TITLE: Using Plain Text to Scrub Spreadsheet Files AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: September 11, 2011 11:27 AM DESC: ----- BODY: For a few years, I have been saving many .xls as plain text. This is handy when I want to program against the data more often than I want to use spreadsheet tools. It also makes the data more accessible across apps and platforms, which is good now and in the future. While doing this, I have came across this technique that I find useful more generally. Maybe you will, too. People use spreadsheets used for two purposes, structuring data and presenting data. Both Excel and Apple's Numbers offer as much or more functionality for presenting information as they do for manipulating it. For me, the presentation stuff often gets in the way of organizing and manipulating, both by cluttering the UI with commands I don't need to know about and by adding formatting information to my data. The result is a UI more complicated than I need and data files much larger than I need them to be. When I run into one of those bloated files, I sometimes take a round trip: The result is a clean data file, with the data and its basic structure, but nothing more. No text formatting, no variably spaced rows or columns, and no presentation widgets. When I do work with the data in the spreadsheet app, it's unadorned, just as I like it. -----