XL2000: Tips for Importing Lotus 1-2-3 Files into Microsoft Excel

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This article contains information about potential issues that you may encounter when you import Lotus 1-2-3 files into Microsoft Excel.

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Opening 1-2-3 Files

Excel can directly open Lotus 1-2-3 files up to version 5.0 (the .wk4 file format).


When you open a Lotus 1-2-3 worksheet or workbook, Microsoft Excel applies the formatting stored in any associated .fmt, .fm3, or .all files. Be sure that the associated formatting file is stored in the same folder as the .wk? file. If you resave a Lotus 1-2-3 file in the Microsoft Excel (.xls) format, Microsoft Excel saves the spreadsheet data and formatting in a single workbook file.

NOTE: Lotus 1-2-3 .wk4 files do not have an associated formatting file.


In Lotus 1-2-3, versions 3.x and later, you can create a graph on a chart sheet or create the chart as an object on the worksheet. In Lotus 1-2-3, version 2.x, if you use the WYSIWYG add-in, you can place a graph on a worksheet.

Because Microsoft Excel can read Impress (.fm3) files and Allways (.all) formatting files, you can import a Lotus 1-2-3 worksheet that contains a chart on the worksheet. The chart appears on the worksheet as it does in Lotus 1-2-3.


The Database, Criteria, and Extract defined ranges are successfully imported and function properly. However, database criteria ranges are evaluated differently when you extract data, find data, and use database functions. For example, a criteria of "John" finds only rows with cells that contain "John." If you clear the Transition Formula Evaluation check box (click Options on the Tools menu and click the Transition tab), a criteria of "John" finds rows that contain cells with values beginning with "John." For example, cells that contain "John," "Johnson," and "Johnsen" are found.


Whenever you open a Lotus 1-2-3 file, the Transition Formula Entry check box is selected. When this feature is selected, Microsoft Excel converts formulas that are entered with Lotus 1-2-3 syntax to Microsoft Excel syntax and makes names defined in Microsoft Excel behave as defined names do in Lotus 1-2-3.

Microsoft Excel calculates formulas differently from Lotus 1-2-3. When a cell that contains text is used in a formula, Lotus 1-2-3 assigns a value of 0 (zero) to the cell. In Microsoft Excel, you cannot combine text and numeric entries in the same formula. However, when you use a worksheet function in Microsoft Excel, a value of 0 is assigned to cells that contain text. For example, if you clear the Transition Formula Evaluation check box, and you type text in cell A1 and the value 100 in cell B1, the formula =A1+B1 returns the #VALUE! error value. However, the worksheet formula =SUM(A1,B1) returns the value 100.

Lotus 1-2-3 evaluates Boolean expressions to 0 or 1 and displays 0 or 1 in the cell. For example, in Lotus 1-2-3, the expression 2<3 displays 1 in the cell to represent True; Microsoft Excel displays True or False in the cell. If you select the Transition Formula Evaluation check box, Microsoft Excel displays 0 for False and 1 for True.

Some functions, including @MOD, @VLOOKUP, and @HLOOKUP, are evaluated differently. For example, the @VLOOKUP function in Lotus 1-2-3 searches for an exact match in the first column; the VLOOKUP worksheet function in Microsoft Excel assumes the first column is sorted and finds the closest value in the first column that does not exceed the lookup value. The VLOOKUP and HLOOKUP worksheet functions in Microsoft Excel include a fourth argument, range_lookup. If you set this argument to False, Microsoft Excel searches for an exact match.

To cause Microsoft Excel to calculate formulas as Lotus 1-2-3 does, follow these steps:
  1. On the Tools menu, click Options. Click the Transition tab.
  2. Click to select the Transition Formula Evaluation check box, and click OK.

Calculation Order

Mathematical Order of Precedence Differences:

The following table compares the mathematical operators used by Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3.
                     Lotus                 Microsoft
   Operator          1-2-3      Precedence   Excel      Precedence

   Exponentiation    ^             1st        ^            2nd

   Positive and      + and -       2nd        + and -      1st

   Multiplication    * and /       3rd        * and /      3rd
   and division

   Addition and      + and -       4th        + and -      4th

   Comparison        = < >         5th        = < >        5th
                     <= >=                    <= >=

   Logical NOT       #not#         6th        NOT()        6th

   Logical AND       #and# and     7th        AND() and    7th
   and OR            #or#                     OR()

   String            &             7th        &            7th
NOTE: Lotus 1-2-3 evaluates the exponentiation operator (^) before the negation operator (-). Microsoft Excel evaluates the negation operator first. For example, in Lotus 1-2-3, the formula =-2^4 returns the value -16, but returns 16 in Microsoft Excel. To correct this difference, use parentheses to change the order of evaluation; for example, use =-(2^4) to produce -16.


In Microsoft Excel, when you open a Lotus 1-2-3 .wk4 file that contains a link to another file, the cells may be updated with a #REF! error value. To update an external link in a Lotus 1-2-3 .wk4 file, follow these steps:
  1. In Microsoft Excel, click Links on the Edit menu.
  2. In the Links dialog box, select the link that you want to update. Click Update Now.

    NOTE: If you want to open the source document, click Open. This also updates the external link.
To avoid this behavior, save the file in the Microsoft Excel workbook format.


Microsoft Excel 2000 does not run Lotus 1-2-3 macros. You can rewrite any macros that you need in Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications. For information about writing Excel macro code, see Visual Basic Help.


Article ID: 179841 - Last Review: October 25, 2013 - Revision: 4.0
Applies to
  • Microsoft Excel 2000 Standard Edition
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