Excel logo Excel 2007 has become a reality and we all have to deal with it. If you use it, I sympathize, it was probably installed on the machine for you by your hardware manufacturer or IT department. Regardless of how it got there, you need to deal with the policies implemented in it by Microsoft. One of the most troublesome for GoldMine users is the fact that Excel 2007 is no longer able to open or save a .DBF (dBase) file.

Given the widespread popularity of the dBase format, I question the wisdom of Microsoft’s decision here. Questionable or not, GoldMine users still have to find a way to take data provided by 3rd parties and create operable dBase files out of it in order to import it into GoldMine. What tool should we use? Some random tool found via Google? I think not.

OpenOffice 2.2 stands at the ready with solid abilities in the spreadsheet and basic database format arena. The Calc module (the OpenOffice equivalent of Excel) will not be losing the ability to parse various formats any time soon — quite the contrary, you can expect to see it become more and more flexible as time passes. All it takes is some programmer type to make it his or her pet project to add compatibility for format X to the OpenOffice project and, presto, OpenOffice is able to deal with that file type. That’s the beauty of Open Source projects.

I know, I know, listening to some open source advocates prattle on can approach the pitch of a certain recently deceased religious zealot. The overly-excitable folks aside, the beauty of the open source concept just can’t be beat: No sales-driven decisions and a potential development and QA community of 7 billion people — Redmond can’t touch that.

  1. Hey, Gyula, is your add-in no-longer free? I don’t begrudge you the $$$, just wondering, for clarity’s sake, since people still refer to this post once in a while. 😉

    **thanks for editing for clarification. 🙂

  2. XLSX2DBF is an Excel 2007 add-in that helps convert and/or save a native DBF file that was edited with Excel 2007.

    Two common scenarios are supported:

    A) Open a native DBF file in Excel 2007 – Make changes – Save as a native DBF file with the changes.

    B) Open/create an Excel file that looks like a database (headers/columns/rows) – Save as a native DBF file.

    The add-in is free, but donations are appreciated.



  3. Thanks, but please take note that the post title states that Excel 2007 cannot SAVE AS a .DBF. The ability to OPEN one is relatively immaterial to a GoldMine user’s day-to-day operation.

    If you know of a way to have Excel SAVE AS a .DBF, please share it with us.

    In the mean time, if you’re a GoldMine user and would like to perform document merges with OpenOffice, DDE is usable via my link here: http://www.castellcomputers.com/?p=53

    For more detailed info on using DDE with OpenOffice, check out this article: http://www.castellcomputers.com/?p=26

  4. Some corrections for your blog.

    Office 2007 can open DBF files just fine. However, for Australian and British users, it gets confused about the date column (assuming valid dates must conform to the MM/DD/YY format) and most date columns therefore become unusable.

    Microsoft Office also continues to support the old but reliable DDE format for data transfer between applications. Something OpenOffice can’t do.

    Will Nitschke

  5. Thanks for your input, Anthony.

    I stand by the article. Microsoft Office does not need to be uninstalled to use OpenOffice. The GoldMine link(s) to MS Office can continue to be used with OpenOffice installed. The two suites can peacefully co-exist on a single machine providing users with ALL the tools they need to accomplish their work.

    So, YES, I do encourage people to download OpenOffice to facilitate the DBF import procedures they’ve been doing for years but are now suddenly unable to accomplish on their new MS Office 2007-having laptop.

    Suggesting they see about using a delimited ASCII file is, frankly, ridiculous.

    Delimited ASCII files are an ancient format that often results in garbled data, especially when you have more than a handful of records to import. Invariably, there’s a TAB or a comma or a quote — or whatever — in the wrong place in a percentage of the records leaving you to scroll around manually tweaking the data for what can become hours. And if that’s not what bites you, you hit a line width limit — or any number of other problems…

    By the way, please try to keep your comments civil.

  6. So you want users to waste hours of time downloading/installing/configuring/learning a new program that doesn’t even have any officially-supported, publically available link to GoldMine just so they can export obsolete dbase files? Wow. That truly is a non-sensical geek-based solution.

    Think for half a second then just export as tab-separated files (a close cousin to the CSV format). Just paste in the tab character (that you typed into notepad or whatever) into the separator field during ASCII import wizard.

    I prefer TSV files over CSVs only b/c user data rarely ever contains tabs.

  7. It sure DOES save as dBase files. In fact, you don’t have to screw around with some of the little work-arounds you need to deal with in Excel. For instance, in Excel, if a column’s width is not pulled out to a little more than auto-width, your data may get truncated when you save the sheet as a .DBF. This doesn’t happen with OpenOffice. And Openoffice prompts you to specify your character set upon save of a .DBF file. This is quite important to those in Eastern Europe, for instance.

    As a final note, let me stress that I’m not advocating switching from Excel to OpenOffice’s Calc. You can (as I do!) happily have both installed and use the best tool for whatever task is at hand. It’s a win-win situation, as I see it.

  8. You didn’t say if OpenOffice supports dBase files or not. If it doesn’t, then I’m not sure why you would advocating switching to a product that doesn’t support it either. GM is the only product I know of that uses dBase. Even new versions of GM don’t use dBase anymore. Anyway, I’m not surprised the support for .DBF is gone.

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