by Allen Wyatt
(last updated June 9, 2014)
Mark Warner noticed an odd thing when it comes to creating CSV files with Excel: the files are not always consistent in how they end each row in the output data. When he creates a CSV file that has, perhaps, 70 field (columns) of data and then views the CSV file in a text editor, he noticed that the records all contain carriage returns, but in different places. Some records have a string of commas representing empty fields, then terminate in the 'right' place; others end right after the last populated column; some have a few commas, but not enough for all the empty fields. Mark wondered why this occurs, and how he can get the CSV files to contain a consistent number of output fields.
This is actually a problem that has been known to Microsoft for quite some time. The Microsoft Knowledge Base includes an article on this topic as early as Excel 97:
One relatively easy way around the issue is to include a fully populated "dummy" field in your data, before you save as a CSV. For instance, if your table has 70 columns in it, at cell A71 enter a period. Copy the contents of this cell downward, for as many rows as you have in the table. When you then export the worksheet to CSV, Excel will include the dummy field, but more importantly will include the proper number of field delimiters (commas) before that final field in each record.
If you don't want the dummy field, you can try this:
Figure 1. The Replace tab of the Find and Replace dialog box.
These steps replace all the empty cells with cells that contain a single space. You can then do the export to CSV and the proper number of fields will be exported for every single row.
Finally, if you routinely export large tables to CSV format, you may wish to create a macro that does the file creation for you. The following is just one example of the type of macro you can use:
Sub CreateCSV() Dim wkb As Workbook Dim wks As Worksheet Dim wksOri As Worksheet Dim iCols As Integer Dim lRow As Long Dim iCol As Integer Dim lRows As Long Dim sFilename As String Application.ScreenUpdating = False sFilename = "C:\test.csv" Set wksOri = ActiveSheet iCols = wksOri.Cells. _ SpecialCells(xlCellTypeLastCell).Column lRows = wksOri.Cells. _ SpecialCells(xlCellTypeLastCell).Row Set wkb = Workbooks.Add Set wks = wkb.Worksheets(1) For lRow = 1 To lRows For iCol = 1 To iCols With wks.Cells(lRow, 1) If iCol = 1 Then .Value = wksOri.Cells(lRow, iCol).Text Else .Value = .Value & "," & _ wksOri.Cells(lRow, iCol).Text End If End With Next Next Application.DisplayAlerts = False wkb.SaveAs FileName:=sFilename, _ FileFormat:=xlCSV wkb.Close Application.DisplayAlerts = True wksOri.Parent.Activate Application.ScreenUpdating = True MsgBox sFilename & " saved" Set wks = Nothing Set wkb = Nothing Set wksOri = Nothing End Sub
The macro creates a brand new workbook and then "compiles" into column A of the workbook's first worksheet the information from the original worksheet. This data, which will contain a delimiter for every single field in the original, is then saved as a CSV file. Finally, the temproary workbook is deleted.
The path and filename of the CSV is hard-coded into the code (the sFileName variable), though it could be modified to have the code ask for a filename if desired.
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (3068) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.
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