A CSV (Comma Separated Values) file is a plain text file that contains a list of values separated by commas. The file has a CSV file extension as an identifier. The purpose of the file is to transfer data from one computer application to another, such as from a bank website to a spreadsheet application like Microsoft Excel. After a CSV file is created or downloaded, you can import the text file into Excel or any other application that accepts the file format.
CSV File Creation
CSV files can be created on your computer or smartphone by exporting data from an application. In Office applications such as Excel, the Export command is typically found on the File menu of Office applications. If the CSV format is available for export, it appears in the list of file types. Note that the CSV file type may be referred to as Comma Delimited in some applications. Alternatively, you can use the Save As command in many applications and then select the CSV file type to create a file of this type.
In Microsoft Office, you can change the delimiter used when CSV files are exported and imported. Use the Control Panel to access the Region and Language dialog. In the List Separator menu, type in a character other than a comma and then select the OK button in the dialog. If you decide you want to return to using commas, go back to the dialog and change the delimiter to a comma or use the Reset button in the dialog to revert to the default character.
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CSV File Download
CSV files can also be created from online applications like banking websites. Typically there is a Download command near the list of account transactions. The command provides a variety of file formats for downloading, such as Quicken, QuickBooks and CSV. If Excel is included, but not CSV, chances are good that choosing the Excel format creates a CSV file.
You can export a CSV file in Gmail by going to the Contacts area and selecting the Export command. You can then save your contacts in a Google CSV file. You can also save to an Outlook CSV file, which can be imported into Office Outlook.
Download File Location
With some applications, you specify a folder where a downloaded CSV file is placed on your computer. If there is no option for a file location, you should be able to find it in the system Downloads folder. This is the default location for all files that are downloaded from the internet.
When you download a file using a browser like Chrome or Internet Explorer, you can find the Downloads folder by pressing Ctrl+J on Windows or Command+J on Mac. A window listing recent downloads and their locations is displayed. On Chrome, a Show in Folder link provided with each file listed opens the folder containing the file.
Importing a CSV File
Import a CSV file into Excel and other Office applications by opening it in the application. In Excel, a new workbook is created, and the value between each set of commas in the CSV file is placed in an individual cell in the spreadsheet. If the CSV file was created by exporting from an Excel file, formatting changes such as cell background color are not transferred. The data value of each cell, however, should display correctly.
After you open a CSV file in an application, you can modify it and then use Save As to save it in the application's format. For example, say you export your Outlook contacts to a CSV file and then open the file in Excel. A new Excel workbook is created, and your contacts are displayed in spreadsheet format. You can then make any needed changes to the spreadsheet and save it as an Excel workbook.