(Image by r2hox/Flickr)

CSV – comma separated values  – is a common format for datasets. Excel or the free spreadsheet software Google Sheets can open them easily and, in some cases, automatically.

Open your CSV file with Excel. You will get a messy data set without format, but don’t panic: that is how a CSV should look like.

Select the first column and go to the menu. Click on data and the option text to columns.


Select the file type delimited and click next.

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Now, you have to choose the element that splits the different columns in your spreadsheet. Test different options and check the result in the preview window.

In the example, the delimiter we need to define is comma. Click next.


In the next step, select all the columns in your data preview. Hold down the shift key and select all the columns with your cursor until all of them are black.

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Click finish and “voilà”, your CSV file has now columns and is tidy.

If you have followed this tutorial and you CSV is still messy, try to open it with Open Refine. This post explains you how.