Comma Separated Value File

Comma Separated Value File

(CSV) This type of file stores alpha-numeric tabular data in plain-text form, which is simply a sequence of characters saved as binary numbers. A CSV file consists of any number of records, separated by line breaks or a character, usually a coma, that is interpreted as a tab, with an identical sequence of fields. This file format was first implemented in the early days of business computing and is still widely used to share data using different internal requirements and data formatting needs, and therefore, is common on all computer platforms.

This file format is widely accepted and supported by consumer, business, and industry-specific applications for moving tabular data between programs and applications that do not necessarily operate on compatible systems, to include proprietary formats but allow for some variation of CSV or import and export functions.

As an example, email addresses can be imported or exported from a variety of sources using a CSV file. These are usually generated initially using a spreadsheet program like MS Excel.

Although, a CSV is not a single, well-defined format rather, in practice the term “CSV” file refers to any file that is comprised of records formatted typically as one record on one line or where every record includes exactly the same sequence of fields divided or separated by delimiters which are a single reserved character such as a tab or comma. However, this does not always mean that they are entirely portable or compatible across platforms or applications when variations fall outside of the requirements of a receiving program.

In these cases, the CSV file can be edited manually or with a simple programming modification, make them completely portable. By definition, then, these records are in some definable order and work just as well with Unicode such as ASCII format and can normally convert very nicely from one character set to another. However, CSV files do not provide a way to identify what character set was used and may require identification separately, or converted to a compatible set on the receiving end.

Even though the term comma separated value would indicate that a comma is used to separate the data fields, it is also used to refer to a wide range of formats that differ in many ways. This poses a particular problem in some countries where it is common to use a decimal point instead of a coma. Other implementation differences include handling of more prosaic field separators (such as space or semicolon) and newline characters inside text fields. This lack of standardization and sharing relies heavily on human intervention and a plain text program, in order to share the tabular data.

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