Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. If you are using an earlier version (Excel 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Excel, click here: Comma-Delimited Differences for PC and Mac.

Comma-Delimited Differences for PC and Mac

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 25, 2018)

5

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 (10280) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Excel here: Comma-Delimited Differences for PC and Mac.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is 8 + 1?

2020-05-21 05:01:49

Alan Elston

Thanks Mike B, and thanks Allen Wyatt for this tip. Just recently I have been tearing my head out trying to help someone on a forum who randomly is supplying some of his test data in “.csv files” with different formats, although at first glance they look the same.
I think one of the safest things to do is to open a “.csv file” using VBA as an entire long string of the file , than doing some intelligent analysis of it , before putting the values into a worksheet.
Just opening it simply with Excel is likely to catch you out sometimes due to the different formats that might be used

About the right format for a PC…. Allen Wyatt is suggesting, I think, that it is one that has a CarriageReturn and LineFeed pair as the thing which separates the lines in the entire long string of the file. …. In VBA that is like vbCr & vbLf
That makes sense to me. That seems to be the most commonly used convention. I don’t know why a Macintosh decide to make it different. Possibly just for that reason: to be different.

Different conventions in a text string for the line separator seem to often chuck a spanner in the works

Alan Elston

( P.S I also hate the other captcha stuff, I sometimes need a few attempts to get it right. But I guess the problem is , if we find something easy, then a bot could probably find a way to do it. I am sure a few lines of coding could be written to read and work out Allen’s Captcha. )


2020-05-20 12:52:58

Mike B

This article is either incomplete or no longer up to date
It says "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.!"
However, on the Mac, when one is in Numbers, there are dozens of different formats one can chose, but not the two listed above.
The default is "Unicode-UTF8", which causes problems when it is opened in Excel on a PC.
I'm not sure which is the right format for a PC.

Otherwise thanks for this website. It is wonderful and I am often directed here by Google.!
I also like your CAPTCHA!. Better than these silly letters one cannot read!


2019-07-08 13:12:06

Bruce Krymow

On a PC using Excel 2016, what is the difference between "CSV UTF-8" (5th save as type option) vs "CSV" (16th save as type option) comma delimited .csv options?


2019-01-04 09:47:36

Carrie French

This was very helpful! Now I know how to get my Mac to treat .CSV files to display the data correctly.


2018-05-25 13:15:16

Yvan Loranger

In Linux [Unix] lines are terminated by LineFeed.
I have never had a problem using the CarriageReturn-LineFeed combo.


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