What Is a TSV File (And How Do You Open It)?


There is a massive quantity of different file types that you can encounter on your computer, each with different intended use cases, functions, and programs that are capable of opening them.


If you’ve ever stumbled upon an unfamiliar file type, then you know how difficult it can be to figure out what to do with it, especially if you’re not particularly computer savvy.

But you don’t have to be an expert to learn what a TSV file is. Learning how to open a TSV file is quick and easy, regardless of whether you’ve worked with the TSV file format before.


What Is a TSV File?

The TSV file format stands for tab-separated values. This is to say that a TSV file contains information in a series of data tables, with that data being separated by tabs.

If you’ve ever worked with Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, you might think that a series of data tables sounds a little familiar. That’s because this is effectively how these programs store your information in their own native formats.

The benefit of a TSV file is that it is more generic than dedicated file types for these programs. The TSV file type stores its information in a way that can be easily accessed by most spreadsheet programs, making it ideal for cross-software compatibility.

If you’ve ever asked yourself what a CSV file is, it’s essentially the same concept. The difference is that a CSV file uses commas to separate information, whereas the TSV file type uses tabs instead.

How to Open a TSV File

So, how do you open TSV files? It turns out that figuring out how to open a TSV file is actually quite easy.

The simplest solution is to search for any programs or apps that you already have installed which may be able to open a TSV file. Since most spreadsheet programs can open TSV files, you could always try searching for a program such as Microsoft Excel, LibreOffice, or OpenOffice.

An Image of a Woman Working on a Spreadsheet

Figuring out how to get a list of all installed programs in Windows is pretty easy, but if you can’t find any of the above programs installed on your computer, you can still try other methods.

On Mac, you can always try one of these ways to generate a list of installed apps to search for a spreadsheet program that you can use. On Windows, you can also try right-clicking your TSV file and seeing if there are any default programs that you can try.

Alternatively, you can open a TSV file with a text editor. Notepad++ is a great option, though most text editors have a good chance of being able to interpret the TSV file type relatively easily. However, you will have a harder time reading and editing the file than with a dedicated spreadsheet program.

So, if you can’t find any spreadsheet programs that might work, then Google Sheets is always a good option. Since Google Sheets only requires a Google account, almost anyone can use it entirely for free.

Google Sheets is a service designed for working with spreadsheets, which means that it will let you open a TSV file with absolutely no problems at all.

Opening TSV Files Can Be Easy

As you can see, a new file type, such as a TSV file, doesn’t have to be scary. In essence, the TSV file type is a pretty simple concept, and there are a wide variety of tools, programs, and online web services that you can access to make opening them easy.

They may not all work immediately or perfectly, but with so many easy options available, it isn’t hard to find one that’s a good fit for you.



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