Articles on: FAQ & Troubleshooting

CSV Import - Troubleshooting

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Common problems with creating .csv files

Despite being a simple and common file type, there are some common problems ReachOut.AI users run into while trying to create .csv files.

Using semicolons instead of commas

Some computers will generate .csv files where values are separated by semicolons (;) instead of commas (,). However, ReachOut.AI expects true comma-separated data when uploading into the platform using commas. For example, if you upload a .csv file that uses semicolons into a campaign, you might see **"Please add email parameter"** error message or even a blank screen.

If you work with a Mac (pmdx files) or non-English script, or a Latin alphabet that uses special characters, storing such text in .csv file format might lead to problems getting the file accepted by ReachOut.AI. Either the whole text, or just the special characters will be swapped out for symbols or other characters. This has to do with character encoding. While English characters are supported by older, less flexible encoding standards like ASCII, the broader variety of scripts in use are supported by more modern standards, like UTF-8 which the ReachOut.AI platform prefers.

Troubleshooting .csv generation

The first step with troubleshooting .csv file problems is looking at the CSV data in its raw form. We recommend that you open your .csv file in a text editor like Notepad on Windows, or TextEdit on MacOS. While not easily readable when not split across columns and rows, you should be able to identify which separator was used, and whether a character encoding problem exists in the .csv file.

If either problem exists, we suggest you start from the beginning with generating your .csv file. 

How to generate CSV data correctly.

See below for software-specific advice about generating .csv files, but note that your computer's default settings may have an overriding effect on the delimiter that's used.

Your computer's default settings

Depending on the software you use, and your computer's language and locale settings, .csv files may be generated using semicolons as the delimiter, instead of commas. So, the first thing you'll want to do if you're generating .csv files using desktop software is check your computer's system defaults.

On Windows 10, do as follows:

Go to Control Panel > Time & Language
In the sidebar, select Region
Under Related settings on the right, click on Additional date, time & regional settings > Change date, time or number formats (below Region).
Finally, click on Additional settings, change the List Separator to comma, and make sure your Decimal Symbol is something other than a comma, such as a period.

On MacOS, do as follows: 

Go to System Preferences > Language & Region
Click on Advanced… > General
For Number separators, enter a comma for Grouping (we suggest a period for Decimal)

With your computer's default settings correctly configured, you'll need to focus on settings specific to your software. 

Google Sheets

Google's browser-based spreadsheet software, Google Sheets is probably the easiest and most reliable way to generate compliant .csv files. If you use Google Sheets, the above system default settings are irrelevant, as the locale settings that are relevant are your browser's. However, no matter your locale, Google Sheets should always generate true comma-separated value data and correctly encode special characters in UTF-8 format.

To download a Google Sheets spreadsheet in .csv format, go to File > Download > Comma separated values.

Microsoft Excel

The desktop version of Excel is governed by the system defaults discussed above on both Windows and MacOS, but you'll also need to select the right option when generating .csv files (as above).  

In Microsoft Excel 2016 or higher, go to File > Save as…, and in the File format dropdown menu, pick CSV UTF-8. If you do this after having set the system delimiter, you should get a correctly formatted .csv file.

If you are using an older Microsoft Office version, go to File > Save as…, and in the File format dropdown menu, pick CSV. Then, you should either 1) open the CSV file in a Text editor, like Notepad, and save it with the correct encoding (in the Save As dialog, click the Encoding drop down and select the “UTF-8” option), or 2) use SurveyCTO Desktop to re-encode your CSV file to UTF-8 as above. 

For help exporting CSV the right way, please follow these steps:


For a free desktop alternative to Excel, you could try LibreOffice. In LibreOffice's Calc application, go to File > Save as, and pick the "Text CSV" File type option.


If you are working on a dataset in Stata that will be your pre-loaded data for a form, you can use the command export delimited to save your dataset in CSV format. This command contains options that allow you to encode your CSV file correctly (option encoding()), or specify the delimiter (option delimiters()groupseparator() and decimalseparator()), if needed. Type help export delimited for more details.

Other software

If you happen to use another software package not listed here, we suggest that you Google how to generate .csv files with that software. It is likely to be a common query.

**"I just get a blank screen"**

If you try to upload a CSV file and you get a blank screen when you click "Import contacts", please send us your file at so we can replicate the issue.

Updated on: 04/01/2023

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