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Excel AppNote: Opening and Saving Text Files (ME0802)


The information in this article applies to:

  • Microsoft Excel for the Macintosh, version 4.0


The Application Note "Opening and Saving Text Files" (ME0802) discusses how Microsoft Excel for the Macintosh parses text and formats numbers and alphanumeric characters in text files. The disk included with this Application Note includes the text reader add-in macro, which you can use to import text files.


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The Text of Me0802

   Microsoft(R) Product Support Services Application Note (Text File)
                  ME0802: OPENING AND SAVING TEXT FILES
                                                    Revision Date: 7/93
                                                        1 disk included

 The following information applies to Microsoft Excel, version 4.0.

 | Information provided in this document and any software that may    |
 | accompany this document (collectively referred to as an Application|
 | Note) is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either     |
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 | purpose.  The user assumes the entire risk as to the accuracy and  |
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 | text must be copied without modification and all pages must be     |
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 | Application Note must be distributed together; and 4) This         |
 | Application Note may not be distributed for profit.                |
 |                                                                    |
 | Copyright (C) 1993  Microsoft Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.   |
 | Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation.      |
 |Macintosh is a registered trademark of Apple Computer, Incorporated.|


 This Application Note discusses how Microsoft Excel parses text and
 formats numbers and alphanumeric characters in text files. The ME0802
 disk included with this Application Note contains the Text Reader add-
 in macro, which you can use to import text files. This macro parses
 your text according to a delimiter you select and prevents Microsoft
 Excel from applying automatic number formatting to the entries in your


 In Microsoft Excel version 4.0, you can open and save files in text
 file format. Your text file can consist of rows of text in a single
 column or rows and columns of text. When you open a text file in Micro
 soft Excel, the way the text is broken into columns depends on the
 character you choose to delimit your fields or columns of text. You
 can also choose no delimiter and parse your text after the file is
 opened. The most common column delimiters are commas, tabs, and

 When you open or save text files in Microsoft Excel, you may find that
 some of the text entries in your file do not appear as expected. These
 unexpected results occur due to the way Microsoft Excel parses text
 and applies formatting to numbers and alphanumeric characters.



 When you open a text file, Microsoft Excel checks the file for the
 column delimiter you selected in the Text File Options dialog box
 (from the File menu, choose Open and then choose the Text button). In
 this dialog box, the default Column Delimiter option is Tab; you can
 also select the Comma, Space, Semicolon, None, or Custom option. (When
 you select Custom, you can specify a custom delimiter.) Once you
 choose a column delimiter, Microsoft Excel places the text following
 each instance of the specified delimiter in a separate cell. For
 example, if your text is delimited by spaces and if you select the
 Space delimiter, Microsoft Excel places the text following each space
 in a separate cell. This process is called parsing and occurs
 automatically when you specify a delimiter for your text file.

 If you do not select the Space delimiter before you open this space-
 delimited file, or if you select the None (no delimiter) option, the
 text in your file will not be parsed; that is, each line of text will
 appear in a separate row in column A only. In this case, after you
 open the file in Microsoft Excel, you can break the text into separate
 columns using one of the parsing commands.

 The parsing commands, located on the Data menu, are:

  - Parse - This command parses text based on a fixed length or the
    number of characters per column, rather than parsing your text
   based on a specified character.

  - Smart Parse - This command is added to the Data menu when you load
    the Flat File add-in macro. Smart Parse gives you the option of
    parsing your data based on a specified delimiter: This is similar
    to specifying a delimiter in the Text File Options dialog box, with
    the exception that the parsing is done after you've opened the text
    file and there is not an option to parse based on a tab delimiter.


