CSV - Comma Separated Values File

What is a CSV file

CSV (Comma-separated values or character-separated values) files are flat files which store tabular data through numbers and text in a plain-text form. It is used to collect data from tables to be transported as input to other table-oriented applications. Microsoft Excel, for example, can read these files. CSV files are used by various spreadsheet programs though. Its simplicity and high support levels allow consumers, businesses, and scientific applications to utilize this file extension. This style of data entry predates PC’s by over 10 years and is capable of increased correctness of data, especially when used alongside the punched cards systems of data entry.

Different values are separated in tables through a series of ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) text lines. From there, they can be organized to where each column value is separated from other columns by a comma (or other separator character). New rows are created by starting a new line. CSV represents one style of delimited text files, meaning they use commas (or other defined character) to separate values. Some such separators include commas, back slash, or forward slash. It does, however, differ from other related programs in which it used a double quote character surrounding fields which contain reserved characters. This allows data to be transferred between applications easily.

Here's a small, but not exhaustive list of programs that can open CSV documents:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Works
  • Corel Quattro Pro
  • Apache OpenOffice
  • LibreOffice
  • Microsoft Notepad
  • Libre Office
  • MobiSystems OfficeSuite Pro 7
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