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Comma-Delimited Differences for PC and Mac

Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Comma-Delimited Differences for PC and Mac.

Excel allows you to save worksheet data in a comma-delimited format, so you can use it with other programs. Comma-delimited files are often referred to as CSV (comma-separated value) files, and are often used for exchanging data between programs.

When selecting how to export you data, you need to be sure that you pick the export format that is appropriate for the system on which it will be used. There are actually three CSV formats included with Excel:

  • CSV (Comma delimited) (*.csv)
  • CSV (Macintosh) (*.csv)
  • CSV (MS-DOS) (*.csv)

You can choose any of these CSV options by using the Save As Type drop-down list at the bottom of the Save As dialog box. There are subtle differences between all three formats, but for most people, the first and third formats are essentially the same—they both work on the PC. The second format, for the Macintosh, is worth noting, however.

If your export file is destined for use on a Macintosh, you should choose the second CSV option. This option results in a CSV file where each record (each line in the file) is terminated with a carriage return, as expected by the Mac. In the PC world, lines are terminated with a carriage return/line feed combination, which can mess things up on the Macintosh.

If you are creating the CSV export file on the Mac for later use on the PC, you will want to make sure that you select a CSV format appropriate for the target system. The Mac includes CSV options for both Windows and MS-DOS systems. You should be able to choose either option and have the file work just fine.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2519) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Comma-Delimited Differences for PC and Mac.

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Comments for this tip:

Kim Wallace    27 Jan 2012, 15:59
Thanks much! I was automatically selecting the default CSV format when saving from Mac Excel, and the results were driving me nutty. Appreciate the alert to look for the other formats.

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