Updated: 11/13/2018 by Computer Hope

Export may refer to any of the following:

Export vs. Import

1. To export is the steps of taking data from one program or computer to another. Exporting can be used as a method of backing up important data or moving data between different versions of programs. For example, using the Microsoft Windows registry editor, you can export key values in case mistakes are made when editing that key. If errors are made, or you want to restore the previous key, you can import that data back into the registry.

Export vs. import

As illustrated above, when you export data, you are taking information from a program and writing it into a file. For example, you may export a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to a CSV file.

When you import, you are bringing in information from a file into a program. For example, you could import a CSV (comma-separated values) file you downloaded from the Internet into an Excel spreadsheet.

Examples of exporting data

There are many reasons why you may need to export data from a program. This section lists common data export scenarios.

  • Backup data in a program or database. For example, exporting your address book or e-mail from an e-mail program so that it can be restored if it's lost.
  • Moving data from one program to another. For example, when upgrading to a new version of a program or changing to a different software developer (e.g., changing browser).
  • Saving data in a program in a format that is compatible with a different program. For example, saving an Excel spreadsheet as a CSV file that can be imported into a database.
  • Saving portions of a larger set of data. For example, with a database containing millions of customers, you can export data on all users of a certain state so that mailers could be made.

Where is the export option?

The export option is on the program's file menu or the same location as the Save or the Save As option.


Not all programs have an export option. Alternatively, you can use the Save As option and save the file as a different program that is compatible with where you want to import your data.

2. In the bash shell, export is a builtin command. It configures an environmental variable to be passed on to the environment of any child shells of the current shell. For more information, see our export bash builtin command reference.

Import, Save As, Software terms