 The following example illustrates how Microsoft Excel treats different
 types of entries when you open a text file with a specified delimiter
 or when you parse a text file after it's been opened. If you have a
 text file containing the following data, where each entry is separated
 by a tab

    09876     00000001  1/93 12-31-92  2E9
    12345     67-890    01234-5678     alpha     text string

 and you select the Tab delimiter in the Text File Options dialog box,
 the entry following each tab is placed in a separate column and each
 line is placed on a separate row. Each text string is evaluated when
 it is placed in its respective cell. If the contents can be
 interpreted as a value, Microsoft Excel attempts to apply a built-in
 number format to that value. If there is no corresponding number
 format, the contents are interpreted as text and placed in the cell as

 When you open this file in Microsoft Excel, it resembles the following

     |    A    |     B   |      C     |      D     |     E
   1 |    9876 |       1 |     Jan-93 |   12/31/92 |   2.00E+09
   2 |   12345 |  67-890 | 01234-5678 |alpha       |text string

 Note that the appearance of some text entries changes. Entries that
 are interpreted as values are right-aligned and those that are
 interpreted as text are left-aligned--these are the alignment defaults
 for Microsoft Excel.

 The following table explains how each entry from the sample data is
 formatted in Microsoft Excel.

                                     How entry is formatted
 Original entry In Microsoft Excel   in Microsoft Excel

 09876 and
 00000001       9876 and 1          These entries are interpreted as
                                    values in the General number
                                    format. Because leading zeros in a
                                    number are insignificant,
                                    Microsoft Excel drops the zeros.

 1/93           Jan-93              If there are any hyphens or slash
                                    marks separating values, Microsoft
                                    Excel examines the individual
                                    values to see if they can be
                                    construed as a day and/or a month
                                    and/or a year. If so, a date
                                    format is applied. Because the 1
                                    can be interpreted as a month
                                    value and 93 is a valid year, this
                                    entry matches the mmm-yy built-in
                                    number format.

 12-31-92       12/31/92            Because the individual values
                                    separated by the hyphens can be
                                    interpreted as a valid month, day,
                                    and year, Microsoft Excel applies
                                    the closest matching date format,
                                    m/d/yy. Note that when the format
                                    is applied, the hyphens are
                                    replaced with slash marks.

 2E9            2.00E+09            This entry is interpreted to match
                                    the 0.00E+00 built-in number

                                      NOTE: If the item had been 2x9,
                                      where x is any letter other than
                                      e or E, the item would have
                                      remained a text string and would
                                      not have changed.

 12345          12345               This entry matches the General
                                    built-in number format. The
                                    application of this format does
                                    not alter the value's appearance
                                    because there are no leading

 67-890 and     67-890 and          These entries are interpreted as
 01234-5678     01234-5678          text because hyphens separate the
                                    numbers and because the numbers on
                                    either side of the hyphens cannot
                                    be interpreted as a month, day, or

 alpha and      alpha and           These entries are not changed
 text string    text string         because they are text.


 You can use custom number formats to return entries to their original
 appearance (that is, the way they looked before you opened the text
 file in Microsoft Excel). For example, to change 9876 to 09876, do the

 1. Select cell A1 (the cell where the value is located).

 2. From the Format menu, choose Number.

 3. In the Code box, type 00000. This formats the number to always have
    5 digits, displaying leading zeros even when you've entered a
    single-digit value. For example, with this number format applied, 1
    will be displayed as 00001, and 25 will be displayed as 00025.

 4. Choose OK to accept the number format. 9876 is now displayed as

 In date formats in Microsoft Excel, hyphens and slash marks are
 interchangeable. If you would rather use hyphens than slash marks (or
 vice versa), apply a custom number format that uses the desired
 character. For example, to change the value 12/31/92 to 12-31-92,
 apply a m-d-yy custom number format.

   IMPORTANT: If you apply custom number formats or make other
   formatting changes to font size, borders, shading, row height, or
   column width, you must save the file in the Normal file format to
   retain the formatting. (From the File menu, choose Save As and
   choose the Options button. Under File Format, select the  Normal
   format and choose OK.)

 Some entries cannot be returned to their original appearance with a
 custom number format. For example, there is no custom number format
 that will restore 2.00E+09 to 2E9. To retain the format 2E9, you can
 either add a text character to the string using a word processor or
 other text editor, or you can use the Text Reader add-in macro to
 import the file. For information on how to use the Text Reader add-in
 macro, see "Importing Text Files with the Text Reader Add-in Macro" on
 page 5 of this Application Note.

