Opening XLS files Without Shelling Out for MS Office
April 28, 2014 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out why I am having such a dickens of a problem with Excel files. I receive weekly Excel files for a freelance gig. When I was working at a job with access to MS Office, I was able to open everything up. Now that I have left that job, I have had not much luck opening these using free alternatives such as OpenOffice, LibreOffice or MS Excel Viewer. Sometimes they do; most of the time, they don't.

In recent months, I have been opening these files on my iPhone, which works, but is not always satisfactory, from a screen size aspect. (I do not need to work on or edit these files, just read them for a schedule.) Perplexingly enough, even MS Excel Viewer does not open the majority of these files. I just get the pop-up box that it "cannot open files of this type." All files are indicated as MS Excel 97-2003 with the xls extension.

(My dear, very patient BF, who is far more proficient in computer issues, cannot figure out what is going on, either.)

Less than 1-year-old desktop running Windows 8 (not yet upgraded to 8.1).

I would really, really prefer to not spend money on MS Office.

posted by computech_apolloniajames to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Best answer: Have you tried Google Docs?
posted by SoulOnIce at 7:52 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you tried opening them on your iPhone and exporting the file as some other format, like CSV?
posted by deathpanels at 7:59 PM on April 28, 2014

Seems reasonable to ask the author to try saving it as some thing else.

I'm surprised OpenOffice is having trouble. What happens when you try with OpenOffice?
posted by humboldt32 at 8:08 PM on April 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Google Drive/Docs is brilliant for this. Drive's functionality isn't quite as powerful as the real thing, but for viewing (and very basic spreadsheet functions) you should have no problems.
posted by Sara C. at 8:11 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

agree w/humboldt32 - for a freelance gig they should be willing to come halfway and save it as something else (just as easy), or alternatively, loan you an Office license for the duration of the gig.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:12 PM on April 28, 2014

Upload it to your OneDrive; opening it there opens it in Office Online.
posted by sageleaf at 8:22 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Did you/do you go to a college? Many colleges make Microsoft Office Suite free to download as a student service and may even extend that service to alumni.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:08 PM on April 28, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, everybody!

I could have sworn that I had tried Google Docs at some point in the past and that it hadn't worked. It seems to be opening the files now, but I had to give it a couple tries.

OpenOffice and LibreOffice open the files as gobbledygook numbers. (Sometimes those can open them, but the weekly file that I need to access at seems to be the most problematic.)

How would I export a file on the phone to a different format?

Asking the sender to send in a different format is a non-starter. She's rather set in her ways, has a small budget, and nobody else seems to have issues with the files. I work as a coach for a small triathlon team, an ongoing, seasonal gig. (I have offered my help as an assistant, but she doesn't have the money for that, either, at least for this year.)

I haven't used OneDrive before. I'll check that out.

I graduated from college 10 million years ago, and would never have thought to ask them. I'll see if that's available.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:12 AM on April 29, 2014

Do you have an iPad? There's a free iPad version of Excel now. It's read-only unless you pay, but that's OK for you.
posted by w0mbat at 10:07 AM on April 29, 2014

Came here to second OneDrive. The online version of Excel should have no trouble opening these files.
posted by Aleyn at 6:35 PM on April 29, 2014

Response by poster: Second update: I have a first-gen iPad, and can't download the Excel app, as the iOS is prior to 7.0. However, I did download iSpreadsheet, and was able to get the file opened there.

OneDrive is refusing to open the file, saying it's more than 5 mb, so can't be viewed via Excel Online.

Thanks again everybody for the options!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 12:17 PM on April 30, 2014

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