How To Open CSV Files On Google Docs

Martin Brinkmann
May 3, 2012
Updated • Jan 1, 2013

If you do not have Microsoft Excel, or an Open Source counterpart like Open Office or Libre Office installed, and you have a csv file that you need to open, you may have tried to get it opened on Google Docs. Google's online document management service surprisingly does not support csv files out of the box. When you try to open a csv on the site, you will receive the message that no preview is available, and that the only option is to download the file to the local computer system.

Since you do not have a program supporting csv documents on your local computer, that would not make sense at all. What many Google Docs users do not know is that there is an option available to display the contents of the csv file on Google Docs.

google docs csv

The Google product supports document conversions, and that is what you need to do to view the file on the website. If you have the csv file opened on Google Docs, you see a screen very similar to the one above. Click on the File menu at the top, and select Export to Google spreadsheet from the context menu.

export to google spreadsheet

When you do that you see a notification that the document is being processed. This should not take too long, unless the csv file has a very large size. Once converted, it is displayed as a spreadsheet on Google Docs. Keep in mind that you are now working with the converted file, and not the original anymore.

If you need to access the contents of csv files regularly on Google Docs, you may want to configure the service to automatically convert the uploaded documents to Google Docs format. If you have not done so already, click on the settings icon in the main document listing, select Upload Settings from the context menu, and there the Convert uploaded files to Google Docs format option.

google docs upload settings

The files are then automatically converted to Google Docs format when you upload them. Keep in mind that this affects all supported document types that you upload to the site, and not only csv files.


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  1. Heron said on September 26, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    There was no option for me to “Export to google spreadsheet.”

    However, I selected the document on the google drive homepage and clicked on the “More” menu. Here I chose “open with” and then “google sheets.”


  2. FrankM said on August 15, 2013 at 4:17 am

    Thanks Martin.

  3. raul said on January 12, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    I’ve made a small utility for windows that, when clicking a csv file(and other document types), uploads & converts the file using google docs. after the conversion is finished, you can use your favorite browser to edit the file.

    the tool is called gdocsopen. hope you find it interesting

  4. teresa said on November 14, 2012 at 1:48 am

    you rock

    I am trying to back up my google contacts. I dont have excel. I try to download free opener program didnt work couldnt open file. So I couldnt upload to drive. I never thought of using google spreadsheet.

    You helped me so much

  5. Jason Moser said on May 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I would just add that I use the cardware program CSVed, which allows you to view and manipulate csv files (albeit not as a spreadsheet)

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