What Is an XLW File?

This is an old Microsoft Excel format, but modern versions of Excel still support it

What to Know

  • An XLW file is an Excel Workspace file that's used by MS Excel to organize workbooks.
  • Some XLW files are actual workbooks, but only if they were created in Excel v4

This article describes what an XLW file is and how to open or convert one on your computer.

What Is an XLW File?

A file with the XLW file extension is an Excel Workspace file that stores the layout of workbooks. They don't contain actual spreadsheet data like XLSX and XLS files, but instead will restore the physical layout of how those kinds of workbook files were positioned when they were open and when the XLW file was created.

For example, you can open several workbooks on your screen and arrange them however you wish, and then use the View > Save Workspace menu option to create the XLW file. When the XLW file is opened, so long as the workbook files are still available, all of them will open as they were when you made the Excel Workspace file.

Excel Workspace files are only supported in much older versions of MS Excel. Newer editions of the program store several sheets within one workbook, but in older versions of Excel, only one worksheet was used, so there needed to be a way to store a set of workbooks within one space.

Some XLW files are actual Excel Workbook files, but only if they were created in Excel v4. Since this type of XLW file is in a spreadsheet format, there are rows and columns of cells separated into sheets that can hold data and charts.

XLW files in Windows 10

How to Open an XLW File

XLW files, of both types explained above, can be opened with Microsoft Excel. If you're on a Mac, NeoOffice should work.

How to Convert an XLW File

You can't convert an Excel Workspace file to any other format since it just holds the location information for workbooks. There isn't another use for this format apart from Excel and apart from layout information.

However, XLW files used in version 4 of Microsoft Excel should be able to be converted to other spreadsheet formats using Excel itself. Just open the file with Excel and choose a new format from the menu, probably via File > Save As.

Still Can't Open the File?

If your file doesn't open, there's a really good chance that you're misreading the file extension. It might be really similar to XLW, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the file can be used in Excel.

For example, an XWD file shares two of the same file extension letters even though those types of files are images. XWB is similar; files with that suffix could be audio files that have nothing to do with Excel.

If the file you have doesn't actually end in .XLW, do some research on the real file extension to learn more about how it's used and which programs are able to open/convert it.

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