.XLS File Extension

Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet (Legacy)

Developer Microsoft
3.8  |  768 Votes
Category Spreadsheet Files
Format Binary

What is an XLS file?

An XLS file is a spreadsheet file created by Microsoft Excel or exported by another spreadsheet program, such as OpenOffice Calc or Apple Numbers. It contains one or more worksheets, which store and display data in a table format. XLS files may also store mathematical functions, charts, styles, and formatting.

More Information
Screenshot of a .xls file in Microsoft Excel 365
XLS file open in Microsoft Excel 365

You may encounter XLS files in home, school, and business environments when organizing, analyzing, manipulating, or visualizing data. Each worksheet included within a spreadsheet consists of a table with rows and columns and the cells in a table may contain manually-entered data or the results computed from the data of other cells.

The Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet (XLS) binary format was introduced in 1987 with the release of Excel. XLS files became one of the most common file types for saving spreadsheets until the release of Excel 2007. With this release, Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Excel Open XML Spreadsheet (XLSX) format and replaced XLS files with .XLSX files as the standard file for saving spreadsheets in Excel.

Common XLS Filenames

Workbook1.xls - The default filename Microsoft Excel gives to new spreadsheets prior to Excel 2007, which creates new spreadsheets with the Workbook1.xlsx filename.

How to open an XLS file

You can open XLS files with Microsoft Excel in Windows and macOS. Excel is the best program for opening XLS files because it fully supports the formatting of Excel spreadsheets, which includes data fields and graphs. Excel is also available for Android and iOS devices.

Many other spreadsheet programs can open and edit XLS files, but they may not fully support the formatting of XLS spreadsheets. Alternative programs include Corel Quattro Pro (Windows), Apple Numbers (Mac), and OpenOffice Calc (cross-platform).

You can also open XLS files with various web programs. Google Sheets is a great free option that allows you to upload an XLS file and view, edit, save, and convert the spreadsheet.

How to convert an XLS file

Various spreadsheet applications, including Microsoft Excel, Corel Quattro Pro, and OpenOffice Calc, can convert XLS files to other formats.

For example, in the Windows and Mac versions of Microsoft Excel, select File → Save As to convert XLS files to one of the following formats:

  • .XLSX - Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet
  • .XLSB - Microsoft Excel Binary Spreadsheet
  • .ODS - OpenDocument Spreadsheet
  • .PDF - Portable Document Format
  • .XPS - XML Paper Specification (Windows only)
  • .CSV - Comma-Separated Values
  • .DIF - Data Interchange Format
  • .RTF - Rich Text Format
  • .TXT - Plain Text
  • .HTM, .HTML - HTML Webpage
  • .XML - Extensible Markup Language
  • .MHT, .MHTML - MIME HTML Archive
Open and view .XLS files with File Viewer Plus.Free Download

Programs that open or reference XLS files

Updated March 3, 2022

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