How to Save as .xls by Default in Excel: Step-by-Step Guide

Want to save your Excel files as .xls by default but not sure how? Don’t worry, it’s a piece of cake! All you have to do is adjust a few settings in Excel, and voila, every new workbook you create will automatically save in the classic .xls format. Give me just a minute of your time and I’ll show you exactly how to do it.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Save as .xls By Default in Excel

Before we dive into the steps, let’s quickly talk about what we’re doing here. By changing these settings, you’re telling Excel to use the .xls format whenever you hit ‘Save’ on a new workbook. This is super handy if you’re sharing files with folks who use older versions of Excel or if you just prefer the old-school format.

Step 1: Open Excel Options

First things first, open up Excel and click on ‘File’ in the top left corner, then scroll down and click on ‘Options.’

When you’re in the Excel Options menu, you’re in the control center for all the behind-the-scenes settings that make Excel work just the way you want it to.

Step 2: Go to the Save Category

In the Excel Options menu, look to the left and you’ll find a bunch of categories. Click on the one that says ‘Save.’

This is where you can fiddle with all the settings related to saving your workbooks, including the default format you want to save them in.

Step 3: Choose Excel 97-2003 Workbook from the Save Files in this Format Dropdown Menu

Now, here’s the magic moment. On the Save options page, you’ll see a dropdown menu labeled ‘Save files in this format.’ Click on it and select ‘Excel 97-2003 Workbook (*.xls).’

By picking ‘Excel 97-2003 Workbook,’ you’re telling Excel to kick it old school and use the .xls format by default.

Step 4: Click OK

All done with the settings? Great! Just click ‘OK’ to confirm your changes and close the Excel Options menu.

Hitting ‘OK’ saves your settings, so the next time you save a new workbook, it’ll automatically be in the .xls format. Easy, right?

After you’ve completed these steps, every new workbook you create in Excel will automatically save as a .xls file by default. No more extra clicks or format changes needed—it’s all set up for you.

Tips: How to Save as .xls By Default in Excel

  • Before changing your settings, make sure you really want to use the .xls format for all your workbooks. It’s a bit older and might lack some features of the newer .xlsx format.
  • Remember that not everyone uses Excel. If you’re sharing your files, make sure the .xls format works for them too.
  • If you’re working with a really big or complex spreadsheet, the .xls format might not be the best option since it has some limitations compared to .xlsx.
  • Keep in mind that changing these settings won’t affect existing workbooks, only new ones you create after the change.
  • If you ever change your mind, just follow the steps again and choose a different default format from the dropdown menu.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will changing the default save format affect my existing Excel files?

Nope, your existing files will stay just as they are. This change only affects new workbooks that you create and save after adjusting the settings.

Can I still save files in the .xlsx format if I change the default to .xls?

Absolutely! You can always choose a different format when saving a workbook, no matter what your default is. Just use the ‘Save As’ option and pick the format you want for that specific file.

Will I lose any features if I save my workbooks as .xls by default?

The .xls format is a bit older, so it might not support some of the newer features and functions in Excel. If you’re using basic spreadsheets, you probably won’t notice a difference. But for more advanced stuff, .xlsx might be a better choice.

Is it possible to save as .xls by default on Excel for Mac?

The steps might be a bit different, but yes, you can set .xls as the default save format on Excel for Mac too. Just look for the Excel Preferences menu and find the save settings there.

Can I set different default save formats for different computers?

Sure! The default save format is a setting on your computer, so you can set it up however you like on each machine you use.


  1. Open Excel Options
  2. Go to the Save Category
  3. Choose Excel 97-2003 Workbook from the Save Files in this Format Dropdown Menu
  4. Click OK


And there you have it, folks – you’re now a pro at setting .xls as the default save format in Excel! By following these simple steps, you’re making sure that every new workbook you create caters to your needs or the compatibility requirements of whoever you’re sharing it with. Remember, while .xls is a trusty old format that’s great for compatibility with older versions of Excel, it does come with some limitations compared to the newer .xlsx format. So, think wisely about when and why you’d want to use it. If you’re ever in doubt or want to switch things up, just hop back into the settings and make the change. It’s all about giving you the control to work as efficiently as possible. And if you need to share files with folks who haven’t quite caught up to the latest tech, knowing how to save as .xls by default in Excel will save you time and headaches. Keep experimenting, keep learning, and most importantly, keep excelling in Excel!

Get Our Free Newsletter

How-to guides and tech deals

You may opt out at any time.
Read our Privacy Policy