I have run into this issue with a few web apps: There is a page that displays some data, and the user needs to have the ability to retrieve a file of the same data (typically as an Excel spreadsheet). I am wondering what an action button that does this should be called.

From what I can tell, the most technically correct wording for this button would be "Export and Download" since the app is converting the data to a new format (export) and then giving it to the user (download). But for UX what is the most user-friendly/well-understood wording for this action?


  • Download [noun] as [format]
  • Export [noun] as [format]
  • Download and Export [noun] as [format]

Noun could be "Data", "Spreadsheet", "List of users", etc. Format could be "spreadsheet", "Excel", "CSV", "XML", etc.

5 Answers 5


download [name of data] as [format] has many advantages. Here is why :

Taking the user's perspective can help choosing between download and export :

  • download is a word that focuses about the user's benefit because there is no ambiguity about the destination (the user's platform) and it will then be theirs. Moreover, virtually all Internet users have become familiar with this verb when it comes to getting media content. Save could be an alternative, also focusing on the user's benefit but with more ambiguity when it comes to the destination (users are getting accustomed to saving content on the cloud for instance).
  • whereas export focuses more on the transformation process and the fact that the data will come out of the originating server, which is further from the user's concerns and interest.

[name of data] is explicit, worded in terms that the user understands without having to think :

  • list of users is good, for instance, as it focuses on what the user wants
  • whereas spreadsheet or data only tells about the container of the data, which increases the user's cognitive load

[format] is an interesting dimension to specify because it allows the user to know what to expect and start to think of how they will be able to use the data. One could imagine offering several format options for the user to choose from.


'Download a copy' is used when the action indicates that the user can download a file onto his/her computer.

'Export to Excel'/'Export to PDF' is used when the action indicates that the user can export the data into a spreadsheet to perform some additional processing for his/her informational purpose. Note that in the case of MS SharePoint, the Export to Excel option will actually allow users to query list data through Excel, but this will involve a connection to the associated source list/library.

In this case, I would suggest going with 'Download' as you're final action involves giving the user a link to the Excel file containing the required data


"Export" is a more general term used to describe sending something somewhere else, but in software it very often involves downloading, like how exporting contacts to .csv will provide you with a .csv to download.

When export does not require a download, it usually is phrased as "Export to [programname]"

"Download" is specific to simply copy/saving a file from the internet in this case.

I think that "Export As", especially followed by a filetype, clearly implies that a file will be downloaded, so my vote goes to that.


If the user only has the option to download in various file formats then all you need is "Download as [format]".

In my experience the phrase Export is used in the phrase "Export to" and implies that the data is immediately going to be opened in another piece of software and then can be saved there to the Desktop or wherever else the user chooses.


Download would be the more preferred term to use as when a use clicks an excel, word or file link, they are downloading a copy to their computer/device.

Export is commonly used for software applications when converting a file into another format.

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