How to Import Data Into Your Excel Spreadsheets the Neat & Easy Way

Dann Albright 24-02-2016

Excel is the king of spreadsheet programs Excel vs. Google Sheets: Which One Is Better for You? Do you really need Excel? Both desktop and online solutions have their advantages. If you have trouble choosing between Excel and Google Sheets for managing your spreadsheets, let us help you decide. Read More , but sometimes you need to open a document that wasn’t formatted specifically for Microsoft programs. And other times, you’ll need to save your document in a different format so that people not using Excel can use it.


Importing and exporting data in Excel seems like a complicated process, but it’s actually pretty easy once you’ve done it a couple times. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Import Data into Excel

No matter what kind of data you’re importing, you’ll start the process in the same way. Hit File > Import to get started. You’ll see this pop-up, letting you choose the format of the original file that you’d like to import:


This dialog gives you the option to import comma-separated value (CSV), FileMaker Pro, HTML, and text files. If you want to import another type of spreadsheet file, your best bet is to export the spreadsheet in a different format from the original program. Most programs shouldn’t have any difficulty exporting to CSV or text. I’ll be using a CSV in this example because it’s a common data format, used for everything from research data to social media contact spreadsheets. How To Back Up Your Facebook Contacts To Any Email Account [Weekly Facebook Tips] Facebook makes many aspects of your life more convenient. It's an easy way to stay in touch, it reminds you of your friends' birthdays, and it can sync your contacts and Facebook events to your... Read More

Launch Text Import Wizard

Click Import, and you’ll see the Text Import Wizard:



Excel’s Text Import Wizard does as much as it can to make this process easy, and for the most part, it works really well. Most of the time, you’ll just hit Next > until the wizard disappears and your data shows up in the spreadsheet. As you can see in the image above, the text wizard determined that this file is delimited—each cell is separated by a comma. Because this is correct, we can just hit Next > to move on with the import (if it’s not, read on for tips on fixed-width importing).

Set Data Delimiters

Step two lets you choose a number of different options related to delimiting that will help you make sure your data gets imported correctly:



First, you can choose your delimiter. The data that I’m importing here uses commas to separate cells, so I’ll leave Comma selected. Tab is also selected, and doesn’t have an adverse effect on this import, so I’ll leave it alone. If your spreadsheet uses spaces or semicolons to differentiate between cells, just select that option. If you want to split up the data on another character, like a slash or a period, you can enter that character in the Other: box.

The Treat consecutive delimiters as one box does exactly what it says; in the case of commas, having two commas in a row would create a single new cell. When the box isn’t checked, which is the default, that would create two new cells.

The Text qualifier box is an important one; when the wizard imports a spreadsheet, it will treat some of the cells as numbers and some as text. The character in this box will tell Excel which cells should be treated as text. Normally, there will be quotes (” “) around text, so this is the default option. The text qualifiers will not be displayed in the final spreadsheet. You can also change it to single quotes (‘ ‘) or none, in which case all of the quotes will remain in place when they’re imported into the final spreadsheet.

Set Data Formats

Once everything looks good, hit Next > to go to the final step, which allows you to set data formats for imported cells:



The default value for the Column data format is General, which converts data automatically to numerical, date, and text formats. For the most part, this will work just fine. If you have specific formatting needs, though, you can select Text or Date:. The date option also lets choose the format that the date is imported in. And if you want to skip specific columns, you can do that too.

Each of these options is applied to a single column, or multiple columns if you shift-click to select more than one. It can take a long time to go through all of the columns this way if you have a giant spreadsheet, but it might save you time in the long run if all of your data is correctly formatted when you first import it.

The last option in this dialog is the Advanced menu, which lets you adjust the settings used for recognizing numerical data. The default uses a period as the decimal separator and a comma as the thousands separator, but you can change this if your data is formatted differently.



After those settings are dialed to your liking, just hit Finish and the import is done.

Use Fixed Width Instead of Delimited

If Excel gets your data delimiting wrong, or you’re importing a text file with no delimiters How to Convert Delimited Text Files to Excel Spreadsheets It's easy to convert a delimited text file to an Excel spreadsheet. Here's how to do it using three different methods. Read More , you can choose Fixed width instead of Delimited in the first step. This allows you to separate your data into columns based on the number of characters in each column.

