Downloading Overview


There are many ways to download data, tables, and maps to your computer. American FactFinder offers many download file types depending on the type of information requested, and the location of the request. After reviewing the information below, you can expect to learn about:

Download Options

Download Limits

Choosing a Download File Type



Download Options

     Download from the Advanced Search page

Download up to 10 tables from the search results page in a comma-delimited format (.csv). This format can be imported into Microsoft Excel, as well as other spreadsheet and database programs.

     Download when viewing a table

Download a table from the table view in comma-delimited (.csv), PDF, Microsoft Excel (.xls), or Rich Text Format (.rtf) formats. Downloads can be for either a single table or multiple tables.

     Download when viewing a Thematic Map

Download a single map from the map view in comma-delimited (.csv), PDF, Microsoft Excel (.xls), JPEG image (jpg), Rich Text Format (.rtf), or Shapefiles (.zip) formats.

     Download when using a Reference Map

Download a single map from the Map Tab of the Geography Overlay in PDF, JPEG image (.jpg), Rich Text Format (.rtf), or Shapefiles (.zip) formats.

     Download Center

Download prepackaged Census Bureau files that are searchable from within American

     Download when using FTP

Download large volumes of data from the Census Bureau’s FTP site.

Download Limits

There are limits to the size of tables that can be downloaded in American FactFinder. If American FactFinder’s download limits prevent you from downloading the data you need, you may be able to download the complete dataset from the Census Bureau’s FTP Site. Visit the Census Bureau’s FTP site at for a complete list of available files.


     Download limits from Advanced Search (without viewing a table)

     Up to 10 tables at one time

     Up to 50,000 geographies for a table

     Up to 500,000 rows of data



     The sum of all cities or towns in the USA is less than 50,000 geographies

     For downloads larger than 50,000 geographies or 500,000 rows, please use the FTP site ( Additional resources for downloading FTP files may be found on American FactFinder’s download options page (

     To download a table for only one geography or population group at a time such as the Data Profiles or some SF2 & SF4 products, you can calculate the total number of rows in that table by multiplying the number of geographies or population groups by the number of rows in the table. For example, a table that has ten tows and ten geographies is equivalent to 100 total rows


     Download limits from Table Viewer

Tables can be downloaded in:

     Database compatible formats (.csv)

     Presentation-Ready formats (.pdf, .rtf, and .xls)


Note: Your geographies will be on the “Y” axis (i.e. the left side of the table) when downloading in csv format

Limits for .pdf and .rtf

     5,000 columns

     5,000 data rows


Limits for .xls

     230 columns and 5,000 rows

     If the table has more than 230 columns, and fewer rows, select Modify Table to transpose rows and columns to conform to the .xls requirements


Using the “View All as PDF” option, you can download up to 3 tables at one time in a pdf format. The row and column limits are the same as above.


Using the Download button, you can only download the table you are viewing. If the table is too large to download in a presentation-ready format, you will be prompted to download in a database-compatible (.csv) format


Choosing a Download File Type

Download options are divided into the following categories:

     Database Compatible Formats: Use these advanced download formats to display data in a format that can be loaded into a database for further analysis.

     Presentation Ready Formats: Use these basic formats to display tables and maps in a format that is easy to read and insert into documents or presentations.

     Spatial Data Formats: This advanced download format is used to capture the geographic boundaries associated with the selections made on either a Reference Map or Thematic Map. These files can be loaded into mapping software such as ArcGIS for analysis





     Database Compatible Formats:

     CSV – Data and annotations in a single file: Displays a single .csv file containing both data cells and annotations. This CSV style is better for viewing and manipulating the data in Excel. This file can be opened using Excel, or another database tool once the header lines have

     CSV – Data and annotations in separate files: Displays two .csv files, one containing only data cells, and the other containing only annotations. This CSV style is better for input into database programs such as SAS. This file can be opened using Excel, or another database tool.



     The ‘include descriptive data element names’ checkbox allows the user to toggle between one or two header rows at the top of database compatible files. By default, the ‘include descriptive data element names’ is unchecked, and your data product will download with a single header row for identifiers (ids). If the ‘include descriptive data element names is checked, then the system will download two header rows; one with identifiers and the other with descriptive data element names.

     The following Table Manipulations will not be represented in database compatible downloads: Rearranging Rows & Columns, Transposing Rows & Columns, and Sorting Columns.

     Annotations are cell-level notes or substitute values that represent some special meaning for a table cell. These notes are used to show revised counts to data, provide information on why data is unavailable, etc.




     A separate Metadata Auxiliary File is included in each download. It contains identifiers and descriptive data element names in a two-column transposed format. This file is used when analyzing data in specialized tools such as SAS and SPSS to give descriptive titles to columns in the csv data file.




     Presentation Ready Formats:

     PDF: The PDF file type is a file format that provides an electronic image of text or text and graphics that looks like a printed document and can be viewed, printed, and electronically transmitted. In American FactFinder, the download limit is up to 5,000 rows in PDF.

     JPEG: The JPEG file type is a format for compressing images. In American FactFinder, download images of maps in JPEG to place an image in a document or other applications.

     RTF: The RTF file type is a document file format that can be read by any word processing program (i.e. Microsoft Word). These files can be viewed, printed, and electronically transmitted. In American FactFinder, the download limit is up to 5,000 rows in RTF.

     XLS: The XLS file type is the common file format associated with Microsoft Excel. In American FactFinder, download a print-friendly view of a table or map to maintain the visual formatting of the data product in XLS.


     Spatial Data Formats:

     Shapefiles (Mapping Files): The ESRI shapefile or simply a shapefile is a popular geospatial vector data format for geographic information systems software. It is developed and regulated by ESRI. In American FactFinder, download shapefiles to import into external mapping programs. For more information and help working with shapefiles, visit the Geography Division’s website at



See Also

Downloading from the Search Results

Downloading from the Table Viewer

Downloading using FTP

Bookmark and Save Query

Loading a Saved Query

Working with Search Results

Refine Search Results

Navigating Results


Viewing Data Search Results