How to Read an XLS File Without Excel: Tips and Tricks

Need to open an XLS file but don’t have Excel? No worries! You can still view, edit, and even convert your files without the Microsoft software. Let’s dive into the alternative ways you can access your data.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Read an XLS File Without Excel

Before we get into the steps, it’s important to note that by following this guide, you’ll be able to open and interact with XLS files using different programs or online services. This can be particularly useful if you’re on a device that doesn’t have Excel installed, or if you’re looking to save some cash on Microsoft Office subscriptions.

Step 1: Choose an alternative program or service

Look for alternative programs like Google Sheets, OpenOffice Calc, or Microsoft Office Online.

Choosing the right alternative is crucial. Google Sheets is a great option for those who prefer cloud-based applications. It’s free and all you need is a Google account. OpenOffice Calc is another free tool that’s part of the Apache OpenOffice suite. It’s a desktop application, so you’ll have to download and install it. Microsoft Office Online is also free and operates in your browser, but you’ll need a Microsoft account to use it.

Step 2: Upload or open the XLS file

Upload the file to a cloud-based service or open it directly in the alternative program.

If you’re using Google Sheets or Microsoft Office Online, you’ll need to upload your XLS file to the respective cloud storage (Google Drive or OneDrive). With OpenOffice Calc, you simply open the file from your computer as you would in Excel.

Step 3: View and edit the file as needed

Browse through the data, make edits, or analyze your information.

Once the file is open in your chosen program, you can view your data, edit as necessary, and even create charts or graphs. These programs offer a lot of the same functionalities as Excel, so you shouldn’t feel too out of your depth.

Step 4: Save or convert the file

Save your changes or convert the file to a different format if necessary.

After editing, you can save your file directly on the cloud if you’re using a cloud-based service, or on your computer if you’ve chosen OpenOffice Calc. Some of these programs also allow you to convert the XLS file to formats like CSV or PDF.

After completing these steps, your XLS file will be accessible and ready for use, just as if you had opened it in Excel.

Tips: How to Read an XLS File Without Excel

  • Always check the compatibility of the alternative program with the specific XLS features you need.
  • If you are concerned about privacy, consider desktop applications like OpenOffice Calc that do not require uploading files to the cloud.
  • Keep in mind that while many alternatives are free, they may show ads or have premium features that require payment.
  • If you plan on sharing your edited file with others, ensure that the formatting remains consistent across different programs.
  • Some complex Excel functions may not work perfectly in alternative programs, so it’s good to test important features first.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I edit an XLS file using these alternatives?

Yes, you can edit an XLS file in most alternative programs, although some advanced Excel features may not be supported.

Do I need an internet connection to use these alternatives?

For cloud-based alternatives like Google Sheets and Microsoft Office Online, an internet connection is necessary. However, desktop applications like OpenOffice Calc can be used offline.

Are these alternative programs safe to use?

Most established alternative programs are safe, but always download desktop applications from the official website to avoid potential security risks.

Can I convert an XLS file to Excel format using these alternatives?

Yes, these programs typically allow you to save or export your file in the original Excel format (.xlsx or .xls).

Will the formatting change if I open an XLS file in an alternative program?

Some formatting discrepancies may occur, especially with more complex Excel files, so it’s best to check the file after opening it in an alternative program.


  1. Choose an alternative program or service.
  2. Upload or open the XLS file.
  3. View and edit the file as needed.
  4. Save or convert the file.


Reading an XLS file without Excel is definitely possible and can be quite straightforward. With a variety of alternative programs and online services at your disposal, you’re no longer tethered to Microsoft Office to access your data. Whether you’re a spreadsheet whiz or just looking to view some numbers, these tools can help you get the job done. Remember, while alternative options may not offer every single Excel feature, they cover the majority of functionalities that the average user needs. So next time you find yourself without Excel, don’t panic—embrace the opportunity to explore and master new tools. Happy spreadsheeting!

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