Difference Between XML and XLS

Every file has a format that provides various features and removes shortcomings. The format of the file aims to provide compatibility. There are various file formats available and are constantly evolving.

The most common and popular file format is XLS. The constant changes have brought queries on XML and its general relationship to XLS.


The main difference between XML and XLS is that XML is referred to as the markup language that is used in web pages while XLS refers to a file format of MS Office. XML stands for Extensible Markup Language while XLS stands for Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet.


XML was launched in 1998 under World Wide Web Consortium. The format is newly published comparatively. It is a set of rules that are used to encode documents.

The format type of XML is text-based. The base standards of the markup language are SGML. Other file format is based on XML is XSLX.

On the other hand, XLS was launched in 1987 under Microsoft. The format is older comparatively. The launch of the document file was for use in Microsoft Excel.

Initially, XLS was also known as Binary Interchange File Format or BIFF. The format type of XLS is binary based.

Comparison Table Between XML and XLS

Parameters of Comparison XMLXLS
Full formExtensible Markup Language Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet
DefinitionXML is a markup language used in web pages XLS is a file format used in Microsoft Office, that is in Microsoft Excel
Format typeText-basedBinary based
CompatibilityWide compatibility Restricted compatibility (only with Excel)
ApplicationIt is used in web pages, the base format of several office-productivity tools, and is the foundation for communication protocols It can handles and operates spreadsheet documents

What is XML?

XML is the short form of Extensible Markup Language. It is a set of rules that are used to encode documents. XML makes the format of the document both machine-readable as well as human-readable.

XML aims to emphasize the usability, readability and simplicity of the Internet. The markup language is a textual data format and supports other human languages through Unicode.

The markup language was first published on 10th February 1998, in version 1.1 under the organization World Wide Web Consortium.

The editors of the markup language are Tim Bray, John Cowan, Jean Paoli, Eve Maler, C.M. Sperberg, François Yergeau, and McQueen.

The base standards of the markup language are SGML. Other related standards are the XML schema.

The domain of the markup language is under data serialization. The Uniform Type Identifier (or UTI) of the markup language is public.xml. The UTI conformation is public.xml.

The file format is stored under the extension of .xml. The language has been extended to several other languages like KML, XHTML, Atom, RSS, and others.

XML is the base format of several office-productivity tools like OpenOffice.org, Microsoft Office, LibreOffice, and even Apple’s iWork. It is the foundation for communication protocols like XMPP.

The XML schema supports various data types like string, date, boolean, decimal, integer, duration, time, dateTime, and others.

What is XLS?

XLS is the short form of a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. It is a file extension for the documents which are constructed in the Microsoft Excel software program.

The main function of the document file type is to handle various spreadsheet documents. The opening of an excel document file is through Microsoft Office suit.

All the previous versions are available in the excel program.

Apart from Microsoft products, XLS can be opened through other extensions also.

Like the Microsoft Excel viewer which is third-party software and a built-in browser extension that can open and provide access to editing to the users.

The users can analyze data in bulk amounts. The format of the document file is proprietary type.

XLS is a powerful and useful tool. It can store information in a sorted form with rows and columns. It can handle data which can be of text as well as image type.

The most common use of XLS files is for business settings. They help users to organize, visualize and plan tasks. The input data can be arranged and customized by the users.

The sorted and separated form of data allows users to visually differentiate various pieces of information. The opportunity in Excel is higher than others document forms.

The XLS document file imparts professionalism and is easier to open and interpret. The XLS document file can be easily converted to PDF and can be shared with other people across various social media platforms.

Main Differences Between XML and XLS

  1. The format nature of XML is open while the format of XLS is proprietary in nature.
  2. The format of XML is highly user-readable while the format of XLS is not user-readable.
  3. The newer file formats are based on XML like XLSX while the older file formats are based on XLS.
  4. XML can be read by any text editor while XLS can be read by specific text editors.
  5. The XML format is more preferred by users and editors while the XLS format is comparatively less preferred.
Difference Between XML and XLS


Every file format is different and unique from each other. Every format has distinct functionalities and is launched to fix various issues and vulnerabilities.

File format and markup language are two different parameters. XLS falls under the category of file format while XML falls under the category of markup languages.

XLS files can be easily converted into XML files. The procedure for converting XLS file to XML is as follows – select the XLS file that has to be converted.

Then head onto XML as the selected format for converting the XLS file. Click the option “convert” to change the format of the XLS file to XML.

Both types cater to different kinds of users. The audience or type or editors for both types are non-identical to each other. Knowledge about both types helps users to distinguish file formats and languages.

The usage and complexity of both types are contrasting to each other.


  1. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/5514740/
  2. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/1395754/
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