WordPerfect Office, supports this format as well, but it's not free. The free OfficeSuite supports the format on computers and phones.

How to Convert an XLSM File

The best way to convert an XLSM file is to open it in one of the editors above, and then save the open file to another format. For example, if the file is opened in Excel, it can be saved to XLSX, XLS, PDF, HTM, CSV, and other similar formats.

Another way to convert one is to use a free document file converter. One example is FileZigZag, which can save the file to many of the same formats supported by Excel, as well as ODS, XLT, TXT, XHTML, and some less common ones like OTS, VOR, STC, and UOS.

If you're not wanting to download a converter and would like to save the file online to access it later, use the Google Sheets online spreadsheet tool. Doing this converts the file into a special format so that you can make changes to it.

Here's how:

  1. Upload it to your Google Drive account through New > File upload. Choose Folder upload instead if you need to upload an entire folder of them.

    Google Drive upload options
  2. Right-click the XLSM file in Google Drive and select Open with > Google Sheets.

    Open XLSM file in Google Sheets
  3. It will automatically convert to a format that lets you read and use the file with Google Sheets. Both the original file and the converted one now exist in your Google Drive account. The one that can be edited in Google Sheets is identified by a green icon with an off-centered white cross.

You can also use Google Sheets to convert the file to a different format. With the file open there, go to File > Download to save it as an XLSX, ODS, PDF, HTML, CSV, or TSV file.

Still Can't Open It?

If you've tried all the programs mentioned above, and none of them will open or convert your file, it's highly unlikely you have an actual spreadsheet document. What's probably happening is that you've mixed up this file extension with another one that looks like it.

XISE is one example where the file extension resembles XLSM. Files with that extension are actually projects used by a program ISE from Xilinx. Using Excel to open that kind of file just won't work.

Another is SLX. The first three letters are the same as XLSM, despite the unrelated format that uses that extension—it's a model created with Simulink from MathWorks.

More Information on XLSM Files

Macros in XLSM files won't run by default because Excel disables them. Microsoft has an explanation on enabling and disabling macros in Office files if you need help.

An Excel file with a similar file extension is the XLSMHTML file, which is similar to XLS files but is an Archived MIME HTML spreadsheet file used with older versions of Excel to show the spreadsheet data in HTML. Newer versions of Excel use MHTML or MHT to publish Excel documents to HTML.

XLSX files can contain macros as well, but Excel won't use them unless the file is in this XLSM format.

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