 For more information about custom number formats, see pages 221-227 of
 "User's Guide 1" or see the "Creating or Deleting Custom Number
 Formats" topic under "Number Formats" in Microsoft Excel Help.


 In Microsoft Excel, you can save worksheets as text files in a comma-
 delimited (CSV) or tab-delimited (Text) text format. You can select
 either one of these options by choosing Save As from the File menu,
 choosing the Options button, and selecting the desired format from the
 File Format list. You can also export data from your worksheet to a
 text file that is space delimited using the Flat File add-in macro
 discussed on page 4 of this Application Note. After you load this add-
 in macro, the Export command will be available on the Data menu. For
 additional information on using the Flat File add-in macro, see pages
 151-152 of "User's Guide 2".


 In Microsoft Excel, when you save a file in CSV or Text file format,
 each entry in the file retains its number format.

   Note: In the following example, the value 2E9 in cell E1 must be
   entered as a text value (by preceding the entry with an apostrophe)
   to prevent it from being converted to the scientific notation

 For example, if you have a worksheet that resembles the following

   |    A    |     B       |      C       |        D     |     E
 1 |   09876 |    00000001 |         1/93 |     12-31-92 | 2E9
 --|---------|-------------|---------  ---|--------------|------------
 2 |   12345 | 67-890      | 01234-5678   | alpha        | text string

 when you open the file in a text editor, the table will resemble one
 of the following examples, depending on how you saved the file in
 Microsoft Excel:

  - If you saved the file in the CSV file format, the file resembles
    the following:

       12345,67-890,01234-5678,alpha,text string

  - If you saved the file in the Text file format, the file resembles
    the following:

      09876     00000001  1/93 12-31-92  2E9
      12345     67-890    01234-5678     alpha     text string


 When you export a text file, you can use the export feature of the
 Flat File add-in macro to retain not only the built-in and custom
 number formats of your selection, but the alignment of the cell
 contents as well. The resulting text file will contain evenly aligned

 When you load the Flat File add-in macro (located in the Macro Library
 folder in the folder in which you installed Microsoft Excel), two
 commands are added to the Data menu:

  - Smart Parse - Use this command to parse a text file after it is

  - Export - Use this command to export selected data to a space-
    delimited text file.

 To retain custom number formats and the alignment of the cell
 contents, choose Export from the Data menu and select the Retain Cell
 Formats option in the Export dialog box. The Retain Cell Formats
 option allows you to retain number formats and alignments in the cell

 If you export the sample data with the Retain Cell Formats option
 enabled, the result will be:

    09876  00000001        1/93  12-31-92  2E9
    12345  67-890    01234-5678  alpha     text string

 If you want evenly aligned output, where number formats are retained
 and alignments are the same, do the following before you export your

 1. Select the cells you want to export.

 2. From the Format menu, choose Alignment.

 3. Under Horizontal, select the Left or Right option (instead of the
   General option).

 If you then export this sample data with the Retain Cell Formats
 option enabled, your data will resemble the following (assuming that
 you choose the Left option in the previous procedure):

    09876  00000001  1/93        12-31-92  2E9
    12345  67-890    01234-5678  alpha     text string

 If you do not retain cell formats, the numbers will revert to the
 General number format. For example, dates will be converted to their
 appropriate serial numbers and all entries will be left-
 aligned-regardless of whether a cell contains text or numbers. For
 example, if you export this sample data when the Retain Formats option
 is not enabled, your data will resemble the following:

    9876   1     33970        33969     2E9
    12345  67-890  01234-5678   alpha     text string

   Note: When cells are formatted using the Justify, Fill, or Center
   Across Selection alignment options, choosing the Export command will
   result in the error message ''Error writing to disk.''

 For more information about the Flat File add-in macro, see pages 151-
 152 of "User's Guide 2".


 You can use the Text Reader add-in macro provided with this
 Application Note to import a delimited text file into Microsoft Excel
 version 4.0 without changing the format or appearance of any entries
 in the file. For example, 09876 will still appear as 09876, 12-31-92
 will still appear as 12-31-92, and so on.

