XLSB vs. XLSX File Formats

Have you ever wondered why there are different Excel file formats and which one is the best choice for your workbooks?

Choosing the right Excel file format can make a world of difference when it comes to performance, file size, and compatibility.

Understanding the differences between XLSB and XLSX file formats is crucial for making informed decisions that will optimize your Excel workbooks and streamline your workflow.

In this blog post, we will dive into the world of XLSB vs. XSLX file formats, exploring their differences in structure, speed, size, and compression.

We’ll also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using each file format, when to choose XLSX over XLSB (or vice-versa), and how to manage large Excel files more efficiently.

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Understanding XLSB and XLSX File Formats

XLSB and XLSX are two file formats widely used by Microsoft Excel. They allow users to store large amounts of data in workbooks.

In 2007, Microsoft introduced the XLSX format, which is based on the Office Open XML (OOXML) standard. They also introduced the XLSB format, using binary data for faster and more efficient file handling.

The primary difference is that XLSB is a binary file format, while XLSX is an XML-based file format. XLSB files use a binary file format, which means they store information as raw 1’s and 0’s. This makes them faster to read and write than other file formats like XLSX or XLSM.

However, both file formats can exhibit an increase in file size depending on the complexity of the workbook, such as the presence of formulas, user data, and objects.

The default file format for saving Excel workbooks is XLSX, which cannot store VBA macro code.

On the other hand, XLSB files can contain VBA macros, which can be a double-edged sword: while macros can increase productivity, they can also potentially store malicious code.

Therefore, it’s important to be cautious when opening executable file formats like XLSB files, especially if their source is unknown.

Also read: XLS vs. XLSX Files – What’s the Difference?

Key Differences between XLSB and XLSX Files

Let’s delve into the key differences between XLSB and XLSX files, comparing their file format and structure, speed and performance, and file size and compression.

Below I have the comparison in a table, and then we deep dive into specific areas after that:

File typeBinaryXML-based
File sizeGenerally smallerLarger due to XML format
Load and Save timeFasterSlower
CompatibilityLower (mainly with Excel and some other Microsoft products)Higher (more universally accepted)
Data capacitySame as XLSX (1,048,576 rows by 16,384 columns)Same as XLSB (1,048,576 rows by 16,384 columns)
Support for Macros and VBA codeYesLower chance of data recovery if the file is corrupted
Support for Excel featuresFullFull
Formula compatibilityFullFull
Readability by other programsLess readable due to binary formatMore readable due to XML-based format
Corruption RecoveryLower chance of data recovery if file is corruptedHigher chance of data recovery due to XML structure

File Format and Structure

XLSB files store data using a binary format, which makes them computer-readable but not human-readable.

This method helps in creating a more compact file size.

On the other hand, XLSX files use an XML-based format, making them easy to read and edit for humans as well as computers.

Speed and Performance

One of the main advantages of using XLSB files over XLSX files is their superior speed and performance.

XLSB files generally open and save faster than XLSX files due to their binary format.

This can be particularly beneficial when working with large or complex workbooks that contain a significant amount of data.

However, it’s important to note that XLSB files do not demonstrate a significant increase in formula performance when compared to XLSX files on the same Excel engine.

The main difference in performance lies in the loading and saving times, which can still offer a considerable advantage when working with large files.

File Size and Compression

Another key difference between XLSB and XLSX files is their file size and data compression.

Due to their binary format, XLSB files tend to be smaller than XLSX files. This not only saves disk space but also makes it easier to share and transmit files over the internet.

In fact, XLSB files have been found to be approximately 2/3rd the size of XLSX files for the same workbook.

This reduced file size can be especially beneficial when working with large Excel files that contain a substantial amount of data, formulas, and objects.

Recovery of Data from Corrupt File

Both XLSX and XLSB file formats have measures for data recovery in case of corruption, but the way they handle it and the chances of successful recovery are different due to their internal structures.

XLSX files are composed of XML files archived in a zip file structure. If an XLSX file becomes corrupt, you may still be able to recover some data because each part of the workbook (like worksheets, charts, and other elements) is stored separately.

Individual XML files inside the XLSX can be accessed and possibly repaired independently.

On the other hand, XLSB is a binary file format. While they are generally more efficient in terms of size and speed, their binary nature means they can be more severely affected by corruption.

When a binary file becomes corrupt, it is often more difficult to isolate and recover the uncorrupted parts of the data.

So, regarding data recovery from corrupted files, XLSX usually provides a better chance of recovering data than XLSB.

However, no method is foolproof, and it’s always best to maintain regular backups of important files to prevent data loss.

Also read: CSV vs. XLSX Files – What’s the Difference?

Advantages of Using XLSB Files

XLSB files offer several advantages over other Excel file formats. These range from optimum performance to improved security.

