In previous versions I could just export as a .DBF file, open it with Excel and then convert it to an Excel file. However, now in ArcGIS 9.3.1 the .DBF file can no longer be open by Excel. I have also tried saving as a text file but to no avail.
At ArcGIS 10.2 for Desktop a new tool called Table To Excel (Conversion) was introduced to export a table to an Excel file.
Converts a table to a Microsoft Excel file.
• Table To Excel is able to convert only to Microsoft Excel 5.0/95 Workbook (.xls) format.
XTools Pro has a Export to Excel option that exists in the free tools available even after the 14-day trial period. I've been using that for years. You can export the attributes to Excel, or if you have Excel installed, you can just directly open up the attributes in Excel.
The .dbf should open without any problems in excel, however, if it's a feature class in a geodatabase you can't get to the dbf.
Option 1: If you have a license with X-Tools (maybe even the free version) you can export table to excel, which will launch the program automatically.
Option 2: Export Data outside of the geodatabase (to a shapefile) and grab the dbf just like Chris.Leeney suggested.