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What is a CSV file and how can you open it?

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  • 3 min read

A file extension is a string of characters which are appended to the original file name. This array of strings is used by the operating system to identify what kind of applications can open the file. There are multitudes of file extensions available today. Due to the increasing number of applications, there has been an exponential increase in the number of file extensions. Because of this reason, it’s hard for an operating system to determine how to open specific files.

A CSV file or (comma separated values) is a file that is generated by most spreadsheets. If you have used Excel, you probably know that the files are stored in a .xls file format. The .xls file is stored in a binary format and consists of all the information about the worksheet. This includes formulas, graphs and data stored in cells.

On the other hand, a CSV file is a plain text file generated by Excel. The elements of a row are separated by commas. The next line gives information about the next row. A CSV file can only be used to store data for a single sheet.  Also, it does not contain any formulas or formatting.

Advantages of a CSV file

The CSV file has one significant advantage over .xls —  smaller in size compared to the .xlsx counterpart. Also, as it is in plaintext, the information can be opened in a text editor.

Sometimes when data is stored in a .xls file, information like credit card details gets messed up due to its auto-formatting feature. This error does not occur in case of a CSV file as it has a clear distinction between numeric values and text.

Due to the reasons mentioned above, CSV files are used by backend developers to store information like addresses and credit card details.

How can you open a CSV file?

Because a CSV file is in plaintext, it can be opened in any word processor like Notepad. It can also be opened with Excel.

To select the platform to open the CSV file right click on the file > Click on Open with from the menu > Select Excel or Notepad.

If you open the file information on a Notepad, it will look something like this.

As you can see from the screenshot above, the categories are divided by comma, and each word represents a cell of the excel sheet where I have made the file.

Also read: What is Error 963 and 4 ways to fix it?

Nischay Khanna

A tech enthusiast, driven by curiosity. A bibliophile who loves to travel. An Engineering graduate who loves to code and write about new technologies. Can't sustain without coffee. You can contact Nischay via email:

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