For example, if you have a spreadsheet full of cells that contain codes with four letters and four numbers, and you’d like to split the letters and numbers between different cells, you can choose Fixed width and set the split after four characters:


To do this, select Fixed width and click Next >. In the following dialog, you can tell Excel where to split the data into different cells by clicking in the displayed data. To move a split, just click and drag the arrow at the top of the line. If you want to delete a split, double-click the line.

After selecting your splits and hitting Next >, you’ll get the same options as you would have in the delimited import; you can select the data format for each column. Then hit Finish and you’ll get your spreadsheet.


In addition to importing non-delimited files, this is a good way to split up text and numbers How to Extract a Number or Text From Excel Need to extract a number from a string or mixed text in Excel? Here's how to convert text and numbers in Microsoft Excel. Read More from files you’re working with. Just save the file as a CSV or text file, import that file, and use this method to split it up however you want.

Importing HTML is the same as importing CSV or text files; select the file, go through the same choices as above, and your HTML document will be transformed into a spreadsheet that you can work with (you might find this useful if you want to download HTML tables from a website, or if web form data is saved in HTML format).

Exporting Data from Excel

Exporting data is much simpler than importing it. When you’re ready to export, hit File > Save As… (or use a handy Excel keyboard shortcut 35 Everyday Microsoft Excel Keyboard Shortcuts for Windows & Mac Keyboard shortcuts can save you a lot of time! Use these Microsoft Excel shortcuts to speed up working with spreadsheets on Windows and Mac. Read More ), and you’ll be presented with a number of options. Just choose the one you need.


Here’s a breakdown of a few of the most common:

  • .xlsx / .xls: standard Excel formats.
  • .xlt: Excel template.
  • .xlsb: an Excel format written in binary instead of XML, which allows for the saving of extremely large spreadsheets faster than standard formats.
  • .csv: comma-separated value (as in the first import example used above; can be read by any spreadsheet program).
  • .txt: a number of slightly different formats that use tabs to separate the cells in your spreadsheet (when in doubt, select Tab Delimited Text instead of another .txt option).

When you select a format and hit Save, you may get a warning that looks like this:


If you’re looking to save your file as something other than .xlsx or .xls, this is likely to happen. Unless there are specific features that you really need in your spreadsheet, just hit Continue and your document will be saved.

One Step Closer to Excel Mastery

For the most part, people just use Excel-formatted spreadsheets, and it’s really easy to open, modify, and save them. But every once in a while you’ll get a different kind of document, like one extracted from the web or generated in a different Office suite Which Office Suite Is Best for You? You'll be pressed to find an occupation that doesn't require word or number processing of some sort. And you may wonder, is Microsoft Office really the best solution? Here are your options. Read More . Knowing how to import and export different formats can make working with these kinds of sheets a lot more convenient.

Do you import or export Excel files on a regular basis? What do you find it useful for? Do you have any tips to share or specific problems that you haven’t found a solution for yet? Share them below!

Related topics: Microsoft Excel, Spreadsheet.

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  1. Jess
    April 19, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    When I click on FILE, IMPORT is not one of the options. I have both Excel 2010 and 2013. What I'm really after is if I can import data into a template. I have a template with a lot of formulas and conditional styling. If I simply copy/paste the data, I lose both the formulas and the conditional styling. I want to import the data form a CSV and not retype it. Is that possible?

    • Dann Albright
      April 22, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      That's a tough one . . . and possibly beyond my expertise. Check out this article and see if it's of any help to you: Also, I'm using Excel 2011, so that might explain why there's no Import option for you. It could be located elsewhere (as it seems to be in the article linked above).

  2. Sandy
    March 3, 2016 at 11:20 am

    I use excel pivot table to organize csv files that are not on my preferred format. Then export or just copy paste to notepad.

    • Dann Albright
      March 11, 2016 at 3:03 am

      Ah, that's an interesting idea; I can see how it could save you time if you have a massive spreadsheet!

  3. Anonymous
    February 25, 2016 at 8:21 am

    The hints are interesting. Importing CVS file extracted from OCR in scanned PDF may give rise to difficulties around "," and "." separators as well as Tab separators.

    • Dann Albright
      February 28, 2016 at 11:41 pm

      Yeah, I can see OCR documents posing a lot of problems for CSV imports. I've never had to do that myself, but I can imagine that it would be troublesome. Is that something you've had to do in the past?