How to Convert XLSX to XLS

Will Kaye
Managing Director
30/5/23

Learn how to easily convert XLSX files to XLS format.

In the realm of spreadsheets, the file formats XLSX and XLS are commonly used. These file formats are associated with Microsoft Excel, a powerful tool for data manipulation and analysis. Understanding the difference between XLSX and XLS is crucial, as it can impact the compatibility of your files and the ease with which they can be shared or edited. This article will guide you through the process of converting XLSX to XLS.

Understanding the Difference Between XLSX and XLS

What is XLSX?

XLSX is a file format used by Microsoft Excel for storing spreadsheet data and formulas. It stands for eXtensible Markup Language Spreadsheet. XLSX files are based on the XML format and were introduced in Microsoft Office 2007. They are the default file format for Excel in recent versions.

Excel, the popular spreadsheet software developed by Microsoft, has undergone several file format changes over the years. One of the most significant changes came with the introduction of XLSX files. This new format revolutionized the way data is stored and managed within spreadsheets.

By utilizing the XML format, XLSX files offer a more structured and efficient way of storing data. XML, or eXtensible Markup Language, is a markup language that allows for the definition of custom elements and attributes. This flexibility enables Excel to store not only the data itself but also the formatting, formulas, and other relevant information in a single file.

With the introduction of XLSX, Microsoft aimed to improve the performance and compatibility of Excel spreadsheets. By using XML, the files became more lightweight and easier to process. Additionally, the XML structure allowed for better integration with other software applications and programming languages.

What is XLS?

XLS, on the other hand, is the file format used by earlier versions of Excel, prior to Microsoft Office 2007. It stands for Excel Spreadsheet and is based on a binary file format. XLS files can still be opened and modified in recent versions of Excel, but compatibility issues may arise if you are working with different versions of the software.

Before the advent of XLSX, XLS files were the standard format for Excel spreadsheets. These files were created using a binary file format, which means that the data was stored in a series of ones and zeros. While this format served its purpose for many years, it had its limitations.

One of the main drawbacks of the XLS format was its lack of flexibility. The binary structure made it difficult to extract and manipulate data programmatically. Additionally, XLS files tended to be larger in size compared to their XLSX counterparts, which could lead to slower performance and increased storage requirements.

Despite these limitations, XLS files still remain relevant today. Many organizations and individuals have a vast library of legacy XLS files that contain valuable data. While it is recommended to migrate to the XLSX format for new projects, Excel provides backward compatibility to ensure that older files can still be accessed and modified.

Why might you need to convert XLSX to XLS?

There are several reasons why you might need to convert XLSX files to XLS:

  1. You may be working with an older version of Excel that does not support the XLSX format.
  2. You may need to share your files with colleagues or clients who are using older versions of Excel.
  3. You may have legacy XLS files that need to be updated to the newer XLSX format.

Excel's ability to convert between different file formats provides a solution for those who encounter compatibility issues. By converting an XLSX file to XLS, you ensure that it can be opened and edited in older versions of Excel that do not support the newer format.

For individuals or organizations with a diverse range of Excel users, converting to XLS can be a practical way to ensure seamless collaboration. By sharing files in a format that is compatible with older versions of the software, you eliminate the risk of data loss or formatting discrepancies.

Furthermore, if you have a collection of legacy XLS files that you wish to update to the XLSX format, converting them can be a time-saving process. Rather than manually recreating the spreadsheets, Excel's conversion feature allows you to quickly migrate the data to the newer format.

It's worth noting that while the conversion process is relatively straightforward, it's always recommended to make backup copies of your files before performing any conversions. This precaution ensures that you have a copy of the original file in case any unexpected issues arise during the conversion process.

Preparing for the Conversion Process

When it comes to converting files, it is crucial to take the necessary steps to ensure a smooth and successful process. In this section, we will explore some important considerations before initiating the conversion of your XLSX files to XLS format.

Checking your file compatibility

Before diving into the conversion process, it is essential to verify the compatibility between your source XLSX file and the target Excel version. Different versions of Excel may have varying capabilities and support for different file formats.

