Excel 2013/2016 – How to change CSV delimiter character

By default when saving a CSV file in Excel, each column will be separated using a comma as the delimiter – hence the name Comma Separated Values (CSV).

This can be seen when you open the CSV file in a text editor –

There are however other formats for delimited data – for example, some systems may use a pipe character |.

The steps below will show how to make it so Excel will use the pipe character as the delimiter – unfortunately it cannot be configured from Excel and needs to be done globally from the Windows Control Panel.

In this example we’re using Windows 10 – but it should be very similar using Windows 7 or 8.

NOTE: this will make it so Excel no longer correctly displays COMMA separated lists automatically. This is something I would only do temporarily to save a file using a different delimiter.

Just want to “fix” or convert a different format ? – see Excel 2013/2016 – How to split comma separated values into columns

  1. In the start menu, search for ‘Control Panel’ and click on it when it appears in the search results
  2. Click on the ‘Clock, Language, and Region’ link – or search for it if not displayed
  3. Click on the ‘Region’ link
  4. Click on the ‘Additional settings’ button
  5. Under ‘List separator’ enter the character you want to use as a delimiter – in this case the pipe character |
  6. Click OK and OK again to save the changes.

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4 comments on “Excel 2013/2016 – How to change CSV delimiter character

  1. Open your CSV using a text editor.

    Windows: NotePad (notepad.exe)
    Mac: TextEdit (textedit.app)

    Skip a line at the top, and add sep=; if the separator used in the CSV is a semicolon (;), or sep=, if the separator is a comma (,).
    Save, and re-open the file.

  2. Didn’t work with newer version of Excel (Excel for Office 365). Maybe list separator and decimal separator are not allowed to be the same?

  3. This isn’t a very good solution. If you don’t change the delimiter character back immediately after saving your file, you will break every multi-input function in excel.

    Read here: https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/msoffice/forum/all/error-display-window-theres-a-problem-with-this/fd41b58f-de65-44a4-a086-cc829101c214

    Furthermore, you don’t even get an informative error message. I lost hours because of this—it is really hard to figure out what happened.

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