The SYLK File Format

SYLK format is an ASCII text file designed to completely represent a template in a format external to the native file format of any given product. It has a strong orientation towards MultiPlan in that the formatting commands, formula representations and row-and-column references used are MultiPlan-derived. It is, however, a program-independent interchange format, much like DIF or SDI. Because Microsoft may extend SYLK further, programs using the format should be
written to ignore records and fields they aren’t prepared to handle.

SYLK Overview

SYLK files are divided into records by carriage return/linefeed characters. Empty records are ignored. Non-empty records take the format

< RTD > < FTD > < Fields >


< RTD > is a record type descriptor
< FTD > is an optional field type descriptor
< Fields > is an optional and variable number of data items

The interpretation of the FTD depends on which RTD is used; the interpretation of the Fields often depends on which FTD is used. FTDs within a particular RTD may or may not be mutually exclusive, depending on use.

An RTD may be up to two letters long. By convention, all RTDs are capitalized. The FTD takes the form of a semicolon followed by a single letter: ;< letter >. The FTDs ;U, ;V, ;W, ;X, ;Y and ;Z are the same for all records. Others vary. Fields may not contain carriage return or linefeed characters. Any field containing the reserved semicolon
character must have two of them, as is the practice in some programming languages.

In entries labeled as (diff), the last prior field values will be substituted if the field value of the current entry is empty. For example, if formatting commands are given for
different cells in a given row, only the column number needs to be supplied. The row number will be assumed to be the last prior given field value.

The FTDs ;X and ;Y determine the column and row coordinates, respectively. The spreadsheet origin is 1,1.

SYLK Record Type Descriptors (RTD)
In the descriptions that follow, items enclosed in angle brackets ( < > ) signify fields; the character [S] signifies an ASCII space character (20h).

RTD ID First record in SYLK file
FTD ;P < name >
< name > is the name of the program that produced the file.

RTD F Formatting of entire template or cell
There are seven possi ble FTDs to consider:
(1) ;X ;Y
(diff) cell coordinates
(2) ;F < cl > [S] < n > [S] < c2 >
(diff) cell formatting properties
< cl > is one of the following 1-character format-
ting codes:
D default
C continuous cross-cell display
E scientific exponentiation
F fixed decimal point
G general format
$ leading$and2decimal points
* bar graph, one asterisk per unit
(5 would be *****)
< n > is the number of digits.
<c2 > is one of the following 1-character align-
ment codes:
D default
C center
G general(textleft, numbersright)
L leftjustify
R right justify
(3) ;R ;c
iF properties applied to an entire row or column
(4) ;D < cl > [S] < n > [S] < c2 > [S] < n3 >
default format defined as in ;F. ;D codes cannot be used.
< n3 > is the default column width

if present, commas are set
if present, the formula format option is set

(7);W< n1 > [S] < n2 > [S] < n3 >
defines the widths of a group of columns:
< n1 > is the first column
< n2 > is the last column
< n3 > is the width of columns in number of char-

RTD B Defines the boundaries of the rows and columns. Appears
near the beginning of a SYLK file.
row and column numbers

RTD C Supplies the numerical or text value of a cell, the formula it
contains, whether it is protected, and other properties.
There are eight possi ble FTDs to consider:

FTD (1) ;X ;Y
(diff) cell coordinates
Value of the cell, either numerical or textual, follows.
Text values must be in double quotes. Logical
values “TRUE” and “FALSE” must also be quoted.
An ERROR value is preceded by #.
if present, cell is locked (protected)
(4) ;E < expr >
MultiPlan formula (expression) follows
(5) ;R ;C
(diff) see ;S, below
expression for this cell is given by another
coordinate, where X = C and Y = R. The field
contents are decimal coordinates. ;E cannot appear
in the same set of FTDs with ;S. The cell at ;R ;C
must be marked with either a ;D or a ;G.
;E expression is shared with another cell
;K value is shared with another cell. ;E does not

RTD NN Defines a MultiPlan name as a union of rectangular
spreadsheet areas, expressed as absolh(te references.
There are two possible FTDs to consider:

FTD (1) ;N < name >
name of the area
(2) ;E < expr >
expression describing the area

RTD NE Defines a link to another (inactive) spreadsheet
There are three possible FTDs to consider:

FTD (1) ;F < name >
filename of the source sheet
description of the source area (name of the cell
expression describing the area

RTD NV External filename substitution
There are two possible FTDs to consider:

FTD (1);L

filename to be used instead

RTD W MultiPlan window structure
Before trying to set up a window structure from scratch, Microsoft
recommends dumping an available window structure to see how it is

FTD (1) ;N
window number

(2) ;A y x
coordinates of current cell as shown in upper left
corner of window cited in ;N

(3) ;B
bordered flag

(4) ;ST cy cx
split window with title. cx is cursor position in new
window. cy is number of screen lines in new

(5) ;SH 1cy
split window horizontal. cx is cursor position in new
window. cy is number of screen lines in new
window. 1 = L if windows are linked or scrolling.

(6) ;SV 1cx
split window vertical. cx is cursor position in new
window. cy is number of screen lines in new
window. 1 = L if windows are linked or scrolling.

RTD E End of SYLK file.

Organization of a SYLK File

1. ID must be the first record.
2. The B RTD should be used for MultiPlan input, although it is not required.
3. For MultiPlan ;C records: ;D or ;G must appear before another C record that refers to it (with ;S, ;R, ;C)
4. Name definition should precede name use for efficiency, although not required.
5. Window splits and window properties must be in strict logical order.
6. NU records must precede NE records.
7. E must be the last record.

3 thoughts on “The SYLK File Format

  1. Hi,
    Is it possible to give name to the downloaded file and/or change extension in SYLK format.
    would like to change the .xls to .xlsx format ?


  2. It is perfect time to make a few plans for the future and it’s time to be happy. I’ve read this publish and if I could I want to suggest you few attention-grabbing issues or suggestions. Maybe you could write subsequent articles referring to this article. I desire to read more issues approximately it!

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