What is an ODS File Excel? | Understanding OpenDocument Spreadsheet

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Spreadsheets are the workhorses of data analysis. Rows and columns of numbers, formulas, and charts help make sense of complex information. Excel undoubtedly dominates the spreadsheet landscape, with .xlsx and .xls files representing its stranglehold over the category. 

However, Excel spreadsheets have an Achilles heel – its closed, proprietary format makes it difficult to integrate Excel files with other programs. This is where OpenDocument Format (ODF) and its .ods file extension provide a ray of hope. 

The open and transparent nature of .ods files enables easy interoperability between platforms and applications. So if you need to break free from the confines of Excel, opening and converting your spreadsheets to .ods format can pave the path ahead. 

Let’s dive deeper into understanding what .ods files are, and how they allow your data to breathe free.

What is the OpenDocument Format?

The OpenDocument Format (ODF) is an open file format for electronic office documents like spreadsheets, charts, presentations, and word processing. It was developed as an open standard by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) consortium in 2005.

Some key advantages of the ODF standard:

  • It is an open file format based on XML, designed to store and transfer documents.
  • Being open and transparent allows for greater interoperability between programs.
  • ODF files are smaller in size than proprietary formats like .xlsx.
  • The standard is backed by many governments worldwide.

The OpenDocument Format aims to provide an open alternative to proprietary document formats.

What is an ODS File?

An ODS file is the spreadsheet document format used by OpenDocument. It is the equivalent of Excel’s .xlsx format but uses XML markup to store the spreadsheet data.

Key things to know about ODS files:

  • ODS stands for OpenDocument Spreadsheet.
  • An ODS file can store data tables, charts, images, and more.
  • Formulas, macros, and other features are supported.
  • It is an alternative to Excel’s .xlsx format but with the benefits of an open standard.
  • ODS files are compressed using ZIP compression.
  • Software like Excel, Google Sheets, and OpenOffice can open ODS files.

The .ods file extension represents the OpenDocument spreadsheet format standardized by OASIS.

Opening an ODS file in Excel

Modern versions of Microsoft Excel have support for opening and editing ODS files. Here are some key points about working with ODS files in Excel:

  • Excel 2016 and above can directly open and edit ODS files.
  • For Excel 2013 and earlier, a compatibility pack may need to be installed.
  • ODS files will open normally like any other Excel sheet.
  • Formulas, data, formatting, charts etc. are preserved.
  • You can directly edit the ODS file, and save changes back in the same format.
  • Excel will convert the XML-based ODS file to its native .xlsx binary format when opening.
  • Excel provides full support for working with ODS spreadsheets in the same way as its own .xlsx files.

Converting XLSX to ODS

If you have an existing .xlsx file, it is easy to convert it to the ODS format. Here is how to convert an Excel sheet to ODS:

  • Open the .xlsx file in Excel.
  • Go to File > Save As.
  • In the Save as type dropdown, select ODS – OpenDocument Spreadsheet.
  • Choose a name save location, and click Save.
  • Excel will save a copy of the spreadsheet in ODS format.

The original XLSX file will remain unchanged. The new ODS copy will contain all data, formatting, images, and other elements. You can then share or open the ODS file in other compatible programs.

Converting XLSX to ODS allows you to access the spreadsheet in the open standard OpenDocument format.

Comparing ODS and XLSX

ODS and XLSX files are very similar in functionality for storing Excel spreadsheets. Here is a quick comparison:


  • Open standard format
  • Uses XML to store data
  • Supports formulas, data, formatting
  • Smaller file size
  • Compatible with many programs


  • Proprietary Microsoft format
  • Uses binary format
  • Supports formulas, data, formatting
  • Larger file size
  • Mainly for Microsoft Excel

The main difference is ODS uses an open standard XML-based format while XLSX uses a proprietary binary format.

Benefits of the ODS Format

Some key benefits of using the .ods file format rather than Excel’s .xlsx format are:

Open standard

ODS is an open format that can be adopted by any software vendor. This increases compatibility across platforms and programs.


The XML structure inside ODS files can be easily inspected and understood. XLSX files are a binary blob.


ODS integrates better with other document formats and programs that support OpenDocument.


ODS files take up less space due to the use of compressed XML.

Backward compatibility

ODS ensures backward compatibility using XML, unlike XLSX which can change without warning.

For users who value open standards and interoperability, ODS provides significant advantages over Excel’s XLSX format.

Limitations of ODS

However, ODS files also come with a few limitations compared to XLSX:

  • Not all features of Excel are fully supported in ODS. There can be some data or formatting loss when converting complex XLSX sheets.
  • The performance of ODS files tends to be slower compared to Excel’s optimized binary XLSX format.
  • Fewer third-party tools and libraries are available for programmatically handling ODS files.
  • ODS has less corporate adoption than Microsoft’s entrenched XLSX format.
  • Unsupported versions of Excel may not be able to correctly handle ODS file formats.
  • For certain advanced use cases that rely on Excel-specific features, XLSX retains better support and performance.

When to Use ODS vs XLSX

Taking the pros and cons into account, here are some general guidelines on when to use ODS or XLSX format:

  • Use XLSX if you need full Excel compatibility, macros, or other advanced features. Also if file size and performance are critical.
  • Use ODS if openness, interoperability, and backward compatibility are important. Also for long-term archival of spreadsheets.
  • Use ODS if you need your spreadsheets to work on different platforms and programs, not just Microsoft Excel.
  • Use XLSX if you are dealing with large, complex data models and calculations that require Excel’s full capabilities.
  • Use ODS if you want to be able to easily read and understand the internal structure of the spreadsheet format.

Evaluate your specific needs and priorities to decide between ODS and XLSX spreadsheet formats.


ODS files provide an open, XML-based spreadsheet format standardized by OASIS as an alternative to Excel’s XLSX binaries. Modern versions of Excel can open, edit, and convert ODS files.

The ODS format has advantages like openness, interoperability, and backward compatibility. However, XLSX remains better suited for Excel-specific features and performance. Evaluate your priorities and compatibility needs when deciding between ODS and XLSX formats for your spreadsheets.

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