Introducing Common Data Storage Formats: Excel, CSV, JSON, XML

By ComPDFKit | 2023 Dec 01
Tech Popularization Data Extraction

In the modern digital age, data is refined to drive innovation, streamline operations, and support decision-making processes. However, after data is extracted and before it can be loaded into a database or data warehouse, it needs to be transformed into a usable data storage format.


In this article, we'll discuss four commonly used data storage formats utilized by developers: Excel, CSV, JSON, and XML. We will outline the advantages and disadvantages of each format and highlight which scenarios they are best suited for.





Excel file is a common spreadsheet file format that is widely used in office and data processing. It organizes and stores data through intersections of rows and columns, and supports features such as formulas, icons, and formatting options that provide powerful data analysis and manipulation capabilities. The saved file extension is “ .xls ”  or “ .xlsx ”.


Excel Example



        - High degree of visualization: Excel supports the generation of charts and images, convenient data visualization, and data display.

        - Simple to operate: You can store text, data, and other content directly in the spreadsheet. Through mathematical functions, pivot tables, and other data analysis tools, you can process and analyze data efficiently.

        - Easy to learn:  Requires no technical expertise, making it an ideal tool to start quickly.



        - Limited storage: When data reaches a certain volume, reading efficiency decreases, making it unsuitable for storing large amounts of data.

        - Memory consuming: Excel consumes more memory when importing data

        - Application dependency: Requires specific software (Excel or other compatible software) to view and edit data.


Applicable Scenarios:

Suitable for use by the general public and easy for end users to store, analyze, and process data. For example, Excel is suitable for recording personal or family income and expenditure and making various financial analyses, such as budgeting, bill tracking, investment planning, etc. It’s also convenient for users to make work plans, reports and presentations, etc.





CSV, which stands for Comma-Separated Values, is a file format used to store table data in plain text. By default, the text is separated by commas and given a “ .csv ” file extension. CSV essentially represents a structured table based on rows of plain text, which means that a row in the file corresponds to a row in the table. Typically, a CSV file contains a header row with the names of the columns of data, and without a header row, the CSV file is considered to be a semi-structured format.


CSV Example



        - Easy to use: CSV tables are a straightforward and efficient text format that can be easily opened and edited with any text editor. Compared to Excel files, it is more concise and very easy to save data.

        - Good compatibility: CSV format is widely supported and can be used in various software and platforms.

        - Storage efficiency: CSV can be more storage space efficient than databases when dealing with large amounts of simple data. Specifically, the CSV format is approximately half the size of XML and JSON formats, which can aid in reducing bandwidth.



        - Less generalizable: A homegrown parser is necessary to convert CSV data to native structures. Any changes in the data structure will result in overhead, including the need to modify or completely redesign the parser.

        - Limited functionality: CSV lacks support for complex queries and analysis operations.

        - Data Integrity: CSV lacks a built-in data integrity checking mechanism, thus requiring the user to ensure that the data is accurate.

        - Security: Since CSV lacks built-in access control and encryption mechanisms, its data security is inadequate.


Applicable scenarios:

CSV is generally used to store tabular data, such as spreadsheets or databases. Typically, you can use CSV files to import or export important data to or from a database, such as customer or order information. In addition, you can open CSV files in a variety of spreadsheet tools, including Microsoft Excel and Google Spreadsheets. In general, the CSV format is more suitable for end-users to view tabular information.





JSON (JavaScript Object Notation, JS Object Simplification) is a lightweight text data exchange format, save the file extension .json. It is completely independent of the programming language text format to store and represent the data to key/value pairs to the data part of the structured format. The hierarchical structure of JSON is very simple and clear, easy for people to read and write, but also easy for machines to parse and generate, effectively improving the efficiency of network transmission.


JSON Example



        - Simple and easy to read: the data format is relatively simple, easy to read and write, and can be easily viewed, edited, and debugged through a text editor or browser plug-in.

        - Fast processing speed: JSON uses lightweight text and requires less coding; the format is compressed, requiring less bandwidth and faster processing.

        - Easy to parse: JSON data can be parsed using a variety of programming languages, support for mainstream programming languages, such as JavaScript, Java, Python, C#, etc., so the JSON data format has good cross-platform and scalability.

        - Structured data: JSON data is a structured data format with good scalability and compatibility that can be easily extended, updated, maintained, and reused.

        - Cross-domain feasibility: JSON supports cross-domain requests, enabling secure data transfer between different domains.



        - Not suitable for transferring large files: JSON is a text-based format that requires more bandwidth and time to transfer large files.

        - Lack of standards: Although JSON is a very popular format for data exchange, there are no official standards or specifications, so there may be variability between implementations.

        - Security: The JSON format supports cross-domain requests, but if cross-domain requests are not handled properly, it can lead to security issues.


Applicable scenarios: 

Due to its readability, compactness, fast processing speed, and versatility, the JSON data structure has a broad range of applications in web applications, configuration files, data exchange, and data storage. Compared to Excel and CSV, JSON is more suitable for developers to integrate into systems for data processing.





XML is an Extensible Markup Language with a “ .csv ” extension. XML is a simplified modification of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), which was designed to transfer and store data, not display it. It was created to better represent a hierarchical data format. XML files use special tags to specify objects and the data they contain.


XML Example



        - The format is standards-based and consistent.

        - Flexible data presentation: Data in XML format can be modified at any time without affecting the way the data is displayed.

        - Simplified data sharing: It is easy and convenient to transfer data and interact with other systems remotely.



        - Poor readability: XML documents are less readable than other text-based data formats.

        - Data redundancy: XML is longer and more repetitive than other text-based data formats like JSON.

        - Storage costs: Redundancy increases storage and transmission costs, especially for large data sets, and reduces data efficiency. 

        - Large file sizes: The redundant nature of the data structure results in XML files that are excessively large.

        - High Maintenance Costs: Parsing the XML in both server-side and client-side code requires a significant amount of code, making it complex and difficult to maintain. This results in more resources and time needed.


Applicable scenarios: 

XML is widely used in various areas such as Web development, data storage, configuration files, and data exchange formats, supporting both online and offline data storage. It provides a flexible and extensible format for representing structured data that humans and machines can quickly process and interpret. Compared to Excel and CSV, XML is more suitable for developers to integrate into systems for data processing.





This article introduces 4 data storage formats that developers commonly use, including Excel, CSV, JSON, and XML.  By listing the pros and cons of each format and identifying applicable scenarios, you can choose the most appropriate data storage format for your project.


In addition, ComPDFKit supports PDF conversion, allowing you to convert PDF to/from Excel, CSV, HTML, Word, PPT, and other formats. We also support PDF data extraction and export as JSON and XML files. Developers can integrate all these PDF functionalities into their applications and systems. If you’re interested, please feel free to contact us for a free trial.