Default settings for opening csv files

Whenever I try to open a csv file, a text import dialogue pops up and asks me which delimitator to use for opening this csv file. This is very counter productive when you are opening csv files hundred times a day and going through this extra window. I think there should be a setting to disable/suppress this with my default settings.
I know this topic has been discussed here before and answers were not that satisfying (devs say simply we are not going to do it), but I wanted to bring the discussion back again. There is a need for it.

Collect all csv files with the same import parameters in one dedicated directory.
menu:File>New>Database…
[X] Connect to existing database
Type: Text
Specify the directory and import parameters once.
[X] Register the database, so you can use its data in Writer and Calc.
Save the database document.
Have a look at the tables. Each csv file is represented by a table. The data are still in the connected csv directory. The database document does not contain any data.
With simple queries you can add sorted and filtered views on single tables. You can access any subset of columns and rows in any order of columns and rows.

If you need any table or queried subset of a table in Calc: Get the data source window and drag the table or query icon onto a Calc cell. This creates a linked database range.
More details and example documents: [Example] Loading CSV into preformatted spreadsheets (View topic) • Apache OpenOffice Community Forum

Thanks. But I don’t think that would solve any of the issues, since I cannot gather all the csv files into one directory. I don’t even have control over where they are located. I need to open and visually validate almost a hundred csv files regularly, each coming from different sources, sometimes not even in the same machine.

I have not tested this with csv-files (but for sqlite-connections and did similiar for mail-merging with spreadsheet-data):
Use a single registered Database mycsv.
It should be possible to change the location where the the database is reading data simply in the properties of the database.
But I guess a macro to open with default settings will save more clics…

Nother solution:
Sheet > Insert Sheet from File… with “Link” option.

You can open the CSV files by the macro. Open one your CSV file manually and then run the macro InspectDocArgs → and copy the string from FilterOptions to the macro openCSV (line: args(1).Value=…). Then you can open the CSV files with the macro openCSV (and you can also set the variable sInitDir to your default directory).

    Sub InspectDocArgs 'from A. Pitonyak's book - AndrewBase.pdf
    	'open your CSV file manually and copy the string from FilterOptions to the macro openCSV -> line: args(1).Value=...
    	Dim args()
    	Dim x, i%, s$
    	args() = ThisComponent.getArgs()
    	On Error Resume Next
    	For i = LBound(args()) To UBound(args())
    		x = args(i)
    		s = s & x.Name & " : "
    		s = s & CStr(x.Value)
    		s = s & CHR$(10)
    	Next
    	MsgBox s
    End Sub

    Sub openCSV 'file-open dialog for the CSV files
    	on local error goto bug
    	dim oFileDlg as object, oFileAccess as object, oFiles as object, sInitDir$, i&, sUrl$
    	dim args(1) as new com.sun.star.beans.PropertyValue
    		'some description: https://wiki.openoffice.org/wiki/Documentation/DevGuide/Spreadsheets/Filter_Options'
    		args(0).Name="FilterName" : args(0).Value="Text - txt - csv (StarCalc)"
    		args(1).Name="FilterOptions"
    		args(1).Value="59/44,39,76,1,,0,true,true,true,false,false" 'FilterOptions from the macro InspectDocArgs
    	
    	oFileDlg=CreateUnoService("com.sun.star.ui.dialogs.FilePicker")
    	oFileDlg.AppendFilter("CSV (*.csv)", "*.csv") : oFileDlg.SetCurrentFilter("CSV (*.csv)") 'filters for the file type
    	oFileDlg.MultiSelectionMode=true 'allow multiselection
    	oFileAccess=CreateUnoService("com.sun.star.ucb.SimpleFileAccess")
    	sInitDir=CreateUnoService("com.sun.star.util.PathSettings").Work 'directory from the Tools/Options/LibreOffice/Paths -> My Documents
    	'sInitDir=convertToUrl("d:\mydir") 'or your directory
    	if oFileAccess.Exists(sInitDir) then 'set default directory to the file dialog
    		oFileDlg.SetDisplayDirectory(sInitDir)
    	end if
    	if oFileDlg.execute() then 'open the dialog
    		oFiles=oFileDlg.SelectedFiles()
    		for i=lbound(oFiles) to ubound(oFiles) 'open selected files
    			sUrl=oFiles(i) 'url for the file
    			openFile(sUrl, args() ) 'check if the file is opened and if no, then open the file
    			'StarDesktop.loadComponentFromURL(sUrl, "_blank", 0, args) 'open the file directly (without the isOpen-control)
    		next i
    	end if
    	exit sub
    bug:
    	msgbox(Error & chr(13) & Err & chr(13) & Erl, 16, "openCSV")
    End Sub

    Function openFile(sUrl$, args() ) 'open the file if the one is not open
    	on local error goto bug
    	dim oComponents as object, oComponent as object
    	oComponents=StarDesktop.Components.CreateEnumeration
    	while oComponents.hasMoreElements
    		oComponent=oComponents.NextElement
      	  	if hasUnoInterfaces(oComponent,"com.sun.star.frame.XModel") then
    			if oComponent.URL=sUrl then exit function 'file is opened
    		end If
    	wend
    	StarDesktop.loadComponentFromURL(sUrl, "_blank", 0, args) 'open the file
    	exit function
    bug:
    	msgbox(Error & chr(13) & Err & chr(13) & Erl, 16, "openFile")
    End Function

edit: basic-code-block by @karolus

I think this is beyond my skills and understanding of coding that I am not technical. I just simply wanna not to be bugged by a prompt window for such a simple task like opening a file. I don’t think this would work when files I am working are scattered around the machine. Thanks anyway.

