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Last Update: 17.09.2009, 16.32 - hwyss


For a viewable directory of all recent changes, please see:;a=summary

For Non-GPLv3 commercial licencing, please see:


The Spreadsheet Library is designed to read and write Spreadsheet Documents. As of version 0.6.0, only Microsoft Excel compatible spreadsheets are supported. Spreadsheet is a combination/complete rewrite of the Spreadsheet::Excel Library by Daniel J. Berger and the ParseExcel Library by Hannes Wyss. Spreadsheet can read, write and modify Spreadsheet Documents.

What's new?

  • Significantly improved memory-efficiency when reading large Excel Files

  • Limited Spreadsheet modification support

  • Improved handling of String Encodings



Improved Format support/Styles


Document Modification: Formats/Styles


Formula Support


Document Modification: Formulas


Write-Support: BIFF5


Ruby 1.9 Support; Remove backward compatibility code



Have a look at the GUIDE.


Using RubyGems:

  • sudo gem install spreadsheet

If you don't like RubyGems, let me know which installation solution you prefer and I'll include it in the future.


Original Code:

Spreadsheet::Excel: Copyright © 2005 by Daniel J. Berger (

ParseExcel: Copyright © 2003 by Hannes Wyss (

New Code: Copyright © 2008 by Hannes Wyss (


This library is distributed under the GPLv3. Please see the LICENSE file.

Getting Started with Spreadsheet

This guide is meant to get you started using Spreadsheet. By the end of it, you should be able to read and write Spreadsheets.

Reading is easy!

First, make sure all that code is loaded:

require 'spreadsheet'

Worksheets come in various Encodings. You need to tell Spreadsheet which Encoding you want to deal with. The Default is UTF-8

Spreadsheet.client_encoding = 'UTF-8'

Let's open a workbook:

book = '/path/to/an/excel-file.xls'

We can either access all the Worksheets in a Workbook…


…or access them by index or name (encoded in your client_encoding)

sheet1 = book.worksheet 0
sheet2 = Book.worksheet 'Sheet1'

Now you can either iterate over all rows that contain some data. A call to Worksheet.each without argument will omit empty rows at the beginning of the Worksheet:

sheet1.each do |row|
  # do something interesting with a row

Or you can tell Worksheet how many rows should be omitted at the beginning. The following starts at the 3rd row, regardless of whether or not it or the preceding rows contain any data:

sheet2.each 2 do |row|
  # do something interesting with a row

Or you can access rows directly, by their index (0-based):

row = sheet1.row(3)

To access the values stored in a Row, treat the Row like an Array.


-> this will return a String, a Float, an Integer, a Formula, a Link or a Date or DateTime object - or nil if the cell is empty.

More information about the formatting of a cell can be found in the Format with the equivalent index

row.format 2

Writing is easy

As before, make sure you have Spreadsheet required and the client_encoding set. Then make a new Workbook:

book =

Add a Worksheet and you're good to go:

sheet1 = book.create_worksheet

This will create a Worksheet with the Name “Worksheet1”. If you prefer another name, you may do either of the following:

sheet2 = book.create_worksheet :name => 'My Second Worksheet' = 'My First Worksheet'

Now, add data to the Worksheet, using either Worksheet#[]=, Worksheet#update_row, or work directly on Row using any of the Array-Methods that modify an Array in place:

sheet1.row(0).concat %w{Name Country Acknowlegement}
sheet1[1,0] = 'Japan'
row = sheet1.row(1)
row.push 'Creator of Ruby'
row.unshift 'Yukihiro Matsumoto'
sheet1.row(2).replace [ 'Daniel J. Berger', 'U.S.A.',
                        'Author of original code for Spreadsheet::Excel' ]
sheet1.row(3).push 'Charles Lowe', 'Author of the ruby-ole Library'
sheet1.row(3).insert 1, 'Unknown'
sheet1.update_row 4, 'Hannes Wyss', 'Switzerland', 'Author'

