Excel CSV import returns an SYLK file format error

The Problem:

Trying to open CSV file that my app had generated kept causing the following message to appear in Excel:

Excel has detected that ‘balhblah.csv’ is an SYLK file, but cannot load it. Either the file has error or it is not a SYLK file format. Click OK to try to open the file in a different format’ , you may also get the message SYLK: File format is not valid

The solution:

After many hours of pulling my hair out trying to work it out I discovered that if you make the first letters “ID” of a text file Excel incorrectly assumes you are trying to open an SYLK file (whatever one of those is!).

Hope that helps!

PS Microsoft have a page on this now… http://support2.microsoft.com/kb/323626

87 thoughts on “Excel CSV import returns an SYLK file format error

  1. I ran into this problem when creating a CSV file with the requirement that columns 1-2 of the first record – representing the first cell of the spreadsheet must contain uppercase “ID”.

    I kept getting “Unable to load SYLK file…” Ichanged that to “Id” – but that was not acceptable to the program into which this file was input.

    For the moment I have got around it by setting up the field as “ ID “ and seeing whther the next program is rigidly expecting :ID” in cols 1-2, or is it a “free-format field which allows for “ID” as floating characters.

    One can only hope and pray!!!

  2. Thank you Alun for sharring this info – it has saved me pulling my hair and spending many hours to figure this out….

    Thank you and bless you for sharring this info.

  3. The way to fix this for a programmer is to put the apostrophe character (’) as the first character of the CSV file. Then when Excel opens it, it won’t say, “Error: its a SYLK file gone bad”.

  4. refering to #5 above, the solution is not for the programmer or enyone else in the world to avoid using the characters ID in a CSV header. The solution is for Microsoft the remove such a stupid hard-coded logic.

  5. i cant save excel file in .csv format error you cant save multiple sheet in format
    how to save
    plz reply me.
    i cant save excel file in .csv format error you cant save multiple sheet in format
    how to save
    plz reply me.

  6. Hi Khandu

    You can’t save a multi-sheet excel file as a CSV because csv’s don’t support multiple pages. Simply save each worksheet as a desperate CSV and name them in a sensible way for the other person to import e.g. mydata_sheet1.csv, mydata_sheet2.csv and so on

    Good luck!

    Alun

  7. This didn’t help me for my requirements…

    What did help was this:
    —Save file as a .csv and close it.
    —Right click on the .csv file and Open with>Notepad
    —Go to File>Save As
    —Under Ecoding: select UTF-8
    —Click Save

  8. received the error message during import of a custom csv file about 3 minutes ago.
    googled it and this article resolved it in less than 60 secs.
    thanks!!!!

  9. And there was me thinking it was my programming skills that sucked. Microsoft, as usual. Pfft. Suckers.

    On a serious note, thanks for the tip. I dread to think how many circles I would have went round if I didn’t discover it.

  10. You saved my day. Lot of thanks. I have a csv file that has a column with header=“ID”. It was giving me SYLK error. But once I changed it to “Id”, it worked like magic.

  11. Just ran into this problem. I have cell A1 of each of my CSV files as “ID”. Would’ve never figured this out on my own. Glad this post is still available here after so many years. Thank you so much for sharing. Cheers!

  12. It’s the “The file you are trying to open, ‘x.csv’ is in a different format than specified by the extension…” that gets me.

    Thanks for preventing me going blind looking for obscure and non-existent unprintable characters…

  13. Wow. I never would have guessed that was the issue. I changed the first cell from “ID” to “dbID” and now the error is gone. lol

    Thanks!

  14. Thanks for taking away the pain – wish I’d checked your site YEARS ago. My previous solution was opening in Open Office then saving as .xls LOL

  15. Thank you so much for that info! Even though I have spent a few hours pulling my hair – I would never have arrived at that conclusion without your input.

  16. Thanks a bunch!

    This still occurs in Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010 (version 14.0.7173.5000), although Microsoft doesn’t admit it on their KB support page.

  17. Thanks – your post came up in a google and most helpful. I am in the process of moving to Softmaker Office 2016 having previously used MS Office 2003. When moving back and forth I hit this problem and assumed incorrectly it was Softmaker trouble. Yes my database has ID for the first field (column) and hits this problem.

  18. thank you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    thank you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    thank you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    thank you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    you are the best
    worked

  19. This article is now 5 years old and it’s still helping! Amazed MS haven’t fixed it but the occasional gift from my Amazon gift list and a few affiliate fees for adverts cover off the over 1200 visitors per month just to read this article!

  20. Thank you for sharing this. I was so confused by the error and would have spend countless hours on the same issue!

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