How to Open XLS Files in Mac OS X: A Step-by-Step Guide

Opening XLS files on a Mac OS X is straightforward. You need to either use the native Numbers app or download Microsoft Excel for Mac. After opening the file, you can view, edit and save your XLS document with ease.

Once you successfully open an XLS file, you can manipulate the spreadsheet data as desired. You can input new data, perform calculations, create charts, and save your work for future use or sharing with others.


XLS files, also known as Excel Spreadsheet files, are commonly used for storing, organizing, and managing data. They are especially prevalent in the business world, where they are used for tasks like financial analysis, inventory tracking, and sales reporting. But what do you do when you’re using a Mac OS X and need to open one of these files?

For a long time, the perceived incompatibility between Microsoft and Apple products led many to believe that opening an XLS file on a Mac was a complex process. However, that’s not the case! With the rise of cross-platform applications and the improvement of built-in Mac programs, it is now simpler than ever.

The ability to open XLS files is crucial for Mac users who work in environments where data is shared between different operating systems. Whether you are a student, a business professional, or just someone who needs to access data on the go, knowing how to open an XLS file on your Mac OS X is an essential skill that can save you time and hassle.

How to Open XLS Files in Mac OS X Tutorial

Before we dive into the steps, it’s important to know that opening an XLS file on a Mac will allow you to access and work on your data without needing a Windows machine.

Step 1: Locate the XLS file you want to open

Find the XLS file on your Mac that you want to open.

Locating your XLS file can be done by using the Finder application. Use the search function or navigate through your folders to find the document. Once you’ve found it, you’re ready for the next step.

Step 2: Double-click on the file

Double-click the XLS file to open it.

In most cases, the file will automatically open in Numbers, which is Apple’s equivalent of Microsoft Excel. If Numbers is not already installed on your Mac, you can download it for free from the App Store.

Step 3: Use Numbers or Excel to view and edit the file

View and edit the file as needed in Numbers or Excel.

If you prefer to use Microsoft Excel and it’s installed on your Mac, you can right-click on the XLS file, hover over “Open with,” and choose Excel. Remember that while Numbers can open XLS files, it might not support all Excel-specific features.


Easy AccessOpening XLS files on a Mac OS X is convenient and allows for seamless data management.
Data CompatibilityYou can share XLS files between Mac and Windows users without worrying about data loss or corruption.
Editing CapabilitiesWith Numbers or Excel, you can perform a wide range of data manipulation tasks, from simple calculations to complex data analysis.


Limited Features in NumbersWhile Numbers can open XLS files, it might not support all the features available in Microsoft Excel.
Formatting IssuesSometimes, opening an XLS file in a different program can cause formatting issues, such as lost cell colors or altered fonts.
Potential for Data LossIf you’re not careful, you could lose data when converting an XLS file to a different format or when transferring it between different applications.

Additional Information

When opening XLS files on Mac OS X, it’s crucial to be mindful of the compatibility between the file and the program you’re using. Numbers is a powerful tool with a user-friendly interface, but it lacks certain advanced features found in Microsoft Excel. If you frequently work with complex spreadsheets, it might be worth investing in Microsoft Office for Mac.

Also, consider saving your file in a compatible format if you plan to share it with Windows users. You can export your Numbers spreadsheet as an XLS or XLSX file to ensure it opens correctly on other operating systems.

Remember to regularly save your work, especially when working with large or important spreadsheets. Data loss can occur due to unexpected crashes or errors, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.


  1. Locate the XLS file you wish to open.
  2. Double-click on the file to open it.
  3. Use Numbers or Excel to view and edit the file.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I open XLSX files on Mac OS X as well?

Yes, you can open XLSX files on Mac OS X using the same methods as XLS files.

What if I don’t have Numbers or Excel?

You can download Numbers for free from the App Store, or you can purchase and download Microsoft Excel for Mac.

Can I save a Numbers file as XLS?

Yes, you can export a Numbers file in XLS format for compatibility with Excel users.

Will I lose any data when opening an XLS file on Mac?

Generally, you shouldn’t lose data, but some Excel-specific features may not be supported in Numbers, which could affect the appearance of the spreadsheet.

Is it possible to edit an XLS file on Mac and save it without changing the format?

Yes, both Numbers and Excel for Mac allow you to edit and save XLS files without altering the format.


In conclusion, opening XLS files on a Mac OS X is a painless process that can be accomplished with either Numbers or Microsoft Excel for Mac. While there are some considerations to keep in mind, such as compatibility and feature limitations, these are minor compared to the convenience and ease of use offered by Mac’s native and third-party spreadsheet applications.

Whether you’re a professional needing to access financial data or a student organizing a research project, knowing how to open XLS files on your Mac is a valuable skill that enhances your productivity and streamlines your workflow. So next time you’re faced with an XLS file, don’t panic—your Mac has got you covered.

Join Our Free Newsletter

Featured guides and deals

You may opt out at any time. Read our Privacy Policy

Categories Mac