7 Difference Between XLS And XLSX

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XLSX and XLS files are Microsoft Excel spreadsheets commonly used to store financial data and to create mathematical models. These files store data in worksheets that contain cells arranged as a grid of rows and columns. Excel spreadsheets may also contain charts, mathematical functions and various kinds of cell formatting. Spreadsheets are often used in business contexts to store financial data and to perfom mathematical computations.

In this article, get to understand more details about the XLSX and XLS Microsoft files, their capability, and other related details.

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What Is XLS?

XLS stands for Excel spreadsheet. In other words, 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.

Microsoft Excel files use a proprietary format for storing Microsoft Excel documents. This file format is known as the Binary Interchange File Format (BIFF).

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.

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.

What Is XLSX?

XLSX is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet developed by Microsoft for Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS. It features calculation, graphing tools, pivot tables and a macro programming language known as Visual Basic for Applications.

In Office 2007, Microsoft added the “x” to the end of many of the office file extensions. “doc”, “ppt”, and “xls”, became “docx”, “pptx”, and “xlsx”.

The new file formats contain a folder structure, with small files covering every detail. This folder structure is then compacted in a .zip archive and given a four letter file extension like .xlsx. If you rename the file and change the file extension to .zip, you can reverse the process and see the inner details of the file.

For Excel, there are two major differences:

  1. The “x” version of the file zips the data. So, whenever you open an “xlsx” file, Excel is first unzipping the data, and then opening file.
  2. “xls” was a binary data format, and “xlsx” is an XML data format. To the normal end user, there is really no difference on this point.

XLSX is mainly for Excel operations, much beyond plain data. You have formulas, formats, pivot tables, charts, and VBA code in it. It’s not designed as a common data format for further data manipulation outside of Excel, although other tools can read plain data from it. 

Key Difference

  1. XLSX is the latest version of Microsoft Excel while XLS is the older version of Microsoft Excel.
  2. XLS is the default file format for the 2003 version of Excel and older while XLSX is the file format for versions since 2007.
  3. In both XLSX and XLS information is stored differently. XLS is based on BIFF (Binary Interchange File Format) and as such, information is directly stored to a binary format. On the contrary, XLSX is based on the Office Open XML format, a file format that was derived from XML. The information in an XLSX file is stored in a text file that uses XML to define all its parameters.
  4. XLS version of the file faster than XLSX version especially on files that requires the use of complex formula for a large set of data.
  5. XLS is readable by all Microsoft Excel versions while XLSX is only readable by Microsoft Excel versions 2007 and onwards.
  6. XLS is capable of holding the spreadsheets either containing Macros or not while XLSX is not capable to support Macros.
  7. XLS is a proprietary binary format while XLSX is based on office open XML format.

Also Read: Difference Between Rows And Columns In Excel

Difference Between XLS  And XLSX In Tabular Form

Basis of Comparison XLS XLSX
Version XLS is the older version of Microsoft Excel. XLSX  is the latest version of Microsoft  Excel
Main Difference XLS is the default file format for the 2003 version of Excel XLSX is the file format for versions since 2007.  
Storage of Information XLS is based on BIFF (Binary Interchange File Format) and as such, information is directly stored to a binary format. XLSX is based on the Office Open XML format, a file format that was derived from XML. The information in an XLSX file is stored in a text file that uses XML to define all its parameters.  
Speed performance XLS version of the file is faster especially on files that require the use of complex formula for a large set of data.   XLSX version of the file is slower especially on files that require use of complex formula for a large set of data.
Readability XLS is readable by all Microsoft Excel versions.  XLSX is only readable by Microsoft Excel versions 2007 and onwards.  
Capability XLS is capable of holding the spreadsheets either containing Macros or not. XLSX is not capable to support Macros.  
Based On XLS is a proprietary binary format. XLSX is based on office open XML format.  

Summary

The main difference between XLS and XLSX is that:

  • XLS files use a proprietary binary format whereas, XLSX use a newer file format known as Open XML.
  • XLS is the old file format system of MS excel while XLSX is a latest file format system of MS Excel. xls files can be opened in MS excel 2007, but xlsx files cannot be opened in MS excel 2003 and earlier version due to some compatibility problems.

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