To determine if your version of Excel supports opening and saving XLS files, it is recommended to check the system requirements provided by Microsoft. These requirements will outline the supported file formats and any limitations or restrictions that may exist.

If you find that your version of Excel does not support XLS files, there are alternative options available. One such option is to explore online conversion tools that can convert your XLSX files to the desired XLS format. These tools often provide a user-friendly interface and can be accessed conveniently through a web browser.

Another alternative is to consider third-party software specifically designed for file conversion. These software solutions offer advanced features and flexibility, allowing you to convert your XLSX files to XLS format seamlessly.

Backing up your XLSX files

Before embarking on any file conversion process, it is always advisable to create a backup of your original XLSX files. This precautionary measure serves as a safety net, protecting your valuable data from any potential issues or data loss that may occur during the conversion process.

Creating a backup is a simple yet effective step that can save you from the frustration of losing important information. In the event of any unforeseen problems during the conversion, having a backup ensures that you can easily restore your files to their original state.

There are several methods you can use to back up your XLSX files. One common approach is to manually copy and paste the files to an external storage device, such as a USB drive or an external hard drive. This method allows you to have a physical copy of your files that can be easily accessed if needed.

Alternatively, you can leverage cloud storage services to create backups of your XLSX files. Cloud storage platforms offer the advantage of automatic syncing, ensuring that your files are continuously backed up and accessible from any device with an internet connection.

By taking the time to back up your XLSX files before conversion, you can proceed with confidence, knowing that your data is secure and protected. This simple precautionary step can save you from potential headaches and provide peace of mind throughout the conversion process.

Step-by-Step Guide to Converting XLSX to XLS

Using Microsoft Excel for conversion

If your version of Excel supports the XLS file format, you can directly convert XLSX files to XLS within the application itself. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the XLSX file in Excel.
  2. Click on the "File" tab in the Excel toolbar.
  3. Select the "Save As" option.
  4. Choose the Excel 97-2003 Workbook (*.xls) format from the list of available file formats.
  5. Specify the desired location and name for your converted file.
  6. Click "Save."

Converting files with online tools

If you are unable to use the built-in conversion feature in Excel, you can make use of various online tools that offer XLSX to XLS conversion. These tools typically involve uploading your XLSX file to their website and selecting the output format. Be cautious when using online tools and ensure that the website is reputable and trustworthy. Also, be mindful of any privacy and security concerns when uploading your files online.

Utilising third-party software for conversion

If you prefer a more robust and reliable solution, consider using third-party software specifically designed for converting XLSX to XLS. There are numerous options available in the market, each with its own set of features and capabilities. Research and select a software that fits your requirements and offers the necessary file format conversion functionality.

Troubleshooting Common Conversion Issues

Dealing with formatting issues post-conversion

Conversion from XLSX to XLS may sometimes result in formatting discrepancies or loss of certain features. To address these issues, go through the converted file and make any necessary adjustments manually. Pay particular attention to chart formatting, conditional formatting, and custom styles that may require tweaking.

Resolving conversion errors

In some instances, conversion errors may occur due to incompatible data or formulas. To resolve these errors, consider inspecting the file for any anomalies, such as unsupported functions or formulas not recognized by the target Excel version. Make the necessary modifications and ensure the data and formulas are compatible with the desired XLS format.

Maintaining the Integrity of Your Data Post-Conversion

Verifying data accuracy

After the conversion process, it is crucial to verify the accuracy of the data in the converted XLS file. Cross-check the values, formulas, and calculations against the original XLSX file to ensure that all information has been accurately retained. Perform thorough testing and validation to eliminate errors or discrepancies that may have occurred during the conversion.

Ensuring data security during conversion

Data security should never be compromised, especially during the conversion process. Ensure that you are using trusted conversion methods and tools to safeguard the confidentiality and integrity of your data. If required, consult with your organization's IT department to ensure compliance with data protection policies and guidelines.