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Mastering XLS Files: A Comprehensive Guide to Opening and Converting

Excel Spreadsheet Files: An Overview and Guide to Opening and Using XLS FilesExcel is a powerful tool for organizing and analyzing data, and its most common file type is the XLS file. In this article, we will explore what XLS files are, their features and compatibility, and how to open and use them.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced user, this guide will provide you with valuable information to make the most out of XLS files.

1) Overview of XLS Files

1.1 Definition and Format

An XLS file is a worksheet file created using Microsoft Excel. It is commonly referred to as a Microsoft Excel 97-2003 worksheet file.

XLS files store data in a structured manner, making it easy to manipulate and analyze information. They are binary files that contain tables with rows and columns, allowing users to input data and perform calculations.

1.2 Features and Compatibility

XLS files support a wide range of features that make them versatile and user-friendly. You can use formatted text, insert images, create charts, and even include macros for automation purposes.

XLS files can be saved with the XLSM file extension if they contain macros. Compatibility is an important aspect to consider when working with XLS files.

While they can be opened using Microsoft Excel, other spreadsheet programs may not fully support all the features and formatting options. It is essential to ensure compatibility if you plan to share or collaborate on XLS files with others.

2) Opening an XLS File

2.1 Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel is the most common program used to open and work with XLS files. It provides a wide range of features and functions that allow for data manipulation, analysis, and visualization.

Excel allows you to open XLS files directly, print them, and copy data into other documents or applications. If you don’t have Microsoft Excel installed, you can still open XLS files using Excel Viewer, a free program provided by Microsoft.

It allows you to view and print XLS files but does not support editing or saving changes. 2.2 Google Sheets and Other Alternatives

If you prefer online tools or don’t have access to Microsoft Excel, there are alternatives available.

Google Sheets is a popular online spreadsheet tool that supports XLS files. It provides similar functionality to Microsoft Excel, allowing you to view, edit, and collaborate on XLS files in real-time.

Other alternatives include WPS Office, OpenOffice Calc, Gnumeric, Apple Numbers, and DocsPal, each with its own set of features and compatibility.


In conclusion, XLS files are widely used for organizing and analyzing data. They offer a range of features to enhance your data management experience, including tables, rows, columns, formatted text, images, charts, and macros.

When opening an XLS file, you can use Microsoft Excel or explore alternatives such as Google Sheets or other spreadsheet programs. Understanding how to open and use XLS files is crucial for effective data management and analysis.

3) Converting an XLS File

3.1 Using Spreadsheet Programs

Converting an XLS file to a different format can be necessary for various reasons, such as compatibility issues or the need to share data with others. Fortunately, many spreadsheet programs offer built-in conversion options.

Here are some common file formats to convert an XLS file into:

– CSV (Comma-Separated Values): This format is widely used for importing and exporting data between different applications. To convert an XLS file to CSV, you can usually go to the “Save As” option in your spreadsheet program and select CSV as the file format.

– PDF (Portable Document Format): If you want to share your XLS file while preserving its layout and formatting, converting it to PDF is a great option. Most spreadsheet programs offer the ability to save or export an XLS file as a PDF.

– XPS (XML Paper Specification): XPS is another format that allows you to save your XLS file while maintaining its formatting. It is a fixed-layout format developed by Microsoft.

Some spreadsheet programs provide the option to save an XLS file as an XPS file. – XML (eXtensible Markup Language): XML is a widely supported format commonly used for data exchange.

Converting an XLS file to XML can be useful if you need to import the data into another software system or web application. The specific steps for conversion may vary depending on your spreadsheet program, but it typically involves saving the XLS file as an XML file.

– TXT (Plain Text): If you want to strip off any formatting and convert your XLS file to plain text, you can save it as a TXT file. This format only includes the raw data without any formatting or formulas.

– XLSX (Microsoft Excel Open XML Spreadsheet): Converting an XLS file to XLSX is useful if you want to take advantage of the newer features and enhancements offered by the XML-based format. Most spreadsheet programs can directly save an XLS file as an XLSX file.

