A CSV is a comma separated values file, which allows data to be saved in a table structured format. CSVs look like a garden-variety spreadsheet but with a .csv extension (Traditionally they take the form of a text file containing information separated by commas, hence the name).
CSV files can be used with any spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel, Open Office Calc, Libre Office or Google Spreadsheets. They differ from other spreadsheet file types in that you can only have a single sheet in a file, they can not save cell, column, or row styling, and can not save formulas.
Saving a spreadsheet as a CSV file
Note: These instructions are for Excel 2010 but any spreadsheet software will follow a similar process.
- Open your file in a spreadsheet programme
- Click on SAVE AS and select CSV
- Click SAVE
You may see a message that your file “may contain features that are not compatible with CSV”. Click Yes to continue. This message is to inform you that any formatting you may have (such as colors or bold text) and any formulas will not be preserved in the CSV formatted file.
So what do I use CSV’s for?
CSVs are used primarily for importing and exporting product, customer, and order information. For instance you would use a CSV file to back up and store your email contacts.
Your CSV file should be formatted as a table and must include a header, or first line, that defines the fields in your table. If you’re updating an existing file, you probably won’t need to change your header field names; if you’re creating a new file an lay your form out as I have here.