xlsx & openoffice

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In an earlier posting, I wrote about a filter to open docx files in open office. Unfortunately, this is half the story in this world of digital, paperless office. What happens in the case of Excel 2007 files?

Now, these files have an extension of xlsx. Note the slight difference from the typical xls extension of previous versions of Excel. This may sound like a small deal, but it is not if you don’t have Office 2007. Mind you, office xp, 2k do not open naturally these files. More, Office 2007 saves files in xlsx (and docx), so easily the mistake can be made and presto, you have a file only you can open and read and share with yourself. Great move for productive minds!

I looked in the usual places for solutions.  There are a few online services, like zamzar and  docx2doc, which will convert your files from and to the new formats (if you want to share your files with someone else).   A  search for some perl scripts and modules gave quite a few answers  NOT for the lighthearted, though.

The method I tried and worked for me was to use the Excel 2003 viewer with the addition of the 2007 FileFormat Converter. Even this method is kludgy. You have to:

  1. install the converter,
  2. double click on the file (cannot open the file directly from within the viewer),
  3. watch it being transformed),
  4. select the sheet (or parts of it),
  5. do the copy-paste trick to the earlier version of Excel or OpenOffice,
  6. Optionally, curse and swear at the madness of Office 2007.

The funny part is that xlsx is supposedly an open format, an xml variation.  So, if you rename the file from filename.xlsx to filename.zip and unzip it, you will get a bunch of files and directories with encodings and content.  Then you can open the xml file that is at the heart of the xlsx spreadsheet and see its content.



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8 thoughts on “xlsx & openoffice

  1. @Svante:
    We aim to please! Of course, when you open the xlsx file in OpenOffice, don’t forget to save it as ods (the OpenOffice extension) or, at least, xls (the “old” Microsoft version) for the unfortunate souls who have not yet switched.


  2. Pingback: microsoft ofice will not support older microsoft office formats « Blah blah blah

  3. What are you supposed to do if you are running on linux?
    zamzar still hasnt sent email with the converted version after some time and
    docx2doc does not support xlsx 😦 clearly online converters are untrusted and unreliable I hope that this does nothing more than alienate micro$osft!

  4. @GX,

    Follow the instructions above and install the Excel viewer under wine or some other virtualization software (I use Sun virtualbox). Open the xlsx file and do the copy-paste trick to openoffice.

    Alternative (and perhaps better) solution: Get version 1.1.7 of odf-converter which will handle xlsx (as well as pptx and docx, of course) files.

    And promise not to swear and curse at the stupidity of folks out there using MS Office 2007.


  5. Everyone needs to be aware that if you have more than 65,535 rows in your xlsx document, you will not be able to access them in anything. You will be able to view them in Excel 2003 viewer, but it will not let you copy and paste any rows after 65,535, no matter what you try.

  6. David,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, the 65k limit is a concern. However, I was wondering whether one could bypass, perhaps, this limitation by entering part of the data into a database and working from there. Just a thought.


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