How to Transfer a Spreadsheet to a Mainframe

By Allen Bethea

Mainframes are designed to rapidly process and transfer large amounts of data.
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Although PC spreadsheet applications are great tools to perform calculations, analyze data, track inventory or manage budgets, there are times when businesses need the extra, raw number-crunching power only mainframes can provide. Spreadsheet data is usually arranged in rows and columns that resemble a relational database. This structure permits applications like Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice Calc or Google's Sheets to export your spreadsheets in the text-based, comma-separated values format that mainframe applications applications can import and process. You can transfer a CSV file to a mainframe using a standard file transfer protocol application.

Launch your spreadsheet application and load the spreadsheet you want to transfer.

Click the "File" tab and "Save As" button.

Select the "CSV (Comma delimited)" file type option.

Click "OK" to save the file.

Launch the command interpreter and navigate to the directory containing the CSV file you will transfer. For example, if your CSV file is in "Documents," type "cd Documents" then press the "Enter" key.

Type the FTP command to connect to the mainframe. For example, if the mainframe FTP server URL is, type "ftp" at the command prompt then press the "Enter" key.

Type in your FTP account user name at the prompt then press "Enter."

Type in your password then press "Enter."

Use the CD command, or whatever command your mainframe uses, to change your working directory to the folder in which you want to place the CSV file. Different mainframe platforms use different command sequences, so if you're not familiar with the change-directory command for your mainframe's operating environment, check the documentation or consult with a system administrator.

Type the "put" command at the prompt to send the CSV file to the mainframe. For example, if your PC spreadsheet file is named "employees.csv" and you want it to have the same name on the mainframe, type type "put employees.csv employees.csv" at the command prompt then press the "Enter" key to start the transfer.


If your spreadsheet contains data that will be processed by a database application, you may be able to import the CSV file instead of transferring it directly to the mainframe. This approach is possible if your PC database application has the proper remote database connection drivers. For example, Microsoft's ODBC and the Java Database Connectivity interfaces provide the low-level software needed to connect a PC database to a mainframe database like Oracle or DB2.


Mainframe filename conventions may differ from those used on Windows, OS X or Linux PCs. For example, the maximum filename length for mainframes running the MVS operating system is 44 characters. In addition, dots or periods within an MVS system filename function like the Windows file storage hierarchy of directories and subdirectories. For example, a file named "company.payrollsalaried.cvs" is in a different location than "company.payrollhourly.cvs" on a MVS system.