Opening XLSX files with Excel

File extensions indicate what format the file is in and which programs can be used to open the files. XLSX is the default format used in Microsoft Excel and is a popular spreadsheet program that is part of the Microsoft 365 package.

What is an XLSX file?

The XLSX file has been the default format to save spreadsheets without macros in Microsoft Excel since 2007. It is, thus, the standard spreadsheet format. These types of spreadsheets can be used to perform calculations or create diagrams, for example.

Before Office 2007, Excel used to save spreadsheets as XLS files using the .xls extension. Since the publication of Office 2007, Excel has used the XML-based file format XLSX by default. Unlike XLS, XLSX is a kind of archive. The individual parts of a document are saved separately and bundled together in the file.

How to open an XLSX file

The easiest way to open a file with the XLSX extension is to use a relatively recent version of Microsoft Excel. You will have no trouble opening files in the XLSX format if you use version 2007 or higher.


The latest version of the Excel spreadsheet program is included in Microsoft 365. The Office solution offers you all the advantages of the popular Windows tools Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.

Step 1: Double click on the XLSX file

To open XLSX files in Excel, simply double click on the file. If you have a compatible version of Excel installed on your computer (i.e. 2007 or higher), the file will automatically open.

Step 2: Drag and drop the XLSX file onto an Excel window to open it

If Excel is already open, you can use your mouse to drag the XLSX file onto the open spreadsheet. To do so, click on the XLSX file, keep the mouse button held down, drag the file onto the open Excel spreadsheet and then release the button. This will also open the XLSX file.

Step 3: “Open with” – open the XLSX file in Excel using the right-click menu

If the XLSX file does not automatically open in Excel despite there being a compatible version of Excel installed on your computer, the pop-up menu can help. Use your mouse to right-click on the XLSX file and select the “Open with” option. A window will open recommending programs that could open the file. From there, click on Excel and the software will open the file. If you do not see Excel on the list, you probably have not installed it.

How to open an XLSX file if you have an older version of Excel

For older versions, such as Excel 2003, you used to be able to download a compatibility pack from the Microsoft homepage. However, this download is no longer officially available. The free-to-use Excel Viewer, which was used by many to open the new file format, is also no longer officially provided by the publisher. That means it is no longer possible to open and work with the new format in older versions of Excel.

However, you do not necessarily need to buy a new version of Excel to open XLSX files. There are free-to-use alternatives. Microsoft itself offers a solution through Excel Online which you can use directly in your browser. All you need is a user account. Programs from other publishers can also handle XLSX files. For example, the open source software LibreOffice is compatible with Microsoft’s current file extensions. However, sometimes the content may not match the original exactly, especially in terms of the format.

On the other hand, you can still save a file in the old XLS format in all new versions of Excel. To do so, use the “Save as” option and select the “Excel 97-2003 Workbook (*.xls)” option under “File type”. This will allow all Excel versions published since 1997 to open the file. However, some functions of the XLSX file may not be available in the XLS file, or the formatting may look slightly different. Therefore, this option is only recommended if you know that the recipient of the file does not have any of the newer Excel versions.


There are other ways to convert an XLSX file to XLS so that you can open it in older versions of Excel.

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