You should give it a try. The solution is using the file picker. So you may select any file you like.
You reverse only the calling-order.

Before you selected a file in the operating-system and this called libre-office.
Here you start LibreOffice, select the macro and this will call the file-picker (usually the default on for the OS) and you select the file.

IMHO the devs are right - opening csv-files only looks easy until you know all details and is prone to alter data, where it is not expected.
Wrong defaults of Excel was one of the reasons for me to use/prefer OpenOffice long ago.

1 Like

I will give it a try or ask around.
I do agree that implementing every feature request shouldn’t be possible otherwise configuration menu would just turn into a mess.
What I disagree is fear of setting the wrong defaults, after me using Excel for many years. I will be aware that wrong defaults may cause issue, but it is a low-risk high-reward situation for me as I am very familiar with the structure of csv files as well as the data. Hence, very easy to spot if anything is odd. There can be situations that I wouldn’t wanna take the risk. In that case I will just revert back to popup window setting. Anyway, it is a long discussion, but I see your point.
I will most likely go for a lightweight third-party tool just for viewing csv files.

Wrongly imported csv files are one of the biggest sources of support requests for the Calc component. Calc is picky about numeric text values. Calc may interprete digit-only strings as integers and ISO date times because they are unambiguous. Calc will never interprete text values “1,234” or “1/2/1999” as numeric cell values because both strings may mean completely different figures on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. There are various ways to fix wrongly imported data. However, it is always preferable to import csv files correctly, i.e. with numbers being numeric cell values except ID numbers (zip code, phone, part number).

  1. Always check “Detect special numbers” (this option should not exist anyway)
  2. Choose a locale (“language” option on top of the import dialog) which interpretes numeric strings correctly.
    If “1,234” is meant to be a decimal and “1/2/1999” refers to 1st of February, choose a European locale with comma decimals such as “French(France)” or “German(Germany)”.
    If “1,234” means integer 1234 and “1/2/1999” refers to 1st of February choose “English(UK or any non-US)”.
    The language setting should describe the “cultural context” of the incoming numerals, so you don’t need to specify the import type for each column which is also possible for the exception to the rules, e.g. when you mark a numeric column of ID numbers explicitly as text.

Unfortunately, our team decided to switch back to Excel after trying LO for a while. I couldn’t convince anybody to carry on using LO as they mostly complained about this issue. We don’t really use cvs for those type of data, it is usually bunch of sensors and machines outputting similar sort of data which needs to be checked regularly, so we are not off. Our problem is having sheer number of csv files I believe.
Thanks everybody.

There are thousands of different kinds of csv files out there. I have no idea how Excel opens text files. I have not used Excel in the past 20 years. Therefore I can not suggest anything that would meet your expectations because I simply don’t know what you want. Does Excel interprete text files by means of artificial intelligence? I can’t imagine how to open csv files without asking for import options. Did you notice that Calc remembers the last applied import options, so you only need to hit the Enter key when the dialog pops up?

Today I opened every csv file I can find on our system using Excel, and checked every single column. It guessed csv settings correctly with 100% accuracy.
I believe Excel uses some sort of heuristics combined with user’s localization settings to deal with it and if it senses anything odd, just displays the popup window for adjusting settings. I am not sure but it also looks like, it remembers your settings per file basis, so subsequent views never yield the same window. Or something auto-trained behind the scene, just like how Bayesian filters work.
But I am sure if you analyze enough csv files and build a model, you will find a pattern. Maybe the problem is not that hard as we guess?

Thank you very much for the description how Excel seems to do the trick. Well, I rarely open csv with a calculator. All my csv files are opened in text editors or with the help of the Base component. From time to time here is one type of csv, which I do open with Calc. I rename the incoming file to “new_import.csv”, open a Calc document with a link to “new_import.csv” and get some calculations and chart based on this file on another sheet. Of course, this does not meet your expectations.

I very much doubt there would be any intelligence like Bayesian filters in Excel’s CSV import. But I’m pretty much convinced that one can construct files with content that will fool its import and produce results the user will not be satisfied with and is not changeable.

Anyway, good luck with it.

No, older versions of excel (2003) just did wrong imports, if german csv didn’t use a comma and completely ignored charsets.
But programmers know excels defaults and generate conforming output. Recently my exported data was denied by our banking software, after working for years. They had dropped their own described import-model abd the new manual said only import csv. No info of the details - except or a screenshot wich I recognized to be from excel. So I imported from LO to excel, checked the first utf8-export and found the accepted format.

And it is impossible without context to decide if 01-04-21 is german April first or US January 4th - the info is not in the file. (And you can’t rely on locales, as people import from websites and some Software just export american data for compatibility reasons with other dumb software.)

I guess you mostly have numeric data in format where excel defaults, so no problem with charsets and hopefully no dates, but on a general view, this is bare luck.

Maybe the problem is not that hard as we guess

?It is because csv is neither a standard nor containing the necessary information. It is s usable relict from old times, where most american programmers had never thought of anything beyond a 7-bit charset. So it is universally available, but limited and potentially dangerous. ( Good, as people like me were paid to rescue altered data… )