CSV files are mainly used for saving and exporting databases or tables. Entire data sets can thus be displayed in a CSV file and edited afterwards. The representation can be individually designed and opened by all editors. In this way, you can export databases or tables and store them in the cloud, for example.
Machine data, data from scales or laboratory data can also be saved and provided in a CSV file. Each data record can be stored in a separate file or the data record can be added to an existing file. With the help of middleware, data records are read from a CSV file and made available for use by other systems in the correct location. A middleware can additionally store data in a CSV file and return it to the field level or other systems.
A CSV file is the solution for older machines in terms of connecting to a digital system landscape.
Another benefit of CSV files is the transfer of master data to an ERP system. Thereby master data can be imported as a CSV file and added to the system. In addition, a CSV file exports a master data table and makes it available for other systems.
The CSV file format has been around for many years and is well-established in the industry. One advantage of the data format is that large data packages can be summarized and stored via CSV. These packages can be read and edited by all common text editors. The CSV format is readable by humans and the data packages are customizable in a text editor allowing data modification. Thus, complex data packages get extracted from a database, matching data sets and then re-importing them. CSV provides the basis for this.
CSV is convincing in that it provides human and machine-readable text files for a variety of different programs and systems.
CSV has some advantages. Nevertheless, some aspects are disadvantageous about a CSV file.
Changing datasets manually
One advantage of CSV is that records can be modified directly in the CSV file. That also brings a disadvantage at the same time. Exported datasets can be changed afterwards, although a change is not allowed or intended. Thus, it is possible to manipulate important datasets retrospectively without having a proof for this.
Multi User Access
Once multiple users are in a CSV file simultaneously and edit it, the records and the data package become non-functional. There is no protection against multi-user access. Changes are therefore not applied nor are adjustments made by a third party who is simultaneously adjusting data in the file deleted.
Handling large data packages in a CSV file is also cumbersome and complicated. Important information from a complex CSV file containing much different data is challenging to find. A CSV file does not have the function of a query, such as a database. Therefore, the data sets are laborious to find, adjust or supplement, especially in the case of large amounts of data.
Over time, some alternatives to CSV have become established in the industry. Some of the most important alternatives, we have listed here.
XML stands for “Extensible Markup Language” and is a language for representing structured data in a text file. XML files are readable by humans and machines. One advantage of an XML file is that XML is easier to read. In addition, XML is less error-prone, for example, when transferring special characters in data records. CSV files can understand some special characters as separators and falsify the data set.
SQL stands for “Structured Query Language” and is a database language for defining structures in databases. SQL is used to build and manage large databases. Compared to CSV, SQL works more effectively in databases and gives users more options regarding queries or adjustments to the data sets.
Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet software from Microsoft created for building and editing spreadsheets. Also, Excel offers a possibility for queries and editing of data sets and is, therefore, more user-friendly than a CSV file.
OPC stands for “Open Platform Communications” and is an important communication standard for the industry. OPC focuses on access to machines, devices and systems at the field level (OT) and standardizes communication. That creates a manufacturer-independent data exchange.
In industry, a CSV file is often used for creating data packages on the machine. With the help of middleware, machine data can be easily and uncomplicatedly saved in a CSV file without depending on the structures or specifications of the data format. With little programming knowledge, a data package of a machine can thus be quickly set up and prepared for evaluation. Then a CSV file is imported into a database, should the structures fit the database software.