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Create Excel workbooks from Clojure code using templates and plain old data
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project.clj Change release to 0.3.3 Apr 8, 2016

Excel Templates

Clojars Project

Excel templates is designed to build Excel spreadsheets by combining two parts:

  1. A Excel file that works as a template defining layout and formatting information for the spreadsheet you're creating
  2. A Clojure data in the form of maps and seqs that defines the contents to be inserted in the resulting spreadsheet.

To see it in action, watch Creating Beautiful Spreadsheets With Data and Templates, a talk I gave at Clojure/West in 2015:

Video for Creating Beautiful Spreadsheets With Data and Templates

I wrote a post on the Infolace blog about the motivation and construction of this project.

There is also an example project that shows how to use excel-templates.


excel-templates artifacts are released to Clojars.

If you are using Maven, add the following repository definition to your pom.xml:


The Most Recent Release

With Leiningen:

[com.infolace/excel-templates "0.3.3"]

With Maven:


You should also have a dependency on a version of Clojure >= 1.6.0.


In your namespace declaration, you can require excel-templates like this:

(:require [ :as excel])

Why Use Excel Templates?

The spreadsheet is the preferred tool for data presentation and exploration for many users, especially in business.

Presenting data in Excel is much more compelling than sending out, for example, a Comma-Separated-Value (CSV) file. This is especially true when you add some simple formatting to accentuate structure and meaning in the data, for example by formatting numbers as dollars or percentages or by grouping together columns of related information.

Using Excel Templates

When you use an excel template, sheets are handled row-by-row.

If data is supplied for the row, it replaces the data that was already in that row, except for nils which use the data or formula from the corresponding cell in the template. All cells use the format specified in the template sheet.

When multiple rows of data are supplied for a single row in the template, the template row is expanded into the target sheet. Each resulting row in the target has the formatting of the original template row.

If there's no data supplied for the row, the row is copied exactly (both data and formatting) from the template to the output workbook.

Building your template

You build a template just like you'd build a regular Excel spreadsheet, but you can fill it with dummy data.

Use excel formatting commands to format cells, rows, and columns as you would like them. This includes number formatting, alignment, shading, etc. Add explanatory graphics (like text boxes, etc.) to communicate the results most clearly.

Save this template to a regular xlsx file from Excel. excel-template will look for templates by path name or in resources, so it's possible to include templates in you jar file by adding it to resources.

Building the data

In your Clojure program, just create a plain old map as follows:

{ Sheet-Name-1 { actions-for-that-sheet }
  Sheet-Name-1 { actions-for-that-sheet }
  ... }

Each set of actions is itself a map:

{ row-num-1 [[replacement row 1]
             [replacement row 2]
              ... ]
  row-num-2 [[replacement row 1]
             ... ]}

For example, we can use the following:

{"Squares" {3 [[1 1]
               [2 4]
               [3 9]]}}

To replace the second row of the spreadsheet with 3 rows each with a number and its square.

If "Squares" is the only worksheet in the template, we could simply use the inner map:

{3 [[1 1]
    [2 4]
    [3 9]]}

I show the data as vectors above, but it can actually be any seq.

To replace a template worksheet with 3 (repeated) worksheets:

{"Squares" [{:sheet-name "Squares"
             3 [[1 1]
                [2 4]
                [3 9]]}
            {:sheet-name "Cubes"
             3 [[1 1]
                [2 8]
                [3 27]]}
            {:sheet-name "Tesseractics"
             3 [[1 1]
                [2 16]
                [3 81]]}]}

The :sheet-name key is required to identify the fact that these worksheets are to be templated from a worksheet other than one which bears their name.

Generating a spreadsheet

To generate a new spreadsheet from code, use the render-to-file function, passing in three arguments:

  1. The name of the input template workbook file or resource.
  2. The name of the output workbook to create
  3. The data to inject into the workbook.

Here is the code to create the workbook of squares discussed above:

(require '[ :as excel])

   {"Squares" {3 [[1 1]
                 [2 4]
                 [3 9]]}})

render-to-stream is also available for when you want to send the Excel data directly to an output stream. This is common when you are creating spreadsheets dynamically in a web server for instance.

The equivalent to the above example for sending to a stream is:

(require '[ :as excel])

   {"Squares" {3 [[1 1]
                 [2 4]
                 [3 9]]}})

Note that render-to-stream doesn't return until the entire spreadsheet has been sent to the output stream.


As of release 0.3.0, formulas are expanded correctly, so this limitation, mentioned previously, no longer exists.

In general, view the open issues on the GitHub site for information on currently existing limitations.

Due to limitations in POI's formula interpreter, some values of some formulas may not be updated correctly in output templates, but this should only be a problem with unusual functions.


To date, Excel templates have only been tested with Clojure 1.6 and both Excel 2011 and Libre Office, but I think they should work with all recent versions of Clojure and Excel or Libre Office. If you have an problem, feel free to open an issue on the github page and I'll take a look.


This library was created as part of a project for Staples SparX and they have graciously allowed me to open source it. If you're interested in a job creating great Clojure code, you should check them out.

Excel templates are built on top of the Apache POI library which does an excellent job of creating the missing API for Excel workbooks (and other Microsoft Office products).

Christophe Grand's enlive library was the direct inspiration for this approach to doing templating using pure data and selectors. I wouldn't claim to have achieved the same degree of elegance as Christophe.


Copyright © 2014-6 Tom Faulhaber

Distributed under the Eclipse Public License either version 1.0 or (at your option) any later version.

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