For starters, their smaller file size and faster performance make them more efficient for storage and transmission.

This can be particularly beneficial when working with large files that contain numerous formulas, data, and objects.

Additionally, XLSB files boast faster loading and saving times compared to other Excel file formats, thus increasing overall efficiency when working with large or complex workbooks.

This can be a significant advantage for users who frequently work with sizeable Excel workbooks and need to optimize their workflow.

Drawbacks of XLSB Files

Although XLSB files offer several benefits, they also come with a few drawbacks.

XLSX files are generally more reliable and portable as they are based on the Open XML file structure. This format is more widely supported by different platforms and software applications, such as OpenOffice, Microsoft Excel, and various cloud-based apps.

On the other hand, XLSB files may face compatibility issues as they store data in binary format, which is not as widely supported.

This can make it difficult to share XLSB files with colleagues who do not have Microsoft Excel or to use them with other spreadsheet software.

Additionally, because XLSB files are in binary format, they can contain VBA macros, which could potentially store malicious code. This makes XLSB file format less secure than the XLSM format.

Be cautious when opening XLSB files, especially if their source is unknown.

Also read: Is Microsoft Excel Better than Google Sheets

When to Choose XLSX over XLSB

There are certain scenarios where choosing XLSX over XLSB can be more advantageous.

For example, if you need to ensure compatibility with other programs, XLSX may be the better choice.

The open XML format of XLSX files makes them more compatible with other software and programs, allowing for easier sharing and collaboration.

Another instance where XLSX may be preferred is when file size is not a critical factor, and the focus is more on compatibility and ease of use.

In such cases, the slightly larger file size of XLSX files may not pose a significant issue, and their compatibility with other software could be more important.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing between the two file formats:

  • Speed: Do you need your workbook to open and save quickly?
  • Space: Is conserving file size a priority, especially for large files?
  • Compatibility: Will other software or users need to open this file?
  • Functionality: Are you using complex formulas, macros, or Excel add-ins?
  • Security: Do you need to restrict certain features, such as VBA macros?
Also read: XLTX vs. XLSX File Formats

Working with Macros: XLSB vs XLSM

Both XLSB and XLSX file formats support the use of VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) macros, which allow you to automate tasks and perform more complex functions in your spreadsheets.

However, XLSX files will require a specific extension, “.xlsm”, when they contain macros, while XLSB files can maintain the same extension regardless of the presence of macros.

This distinction can be particularly important when considering file security and the potential presence of malicious code within macros.

If you need to work with files that contain macros, it’s generally recommended to use XLSM files instead of XLSB files. XLSM is considered slightly more secure. Also, in case your file gets corrupted, it’s easier to recover data from XLSM than XLSB

But otherwise, there is not a major difference between XLSM and XLSB when it comes to using macros.

Also read: Row vs Column in Excel

How to Convert between XLSB and XLSX Files

Converting between XLSB and XLSX files is a straightforward process that can be done using Excel or Calc, which both support a variety of file formats, including XLSX, XLS, XLSM, CSV, PDF, and TXT.

To convert an XLSB file to XLSX, simply open the file in Excel or Calc and save it back to your computer in the desired format.

Conversely, to convert an XLSX file to XLSB, follow the same process: open the file in Excel or Calc and save it in the XLSB format.

By converting between XLSB and XLSX files when needed, you can optimize your Excel workbooks for performance, compatibility, and efficiency.

Also read: What is an XLK File?

Frequently Asked Questions about XLSB vs. XLSX

Below are some of the common queries people have about the XLSX and XLSB file formats.

How is XLSB different from XLSX?

XLSB and XLSX files both use the same internal structure and formula engine, but XLSB stores files in a binary format, while XLSX files store them as compressed XML.

This makes an XLSB file more compact than XLSX, since the binary data can be read and written much more quickly than XML.

As a result, XLSB is usually the preferred choice for large datasets.

When should I use XLSB format?

For files that need to be stored for long periods of time and accessed infrequently, XLSB format may be the most efficient option.

It is smaller and more storage-friendly than other file formats, but it does not offer compatibility with modern applications as XLSX files do.

Therefore, if you require a compact file for minimal file access, the XLSB format may be the best choice.

What is the best file type for large files in Excel?

For large Excel files, the best file type is xlsx.

This allows for optimized performance at both opening and saving times, which is especially useful for large files (over 10MB).

However, it should be noted that this file extension cannot be used by certain applications, such as Bloomberg and Capital IQ, so keep this in mind when making your decision.

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I am a huge fan of Microsoft Excel and love sharing my knowledge through articles and tutorials. I work as a business analyst and use Microsoft Excel extensively in my daily tasks. My aim is to help you unleash the full potential of Excel and become a data-slaying wizard yourself.

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