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How to View Excel Files without Microsoft Office Installed

written by: Rebecca Scudder•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 9/26/2009

In this article you will find two options for a way to view MS Excel files without Excel installed on on your computer, including files from Excel 2007. Your choices are the MS Excel viewer, or the application OpenOffice 3.0. a free open source program that is a complete office suite.

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    To open, view, copy and print Excel files without the program MS Excel, you can install a Microsoft Excel Viewer, or OpenOffice 3.0. Both will act as a MS Excel reader. There are some pros and cons to each choice.

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    MS Excel Viewer

    The Microsoft Excel viewer 2003 is a free Microsoft download that will let you view, read and print all Excel workbooks from MS Excel 2003 or earlier versions of Excel. This download is 9.9 MB in size. It is available from Microsoft through the end of December 2009, and then the download will be discontinued. It supports the Windows 2000 Service Pack 4, Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP operating systems. It does not say it supports Windows Vista. The download is a viewer for Microsoft Office Excel 2003, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft Excel 2000 and Microsoft Excel 97 workbooks. You will not be able to edit a workbook, save a workbook, or create new workbooks with this viewer.

    Once you have downloaded the viewer, you must go to where you saved the viewer, and double click xlviewer.exe. Then, a wizard will guide you through the setup. After this, you can open Excel files by clicking on them and opening them.

    To view Excel files in Excel 2007, download the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, And PowerPoint 2007 files. This will allow you to view, read, copy and print .xlsx and xlsm format spreadsheets.

    You can uninstall the Excel Viewer in the Add/Remove Programs section inside the Control Panel.

    There is a replacement viewer for the Excel Viewer 2003. It is 74.1 MB in size. It support the following operating systems: Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista and Windows XP. With this reader you can open spreadsheets made in Microsoft Office Excel 2007, Microsoft Office Excel 2003, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft 2000, and Microsoft Excel 2007.

    This is installed by going to where you have saved the download on your hard drive. Double click on excelviewer.exe and follow the instructions to open the viewer. Again, to read an Excel file, just open it, and the reader will do everything else in the background.

    You uninstall this viewer in exactly the same way you uninstalled the Excel Viewer 2003.

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    OpenOffice 3.0

    Now, for your other option for an MS Excel reader. The open source program OpenOffice was designed to be an office suite of the same caliber as Microsoft Office, and also be compatible with documents in the open document format, or .ods. OpenOffice 3.0 can be downloaded from its home site.

    OpenOffice is a complete office suite, and so it does use a fair amount of space on your hard drive. While installing, it needs 650 MB, and then after installation, it will use 440 MB space. It contain a word processing program, Writer; a spreadsheet program, Calc; a presentation program, Impress; a drawing program, and Base, a database program. While these programs all have details of how they work, which are subtly different than the programs in Microsoft Office, they offer almost exactly the same features and utility.

    OpenOffice 3.0 will open .xlsx and .xlsm spreadsheets, and allow you to edit and save them. It also opens all spreadsheets created in earlier versions of MS Excel. However, there is one important difference between Excel and Calc. Excel uses macros created with VBA (visual basic). OpenOffice can not use those macros. Instead, it uses its own macro language, OpenOffice Basic. This means macros for one application must be rewritten to work in the other application.