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3 best CSV and Excel alternatives for Jira issue export

It created some serious revolt when in Jira 7.2 Atlassian decided to remove the built-in Excel export option from Jira, due to a Microsoft Excel security patch. It was called "Excel", but it was also a bit misleading, as that produced an HTML file with an XLS file extension. It simply relied on Microsoft Excel's ability to parse HTML tables and turn them into Excel spreadsheets.

After many users told Atlassian how severely it impaired their ability to build reports from Jira, they had no choice, but to reinstate the export option, with one caveat: the exported file no longer has the deceptive .xls extension but comes out as .html.

Atlassian has been and continues to be very busy building, delivering and researching new features that would create the most value for end-users. Enabling users to export data out of Jira just isn’t one of these, although, in reality, Jira users work with many other tools in their jobs, so this request couldn’t be ignored.

Here we explore the best Excel exporting and reporting options, that are easy to use for non-technical professionals as well. (It means this time we leave out exporting using the Java or REST APIs or configuring property files and such tech wizardry.)

Your 3. best choice: CSV export

The .csv file format is a popular choice for a number of reasons:

  1. It is quick and easy to generate and results in a small file size.
  2. It can be post-processed (e.g. replacing values) with any plain text editor.
  3. It is the "lingua franca" for the exchange of unstructured data: many tools can import CSV data, so it’s often used to migrate information from Jira to another system for further processing.

It’s also used as input for data analysis in Excel, but it comes with drawbacks: in CSV, there is no distinction between text, numeric values or dates. This means that Excel won’t be able to make calculations or draw charts from that data. It makes you lose the very advantages that make Excel a powerful analytics tool. You would need to post-process your data in Excel and re-adjust the type of cells so you can build your reports.

It’s all text, making it hard to process and use Excel’s rich analytics features

CSV could fit your needs, if:

  • You only need to export text data most of the time.
  • You are okay to spend time editing the exported data for further usage
  • You only use this infrequently.

If your goal is to produce repeatable reports from Jira data, CSV export doesn’t seem like a practical way to go.

Your 2. best choice: HTML export

After Atlassian realized that the #1 reason to export issues from Jira is to perform data analysis (usually in Excel), they brought back the old HTML export option as a last resort. It’s one step closer to a spreadsheet, but it’s still not one.

Its biggest drawbacks are:

  • The exported Jira fields still don’t have the correct data types: numbers and dates are recognized as text.
  • You can also forget making calculations, process dates or visualize your Jira data on charts. That’s impossible without major manual labor
  • HTML is also a plain text format. So, if you are using non-Latin characters, encoding can be a problem.

Starting to look like a spreadsheet, but still not the real thing, as everything is still text

In summary, the built-in HTML export is one step closer to get an output that looks like a spreadsheet. It makes it inefficient to use or completely takes away all the power that Excel has.

And, if you are opening this HTML file in Excel, chances are you want a proper report, not a digital notebook with cells to write numbers into by hand. Neither HTML nor CSV are reports, so making sense of your exported data would take your manual work to turn a data dump into meaningful reports.

Your best choice: an established Jira app built for Excel use cases

Don’t lower your expectations and accept only native Excel spreadsheets as your Jira Excel export output. Better Excel Exporter for Jira is among the highest rated Jira apps and it was built from the ground up with Excel features and use cases in mind.

As the output files are all native Excel files, your exported data is represented in Excel with the correct data types, so dates are dates, numbers are numbers and text is text. It makes your exported data ready for further analysis in Excel.

It also saves you time with templates that predefine blank charts or pivot tables for you, so when you export your Jira data, charts and tables fill up with actual data and come alive. With the Excel output you receive from Better Excel Exporter, you can:

  • Use Excel functions and formulas.
  • Use any language as the characters display correctly.
  • Export issue metadata like comments, change history, worklogs or issue transitions.
  • Use Groovy scripting and build your own logic for Excel exports.
  • Use Visual Basic to implement your custom logic inside the exported spreadsheets.
  • Open your spreadsheet in any other application like Google Sheets, Apple Numbers, LibreOffice and more

Better Excel Exporter gives you a native Excel spreadsheet from Jira, ready to further number crunching

Better Excel Exporter comes with templates for the most typical use cases, so you don’t have to configure anything to give it a try. But it also comes with report templates, that allows you to take your Jira issues and create a visually compelling pivot chart like this, without much Excel knowledge:

Create Excel reports from Jira instantly

If you are an advanced user, then you can take advantage of the real flexibility of Better Excel Exporter by running your own Groovy script to implement your own logic. Scripting also provides many options to bring in data to Excel from external sources, like databases, APIs or third-party Jira apps, like Tempo Timesheets, nFeed, Insight or Zephyr.

+1: Automation, an added benefit

Automation is something that you will find really powerful if your goal is to create Excel reports frequently and distribute them to the right stakeholders. Like a project status report that needs to be emailed to the department manager or a support agent activity report that needs to be filed every month. The free Better Excel Automation for Jira app provides you the automation framework that will take these repetitive tasks off your shoulders.

You can set up automation rules to create your Excel exports or reports periodically and take action: save them to your file system, attach Excel spreadsheets to an issue or email your Excel report directly to your colleagues or partners.

Use what’s best for you!

Now you have an understanding of your basic choices and options when it comes to exporting Jira data to Excel. While there are a few ways to go, if your goal is to analyze your exported data in Excel or build native Excel reports, Better Excel Exporter is the most advanced tool to do it. There is only one thing left to do: go ahead and try it yourself!

Start creating real Excel reports from Jira!


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