[X-Newbies] Re: RE:.xls

Rob Griffiths robg at macosxhints.com
Thu Dec 15 05:19:58 PST 2005

On Dec 14, 2005, at 11:30 PM, Charles Martin wrote:

>> .xls is an Excel file. Excel will open them, but not much else.
> Except for Mariner Calc, AppleWorks, ThinkFree Office, NeoOffice/J,  
> icExcel and about half a dozen other programs or office suites,  
> that is.

Sorry to come off as an Excel-only fanatic; that wasn't the intent.  
But based on my experience, I don't feel the third party apps are yet  
in a usable form for converting Excel files. Hence I tend to not  
mention them when someone says they have an Excel sheet they need to  
open. Although much of the time those other apps will open your  
worksheets in a usable (though probably not identical) form, there  
are issues with all of them...

Each alternative has differing levels of compatibility, but here's a  
general list of things to be aware of if you're trying to open an  
Excel-created spreadsheet in another 'compatible' application:

  * Size of worksheet: I have a 244KB worksheet file (not big at  
all), but it refuses to open in Mariner Calc.
  * Use of tabs: AppleWorks doesn't seem to support tabbed workbooks  
(where you have a number of worksheets in one file), and converts  
them all into one monster worksheet at time of import. At least,  
that's what mine (version 6.2.9) does.
  * Graphs: If you use some of the more advanced Excel chart  
features, you may find your graphs don't import properly.
  * Font/layout: Even if the document opens properly, fonts and page  
layout may be modified.
  * Macros: Be very cautious if you use macros; each of the clones  
has differing (from "none" to "quite good") levels of support for  
  * Certain Formulas: Not every clone supports every Excel function.  
For instance, neither NeoOffice/J nor Mariner Calc support hyperlink 
(), but AppleWorks does. Other advanced formulas, such as those  
involving database functions, statistical functions, and engineering,  
may also not work in the clones.
  * Conditional Formatting: Again, this works in some (NeoOffice/J),  
but not others (AppleWorks, Mariner Calc).
  * Array Formulas: This is an advanced Excel feature (array formulas  
let you do calculations on ranges of data, instead of single cells),  
but it's very powerful and very useful in many contexts. I haven't  
yet found a clone that supports them -- if you know of one, please  
let me know.

Sorry to go off on a mild tangent, but if we're going to talk about  
Excel alternatives, I think it's only fair to talk about their  
limitations as well. Sure, some of the features above will only be  
used by more complex worksheets. But things like tabbed worksheets,  
graphs, and support for all Excel functions might be assumed by  
anyone using one of these clones. I just thought I'd point out that's  
not the case.

I would love to find a replacement for Excel ... but I've yet to find  
something that will handle the worksheets I use on a daily basis.


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