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Library for developers to extract data from Microsoft Excel (tm) spreadsheet files
Python HTML
Latest commit 1f5efd0 Apr 10, 2016 @cjw296 cjw296 Merge pull request #171 from scop/peek
Peek with context manager

Python package "xlrd"

Purpose: Provide a library for developers to use to extract data from Microsoft Excel (tm) spreadsheet files. It is not an end-user tool.

Author: John Machin, Lingfo Pty Ltd (

Licence: BSD-style (see

Versions of Python supported: 2.6, 2.7, 3.2+.

External modules required:

The package itself is pure Python with no dependencies on modules or packages outside the standard Python distribution.

Outside the current scope: xlrd will safely and reliably ignore any of these if present in the file:

  • Charts, Macros, Pictures, any other embedded object. WARNING: currently this includes embedded worksheets.
  • VBA modules
  • Formulas (results of formula calculations are extracted, of course).
  • Comments
  • Hyperlinks
  • Autofilters, advanced filters, pivot tables, conditional formatting, data validation

Unlikely to be done:

  • Handling password-protected (encrypted) files.

Particular emphasis (refer docs for details):

  • Operability across OS, regions, platforms
  • Handling Excel's date problems, including the Windows / Macintosh four-year differential.
  • Providing access to named constants and named groups of cells (from version 0.6.0)
  • Providing access to "visual" information: font, "number format", background, border, alignment and protection for cells, height/width etc for rows/columns (from version 0.6.1)

Quick start:

    import xlrd
    book = xlrd.open_workbook("myfile.xls")
    print "The number of worksheets is", book.nsheets
    print "Worksheet name(s):", book.sheet_names()
    sh = book.sheet_by_index(0)
    print, sh.nrows, sh.ncols
    print "Cell D30 is", sh.cell_value(rowx=29, colx=3)
    for rx in range(sh.nrows):
        print sh.row(rx)
    # Refer to docs for more details.
    # Feedback on API is welcomed.

Another quick start: This will show the first, second and last rows of each sheet in each file:

    OS-prompt>python PYDIR/scripts/ 3rows *blah*.xls


  • On Windows: use the installer.
  • Any OS: Unzip the .zip file into a suitable directory, chdir to that directory, then do "python install".
  • If PYDIR is your Python installation directory: the main files are in PYDIR/Lib/site-packages/xlrd the docs are in the doc subdirectory, and there's a sample script: PYDIR/Scripts/
  • If os.sep != "/": make the appropriate adjustments.

Download URLs:


  • This package started life as a translation from C into Python of parts of a utility called "xlreader" developed by David Giffin. "This product includes software developed by David Giffin"
  • has truly excellent documentation of the Microsoft Excel file formats and Compound Document file format, authored by Daniel Rentz. See
  • U+5F20 U+654F: over a decade of inspiration, support, and interesting decoding opportunities.
  • Ksenia Marasanova: sample Macintosh and non-Latin1 files, alpha testing
  • Backporting to Python 2.1 was partially funded by Journyx - provider of timesheet and project accounting solutions (
  • Provision of formatting information in version 0.6.1 was funded by Simplistix Ltd (
  • << a growing list of names; see HISTORY.html >>: feedback, testing, test files, ...
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