XLSB vs XLSX: Choose the Right Excel File Format

Excel lets you save files in more than 20 formats. Each format offers something unique but comes with some limitations as well. Among all the file formats in Excel, XLSB and XLSX are the two popular formats that work seamlessly in almost all conditions!

In this article, we will discuss these XLSB and XLSX file formats in detail. We will include everything you need to know about these two file types. We will also add a comparison list to clarify the similarities and differences between these two file formats.

Let’s begin!

A Brief Look into XLSB and XLSX

Before we jump into the detailed discussion on XLSB vs XLSX file formats, let us tell you what these two file types mean. The XLSB file format offers a way to save Excel data in binary mode. It results in a small file that opens faster without trimming or losing data.

On the other hand, the XLSX file saves data inside it in more than one XML file. In reality, the XLSX format is compressed with XML files stored within itself. This is the main difference between XLSB and XLSX file formats.

However, we will discuss more similarities and dissimilarities in the upcoming parts of this article. Keep on reading to find out!

XLSB vs XLSX: Battle of the Best File Format

In terms of portability and data safety, both XLSB and XLSX formats bring top quality to the table. Nevertheless, some remarkable characteristics may draw an Excel user towards either file type. In this section of the article, we will discuss XLSB and XLSX file types in-depth.

What is the XLSB Format?

The XLSB refers to Excel Binary File Format. It was introduced in Excel 2007. If you use an older Excel version, this file type will not work in your Excel program. In the older editions, the default file format for workbooks was XLS. It was also a binary workbook format but with some unavoidable issues. It was around till Excel 2003.

Now, XLSB files come with some extraordinary futures. Since this file format saves data in binary, they take noticeably less space than current standard Excel files. All data in an XLSB file gets converted to binary (“0”s and “1”s) and does not save contents as you see them in a file.

You can save your spreadsheet in XLSB format by going to the Save As option from your Excel program. Then you only need to select Excel Binary Workbook from the list of Save as type. See the image below.

XLSB file type

XLSB makes it easier to share workbooks with vast amounts of data. The file size becomes significantly smaller despite having many types of contents inside a workbook. However, a possible downside gets introduced for converting data to binary.

The XLSB files can be opened only in MS Excel 2007 and later versions. These files cannot be opened in any other spreadsheet manager programs either. Exclusivity like this tends to open the door to new problems. If your recipient does not have Excel 2007 or a later version, the file will not be decoded and thus cannot be opened.

What is the XLSX Format?

Since Excel 2007, the XLSX file format has been the default format. It saves spreadsheets as a compressed file of multiple XML files. Following some techniques, you can “unpack” the file and see the fragmented yet readable files it houses.

The XLSX file type was introduced to replace the earlier XLS file format to make Excel files support a more extensive dataset in a smaller file size. Later, the XLSB format reduced file sizes even more than the XLSX format.

As an upgraded version of older Excel’s XLS format, an XLSX file can save up to 16,384 columns and 1,048,576 rows of data. It can work with and save all the functions available in Excel. It can also be opened by other spreadsheet programs, bar Excel 2003, and earlier editions.

Although Excel saves your workbook in XLSX format as the default option, you may find that the settings may have been altered, and your file is getting saved in different formats. So, if you want to keep your Excel file in XLSX format, go to the Save As option from your Excel while saving your file, then select Excel Workbook from the drop-down menu of file types beside Save as type. You can see the picture below for further clarification.

XLSX file type

No complications whatsoever!

Comparison Between XLSB and XLSX

Now let’s see a comparison between XLSB and XLSX file formats. We considered the most important common factors these two file types have. If you are confused about which file format to use, this comparison table will help you sort out your hesitation.

Ease of Operation Opens faster in the software despite having a large amount of data. Gets heavier with the amount of data and opens slower in the software.
SizeSmaller file size even with big data. File size gets bigger too easily.
Ease of Sharing Easy to share with large data due to smaller size. Big file size may cause inconvenience while sharing a file.
Availability of Functions Works flawlessly with all the Excel functions. Works excellent with all the available functions in Excel.
VBA & Macros Can save VBA and Macros. Cannot save VBA and Macros.
SecurityDoesn’t show warnings when the file contains VBA and Macros. Lacks security. Highly secured.
CompatibilityCannot be opened in anything other than Excel 2007 and later versions. Cannot be used with third-party spreadsheet programs. Supports Excel 2007 and later versions. Can be opened in third-party spreadsheet programs as well.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this section of the article, we will answer some essential questions that Excel users frequently ask. These Q&As will answer many of the questions you have in your mind. So let’s read through these and become free from any confusion!

Q: How do I convert XLSB to XLSX?

A: You need to open your XLSB file, and then go to the File menu. From there, click the Save As option. When the Save As window opens, click on Save as type drop-down list and select Excel Workbook to save the file in XLSX format. Remember that if your XLSB file has any existing VBA or Macros, they will be removed automatically upon saving it as XLSX.

Q: Can XLSX files have macros?

A: No, XLSX files cannot save macros in them.

Q: Are XLSX files safer than XLSB files?

A: Yes, XLSX files are safer because they do not save macros. Contrarily, XLSB files save macros without any warning.

Q: Should I use XLSB or XLSX?

A: It depends on what you want to do with your data. If your workbook has heavy data and you need to share the file, saving it in XLSB will make your work easier. Otherwise, you may keep using XLSX as it is safer and an open file type.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we discussed at length what XLSB and XLSX file formats are, the features they offer, and both pros and cons these file types come with. Now it is up to you which format you want to prefer for your everyday operation.

As a rule of thumb, we can say that if your work involves dealing with data of considerable size and you need to share your files via emails or clouds, XLSB file format should be your go-to option. Otherwise, stick with the XLSX format and be more flexible in terms of compatibility!

We hope this article has helped you eliminate your confusion about XLSB and XLSX file types. Have an Excel-lent day!

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