Making UTF-8 CSV for Excel

Sometimes you need to export a table to the Excel and other spreadsheets. CSV file saved in UTF-8 seems to be sufficiently universal format.

But there is problem with non-ASCII characters in Excel. Excel default encoding depends on the system. The workaround is to put three magical bytes to the file beginning. They are called BOM (Byte order mark) and say to the editor that file is encoded as UTF-8.

Code for the report of the assets of your company:

header('Pragma: public');
header('Expires: 0');
header('Cache-Control: must-revalidate, post-check=0, pre-check=0');
header('Content-Description: File Transfer');
header('Content-Type: text/csv');
header('Content-Disposition: attachment; filename=export.csv;');
header('Content-Transfer-Encoding: binary'); 

//open file pointer to standard output
$fp = fopen('php://output', 'w');

//add BOM to fix UTF-8 in Excel
fputs($fp, $bom =( chr(0xEF) . chr(0xBB) . chr(0xBF) ));
if ($fp)
  fputcsv($fp, array("Cars", "Planes", "Ships"), ";");
  fputcsv($fp, array("12", "2", "6"), ";");
  fputcsv($fp, array("23", "3", "5"), ";");
  fputcsv($fp, array("31", "5", "8"), ";");


Edit 2017-11-30: BOM does not work in older versions of Excel 2007. Try to update Excel in case of problems.

Vladislav Skoumal


Author picture

Thanks Vlad, just what I was looking for all evening šŸ™‚

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