What are the differences between XLS and PDF formats?

When we handle computer documents we sometimes feel overwhelmed by the dozens of file formats that exist. Each one has a purpose, but it is normal that there are formats that serve several different things.

Many people still hesitate to use XLS or PDF formats when handling numeric documents, and although they are very different, both can store tables, lists and other similar content.

Let’s look at the differences between the XLS and PDF formats so that they are clear once and for all.

The XLS format

The XLS format is the native Excel format, developed by Microsoft for Microsoft Office. It is a format designed to store spreadsheets. And although it can contain texts and photos, it is not suitable for creating things other than lists or tables of numbers, for making graphs, statistics, and other similar content.

Excel was released in 1985, and in all these years has been adding new functions to its file format. All are forward compatible. For example, the XLSX format, which was created for Excel 2007, is compatible with this version and subsequent versions, but not with previous ones.

These are the differences:

  • XLS: is the classic spreadsheet format, available since 1985
  • XLSX: Premiered with Excel 2007. It is currently the default format. It’s safe because it doesn’t save Visual Basic macros.
  • XLSM: It was also released in Excel 2007, and is designed to work with macros.
  • XLSB: Also from Excel 2007, it is used to work with binary Excel books, which occupy less space but cannot be read directly.

Our advice is to stop using XLS and use XLSX, as XLS is less secure, takes up more space and can store fewer rows and columns. Your only justification is that you are still using Excel 2003 or a previous version.

The PDF format

It is a multimedia format that can contain text, photos, animations, music and video. It was developed by Adobe and until a few years ago it was a proprietary format, but now it is an open format that can be used by anyone.

Since 1993 it has been updated several times, the last time in 2009. There is a variant called PDF/X, but it is intended for printers or companies that print a lot on paper.

PDF/A is intended for long-term archiving of large amounts of data. Files that are hardly modified, well protected, and of a large size.

PDF/E is applied in the interactive exchange of engineering documents.

These are the main differences between XLS and PDF formats. If you are going to work with spreadsheets, use XLS or similar because they are much easier to modify in the future. Save to PDF if the graph or table you have created is the final result, as it is an easier format to distribute and read. Almost all applications allow you to convert from one to another.

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