 When you import a file using the Text Reader add-in macro, the file
 itself is not opened. Instead, the data is imported and each entry is
 read from the source file and placed in a new worksheet. The Text
 Reader add-in macro reads in each text entry individually and adds an
 apostrophe to the beginning of the entry. For example, the Text Reader
 add-in macro turns 09876 into '09876. Microsoft Excel interprets any
 value that is preceded by an apostrophe as a text value. As a result,
 when the entry is placed in a cell, it is displayed as it appeared in
 the original text file. Once the data has been imported, you can save
 the new worksheet in any available file format.

   Note: This method of importing a text file may take longer than
  opening the file by choosing the Open command from the File menu.

 To Use the Text Reader Add-in Macro with Microsoft Excel

 1. In the Finder, copy the Text Reader file from the enclosed ME0802
    disk to the Macro Library folder on your hard disk (this folder
    should be located in the same folder where Microsoft Excel is

 2. Start Microsoft Excel.

 3. From the File menu, choose Open. Open the Macro Library folder,
    select Text Reader from the list of files, and choose Open.

 To Import Your Text File

 1. From the File menu, choose Open Text (this command is added to the
    File menu by the Text Reader add-in macro).

 2. Select the text file you want to import and choose Open.

 3. Specify the appropriate column delimiter. The default delimiter is
    Tab; however, you also have the option to select Comma, Space, or
    Other (if you select Other, you can specify any keyboard character
    to be the delimiter).

 4. Choose OK to import the file.


 When you use the Text Reader add-in macro, each imported entry is
 formatted in text format and placed in a cell. If some of the columns
 contain entries that you want to use in calculations, you must convert
 these text entries to values. If you attempt to perform calculations
 on these cells without first converting them to values, you will
 receive a 0 (zero) or a #VALUE! error value.

 For example, if you import the following text

      |    A       |   B       |     C       |    D
    1 | Product No.| Month-Year| Units Sold  | Revenue
    2 | 2e190      | 1-93      | 1000        | 5000
    3 | 2e190      | 2-93      | 2000        | 10000
    4 | 2e190      | 3-93      | 3000        | 15000

 and want to calculate totals for the entries in the Units Sold and
 Revenue columns, do the following to convert these entries to values:

 1. In cell E1 (or any blank cell), type "1" (without the quotation

 2. With cell E1 selected, choose Copy from the Edit menu.

 3. Select cells C2:D4 (the range of cells you want  to convert).

 4. From the Edit menu, choose Paste Special. Under Operation, select
    the Multiply option and choose OK.

 Multiplying each text entry by the number 1 will convert it to a
 value. You can then apply number formats and perform calculations.


 The exception to using the method described in the previous section is
 when you have fractions that could be interpreted as dates. For
 example, if you import the following fractions

       | A
    1  | 1/4
    2  | 1/3
    3  | 1/2
    4  | 3/4

 you need to format a blank range of cells with a Fraction number
 format and then use a formula to correctly convert them. If you use
 the procedure outlined in the previous section (choosing the Paste
 Special command and selecting the Multiply option), these fractions
 would be converted to dates.

 To convert these text-formatted fractions to values:

 1. Select cells B1:B4 (or a range of blank cells equal in size to the
    range you want to convert to values). This range should remain
    selected through step 7.

 2. From the Format menu, choose Number. Under Value Type, select
    Fraction. Under Format Codes, select  # ?/?. Choose OK.

 3. Type the following formula

       =VALUE(0&" "&A1)

    where A1 is the first cell in the range you want to convert.

 4. Hold down the command key and press return. This will automatically
    copy the formula to all cells in the selected range, B1:B4.

 5. From the Edit menu, choose Copy.

 6. From the Edit menu, choose Paste Special. In the Paste box, select
    the Values option and choose OK. This converts each of the VALUE()
    formulas to their underlying values.

 7. From the Edit menu, choose Cut.

 8. Select cells A1:A4. From the Edit menu, choose Paste. This replaces
   the text fractions with values.

 You can now perform calculations using the fractional values.


Additional query words: 4.00 me0802 exe

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Issue type :
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Last Reviewed: October 20, 2000
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