Google Sheets is a web-based app, so an Excel file has to be located inside Google Drive. If you don’t have your account, you can create it here.
Open Google Drive and drop the file there. It’s a good idea to create a folder first. To do it, right-click and choose New folder. I called mine My Files. Open this folder and drag the file there from your local drive.
After you upload the file, there is a file name and extension.
The file is not automatically converted to Google Sheets. As you can see it has the .xlsx extension, that is a format of an Excel file.
How Excel data is stored
There are a few different types of files that you can create in Excel. You can open an Excel file, choose File >> Save As >> Browse and select a file type.
Let’s create copies of the file with the following extensions and copy them into Google Drive:
xls, xlsm, and xlsb.
You can open all of them, but the one with the .xlsb format.
The other files are compressed XML files. It’s an open format and can be read outside Excel. You can easily unpack this file with a file archiver, such as 7zip. Inside the xl directory, there are a bunch of files with the .xml extension.
Try to unpack the binary file. Instead of .xml files, you will find .bin files that use proprietary format and can be read by other apps than Excel.
If you try to open this file in Google Sheets, the following information will appear on your screen, informing you that there is no preview available. You can still store them on Google Drive, but there is no way to open them.
Be cautious in which format the Excel files are provided. If it’s a binary, you are going to need Excel.
Converting Excel to Sheets
Now, when you know which types of files you can view, it’s time to convert it to Google Sheets.
Inside Google Drive, right-click an Excel file and choose Open with >> Google Sheets.
Next to the file name, there is information that this file is an Excel file (.XLSX).
To save this file as Google Sheets, navigate to File >> Save as Google Sheets.
Wait for a second or two. The file is saved and viewed as a Google Sheet file. It’s not an Excel file anymore and you can see it that there is no information about the file extension.
If you go back to your folder, there is an additional file called Excel Data, which is a Google Sheet file.
It doesn’t have an extension, but you can see that the icon is different than before. If you have a Google Drive synchronization app installed on your computer, you can open a directory where the files are stored.
If you are using Windows, click the View tab on the ribbon and check File name extensions.
The extension of a Google Sheet file is .gsheet.
Converting Sheets to Excel
We converted an Excel file to the Google Sheets file. Now let’s try to save Sheet as an Excel file.
It’s a very similar process:
- Open a Sheet file
- Go to File >> Download
- Click Microsoft Excel (.xlsx)
- Choose the location to save the file.
Another way to convert a file from Google Sheets to Excel is to right-click the file and choose download. Excel will automatically convert it to the .xlsx file.
Automatically convert all future Excel imports
There is a setting in Google Drive to automatically convert all future Excel files to Sheet files.
You can set this option by clicking the Settings tab in the upper-right corner of the window.
Click Settings again.
On the General Tab, there is an option called Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format.
Let’s create another file called Excel Data 2.xlsx. Drag it into the Google Drive folder.
If you look at the file we just uploaded, there is a Google Sheets icon, instead of an Excel icon. That means that the file was converted to Google Sheet format.
Data you can’t convert
Google Sheets is a great tool with a lot of features, but Excel is much older and more mature. There are a lot of Excel features that Google Sheets doesn’t offer.
Although you can convert an Excel file with Pivot Tables to Googe Sheets. You can also manipulate the data. Unfortunately, at least for now, the functionality of Pivot Tables is very basic.
Some types of charts are supported by Google Sheets. If you try to create more sophisticated ones, especially from later Excel versions, you won’t be able to see them. Google will just ignore them and display only those it can read.