Page Icon What Is a CSV File? - CSV Editing

A CSV (or comma-separated value) file is a text file containing data formatted as a table. CSV files are widely used and they remain a popular choice due to their simplicity and compatibility across different platforms.
Each line represents a row and contains a list of cell values separated by commas or other separation characters. The first row can optionally contain the list of column names.

An example is shown below:

Portia,Mcfann,Beachcomber Realty
Andrew,Fenstermacher,Shafer Commercial Seating Inc
Brady,Tatum,Cywinski Jackson Bohlin
Gracie,Riskalla,Richard A Esq Jessup
Helga,Rio,Pony Express

Which, when handled correctly, represents:

FirstName LastName Company
Portia Mcfann Beachcomber Realty
Andrew Fenstermacher Shafer Commercial Seating Inc
Brady Tatum Cywinski Jackson Bohlin
Gracie Riskalla Richard A Esq Jessup
Helga Rio Pony Express

CSV files are commonly used as a format of data exchange between applications as they are simple to generate and easily understood by a wide range of software.

Format Details

Within a CSV file the comma character represents a division between two cells (or fields) and the new line character(s) represents a division between two rows (or records). For this reason steps need to be taken to protect these characters if they actually form part of the field data itself.

When a field in a CSV file contains a comma or new line it is simply surrounded by quotes (").

However, what if the cell contains text that itself is surrounded by quotes? In that case the quotes, within the cell are represented as double quotes ("").

The combinations are shown below:

Description Example
Normal Cell Cell value
Cell containing comma "Cell, with a comma"
Call containing a new line "Cell with
a new line"
Cell containing quoted data "Cell with some ''''quotes'''' in it"

An example is shown below:

Claude,Piscitello,"Nippard, Lewis Straughn Pa","127 Maple St
TN 37115"
"Beverley ""long""",Schilk,"Wahl, Travis J Esq","445 Broadway
CO 80203"
Maude,Balceiro,"Berger, Leslie M Esq","4933 E Colonial Dr
FL 32803"
Roger,Voorheis,Park View Guest House,"204 N Guadalupe St
Santa Fe
NM 87501"
Martina,Rissman,Criterion Electronics Inc,"726 Plymouth Park
TX 75061"

Which when handled correctly represents:

FirstName LastName Company Address
Claude Piscitello Nippard, Lewis Straughn Pa 127 Maple St
TN 37115
Beverley "long" Schilk Wahl, Travis J Esq 445 Broadway
CO 80203
Maude Balceiro Berger, Leslie M Esq 4933 E Colonial Dr
FL 32803
Roger Voorheis Park View Guest House 204 N Guadalupe St
Santa Fe
NM 87501
Martina Rissman Criterion Electronics Inc 726 Plymouth Park
TX 75061

It's Not All About Commas

Of course, commas and quotes do not always need to be the characters used to separate the elements of a CSV file. Some common variations exists, although their use does alter the name as would be expected:

Name Extension Field Separator Field Surround
Comma-separated value CSV Comma (,) Quote (")
Pipe separated value PSV Pipe (|) Quote (")
Tab separated value TSV Tab Quote (")

In fact, almost any characters can be used to separate the rows and fields, depending on the software used to edit the file.

How to Edit CSV Files

Main Window

Simply download and install Rons Data Edit.

More Information

Wikipedia - Comma-Separated Values

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