Can Numbers ’09 (part of the iWork suite) import XML files? Specifically, the format created by Excel when exporting as "XML Spreadsheet 2003."

I can't just use Excel's native format because the files are generated for our clients by a web app.

If Numbers can't handle these files, are there any other plaintext formats that could be used? I could use csv, but I would prefer to store formatting within the exported file itself.

  • What's the resulting file format—.xml? Have you tried an import, and if so, what were the results?
    – Dori
    Oct 21 '10 at 4:47
  • The resulting format is .xls, only because I am forcing it to output like that so file associations work. As most users simply freak out with a .xml and the native viewer. Oct 21 '10 at 5:51

Numbers ’09 supports Excel native format (.xls) but it can’t convert from an Excel XML Spreadsheet. In fact, if you rename it as “xls” and try to open it (trying to fool Numbers), you’ll probably see all the XML but not the actual spreadsheet. Which is more scary than Psychosis II back in the 80s.

Your only bet is some CVS or TEXT format, which excel can even export with Macintosh format for line endings and carrier return (if I’m not mistaken).

The big drawback is that all format and binary stuff is automagically lost in translation (certain pun intended). ;)

You’ll get the data, but not the format.

Another alternative is trying to automate the Excel XML to Excel Native format, even if your webapp outputs a XML, you could try to “transform them” before anything else.

For that, I haven’t investigated but you can start with a google query like this. There seem to be some Windows solutions, maybe something you can use/try.

  • Good ideas, but I want to do something more automated for our users. Oct 22 '10 at 6:46
  • @Brendan sadly, there isn’t one that I know at the moment. Oct 22 '10 at 13:32

10 years old but as I stumbled on this post, maybe someone else will too.

The easy way is to view the XML in a browser (I used Firefox), in the Inspector (not source code) you'll find an HTML table. Choose Edit as HTML, copy the table, you can then paste that into Numbers


I ended up changing the output to native .xls format by using the PHPExcel PHP wrapper from http://phpexcel.codeplex.com. The files now open fine in both native windows Excel and iWorks Numbers '09.


PHPExcel is now available at https://github.com/PHPOffice/PHPExcel but was deprecated in 2017 and is no longer being maintained.

You should use PhpSpreadsheet instead, available at https://github.com/PHPOffice/PhpSpreadsheet.

  • Could you tell me what you did for your .xls file to open up in iWorks? Currently my document is showing xml code instead of the actual date.
    – Pavan
    Jun 23 '14 at 2:52

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