3.2 Using Document Converters

In addition to the built-in conversion options provided by spreadsheet programs, you can also use document converters to convert XLS files to various formats. One popular online document converter is Zamzar, which supports a wide range of conversion options, including XLS to MDB (Microsoft Access), ODS (OpenDocument Spreadsheet), JPG, PNG, and more.

Zamzar allows you to upload your XLS file to their website and select the desired output format for conversion. Another online document converter is DocsPal, which supports converting XLS files to formats such as CSV, HTML, ODS, PDF, and more.

It offers a simple and user-friendly interface, making it easy to convert your XLS files without the need for any additional software. 3.3 Advanced Conversions

For more advanced conversion needs, there are specialized tools and software available.

Mr. Data Converter is a web-based tool that allows you to convert your XLS file to various formats, including XML and JSON. It offers features to customize the conversion process and optimize the output data structure.

Filestar is another powerful tool that supports offline conversion of XLS files. It provides a wide range of conversion options and supports numerous formats.

With Filestar, you can batch convert multiple XLS files, automate conversions, and even create custom workflows for recurring conversion tasks. When performing advanced conversions or working with specific file formats, it is important to ensure compatibility and understand any limitations or requirements of the desired output format.

4) Troubleshooting XLS Files

4.1 File Extension Confusion

When working with XLS files, it is essential to be aware of the file extensions associated with them. The most common file extension for Excel spreadsheet files is XLS, but there are other similar-sounding extensions that can cause confusion:

– XLR: This file extension is associated with Microsoft Works spreadsheet files, not Excel.

It is important to use the correct application to open and work with XLR files. – XSL: XSL files are Extensible Stylesheet Language files used for transforming XML data.

They are not Excel spreadsheet files and require specialized software or tools to work with. – XLW: XLW files are Excel Workspace files that contain information about multiple workbooks.

They are not individual spreadsheet files but rather work as a container for organizing multiple Excel files. – XSLT: XSLT files are XSL Transformations used to convert XML data into a different structure or format.

They are not Excel files and require specialized software or tools to use. 4.2 Recovering Forgotten XLS Passwords

If you have password-protected an XLS file and have forgotten the password, there are ways to recover it.

Many third-party software tools are available for recovering Excel passwords. One popular tool is the Word and Excel Password Recovery Wizard, which can help you unlock password-protected XLS files.

It uses various methods, such as brute-force attacks or dictionary-based password guessing, to recover the password. Keep in mind that attempting to recover a password-protected Excel file without authorization or ownership rights may be illegal and unethical.

It is important to respect the privacy and security of others’ data.


Converting XLS files to different formats can be essential for compatibility and data sharing purposes. Spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Excel offer built-in conversion options, allowing you to save XLS files as CSV, PDF, XPS, XML, TXT, and XLSX.

Online document converters like Zamzar and DocsPal provide additional conversion capabilities for various formats. For advanced conversions, tools like Mr. Data Converter and Filestar offer specialized features.

When working with XLS files, it is crucial to understand the file extension confusion and be aware of the options available for recovering forgotten passwords. In conclusion, understanding XLS files and their features is crucial for effective data management and analysis.

This article has provided an overview of XLS files, explaining their format, features, and compatibility. It has also discussed how to open and use XLS files using programs like Microsoft Excel and alternatives like Google Sheets.

Additionally, the article covered the options for converting XLS files to different formats using spreadsheet programs, document converters, and advanced conversion tools. Lastly, it addressed issues such as file extension confusion and recovering forgotten passwords.

By gaining knowledge about XLS files, readers can maximize their efficiency in handling data and ensure compatibility with various applications. Remember to choose the appropriate format for sharing or collaborating on XLS files, and be aware of file extension differences.

Overall, having a good understanding of XLS files opens up endless possibilities for data organization, manipulation, and sharing.

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