Microsoft Excel: How to Automate Text File Links
by David Ringstrom on
However, many users don't realize there's an alternate way to access text files that can minimize steps, and perhaps even automate integrating text file-based data into your spreadsheets. To do so:
- Excel 2007 and later: Choose From Text in the Get External Data section of the Data tab.
- Excel 2003 and earlier: Choose Data, Import External Data, and then Import Data.
At this point, in any version of Excel, you'll be presented with a variation of the Open dialog box:
- Excel 2007 and later: The dialog box is labeled Import Text Files.
- In Excel 2003 and earlier: The dialog box is labeled Select Data Source.
Regardless of your Excel version, browse to your text file and then click the Import button. A new dialog box labeled Text Import Wizard will appear. This wizard is identical to the Text to Columns Wizard, but I'll walk through the steps for anyone unfamiliar with either:
On the first screen of the wizard, you signify whether your text file is delimited for fixed width:
- Delimited: Signifies there's a separator between each field, such as a tab, comma, space, semi-colon, or perhaps the | character, which is referred to as the pipe symbol.
- Fixed width: Signifies that each field is allocated a specific number of characters, meaning the data lines up evenly in columns.
As shown in Figure 4, a data preview window shows you the first few rows of the text file as an aid in determining the file type. Once you choose delimited or fixed width, click Next to proceed to the next step in the wizard.
Figure 4: Excel provides a data preview window where you can view the first few rows of your text file.