Add some Formatting for flavour:

sheet1.row(0).height = 18

format = :color => :blue,
                                 :weight => :bold,
                                 :size => 18
sheet1.row(0).default_format = format

bold = :weight => :bold
4.times do |x| sheet1.row(x + 1).set_format(0, bold) end

And finally, write the Excel File:

book.write '/path/to/output/excel-file.xls'

Modifying an existing Document

Spreadsheet has some limited support for modifying an existing Document. This is done by copying verbatim those parts of an Excel-document which Spreadsheet can't modify (yet), recalculating relevant offsets, and writing the data that can be changed. Here's what should work:

  • Adding, changing and deleting cells.

  • You should be able to fill in Data to be evaluated by predefined Formulas


  • Spreadsheet can only write BIFF8 (Excel97 and higher). The results of modifying an earlier version of Excel are undefined.

  • Spreadsheet does not modify Formatting at present. That means in particular that if you set the Value of a Cell to a Date, it can only be read as a Date if its Format was set correctly prior to the change.

  • Although it is theoretically possible, it is not recommended to write the resulting Document back to the same File/IO that it was read from.

And here's how it works:

book = '/path/to/an/excel-file.xls'
sheet = book.worksheet 0
sheet.each do |row|
  row[0] *= 2
book.write '/path/to/output/excel-file.xls'

Date and DateTime

Excel does not know a separate Datatype for Dates. Instead it encodes Dates into standard floating-point numbers and recognizes a Date-Cell by its formatting-string:


Whenever a Cell's Format describes a Date or Time, Spreadsheet will give you the decoded Date or DateTime value. Should you need to access the underlying Float, you may do the following:

If for some reason the Date-recognition fails, you may force Date-decoding:

When you set the value of a Cell to a Date, Time or DateTime, Spreadsheet will try to set the cell's number-format to a corresponding value (one of Excel's builtin formats). If you have already defined a Date- or DateTime-format, Spreadsheet will use that instead. If a format has already been applied to a particular Cell, Spreadsheet will leave it untouched:

row[4] = 1975, 8, 21
# -> assigns the builtin Date-Format: 'M/D/YY'
book.add_format => 'DD.MM.YYYY hh:mm:ss')
row[5] = 2008, 10, 12, 11, 59
# -> assigns the added DateTime-Format: 'DD.MM.YYYY hh:mm:ss'
row.set_format 6, => 'D-MMM-YYYY')
row[6] = 2008, 10, 12
# -> the Format of cell 6 is left unchanged.

More about Encodings

Spreadsheet assumes it's running on Ruby 1.8 with Iconv-support. It is your responsibility to handle Conversion Errors, or to prevent them e.g. by using the Iconv Transliteration and Ignore flags: Spreadsheet.client_encoding = 'LATIN1//TRANSLIT//IGNORE'

Backward Compatibility

Spreadsheet is designed to be a drop-in replacement for both ParseExcel and Spreadsheet::Excel. It provides a number of require-paths for backward compatibility with its predecessors. If you have been working with ParseExcel, you have probably used one or more of the following:

require 'parseexcel'
require 'parseexcel/parseexcel'
require 'parseexcel/parser'

Either of the above will define the ParseExcel.parse method as a facade to Additionally, this will alter Spreadsheets behavior to define the ParseExcel::Worksheet::Cell class and fill each parsed Row with instances thereof, which in turn provide ParseExcel's Cell#to_s(encoding) and Cell#date methods. You will have to manually uninstall the parseexcel library.

If you are upgrading from Spreadsheet::Excel, you were probably using Workbook#add_worksheet and Worksheet#write, write_row or write_column. Use the following to load the code which provides them:

require 'spreadsheet/excel'

Again, you will have to manually uninstall the spreadsheet-excel library.

If you perform fancy formatting, you may run into trouble as the Format implementation has changed considerably. If that is the case, please drop me a line at and I will try to help you. Don't forget to include the offending code-snippet!

All compatibility code is deprecated and will be removed in version 1.0.0