TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Introduction to Scripting Microsoft Excel

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 02
Column Tag: AppleScript Essentials

Introduction to Scripting Microsoft Excel

by Benjamin S. Waldie

With Office 2008 on the horizon, Microsoft has recently begun to push AppleScript as an alternative automation technology to Visual Basic macros in the Office applications. Moving forward, Visual Basic macros will not be supported in the release of Office 2008. Current AppleScript users are ahead of the curve. The Office applications have been AppleScriptable for quite some time, and AppleScript actually provides several advantages over Visual Basic. For one, AppleScripts can interact with multiple applications, including non-Microsoft applications, allowing even complex multi-application workflows to be automated.

Last month, we began discussing how to get started with scripting Microsoft Word. We explored various techniques for interacting with Word documents, as well as the content within those documents, all using AppleScript. This month, we're going to begin discussing another Office application, Microsoft Excel. Like Word, Excel contains a quite extensive AppleScript dictionary, allowing almost any task that can be performed manually to be automated using AppleScript.

Please note, all example code within this month's column was written and tested with Excel 2004 (version 11.x). If you are using another version of Excel, please be aware that the terminology may need to be adjusted in order to function properly. Let's get started.

Working with Workbooks

In Excel, the top-level class (beneath the application class) with which you will probably want to interact is a workbook. A workbook will contain one or more sheets, and those sheets will typically contain ranges of data. This data can be text, numbers, dates, and so forth. We will discuss each of these primary classes of Excel objects in this month's column, but we will begin with the workbook class.

Making a Workbook

Creating a workbook in Excel is similar to the process of creating a document in Word, or in many scriptable applications, for that matter. To do so, use the make command, as demonstrated below.

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   make new workbook
end tell
--> workbook "Sheet1" of application "Microsoft Excel"

The make command's result will be a reference to the newly created workbook, which may be placed into an AppleScript variable, if desired, for future reference in your script.

Closing a Workbook

Closing a workbook is also very similar to closing a document in other scriptable applications. Use the close command, referencing the workbook you wish to close. Optionally, you may choose to specify whether the workbook should be saved during the close process, using the optional saving parameter. For example:

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   close workbook 1 saving no
end tell

Opening a Workbook

To open a workbook, use the open command, followed by a reference to the workbook file you want to open. For example:

set theWorkbookFile to choose file with prompt "Please select an Excel workbook file:"
tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   open theWorkbookFile
end tell

One issue with the open command is that, unfortunately, it does not return a result. Therefore, if you want to perform further processing on the newly opened document, you will need to build a reference to it in another manner. One way to do this is to retrieve the workbook file's name, and then construct a reference to the workbook using that name, once it has been opened. This is demonstrated in the example code below.

set theWorkbookFile to choose file with prompt "Please select an Excel workbook file:"
set theWorkbookName to name of (info for theWorkbookFile)
tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   open theWorkbookFile
   set theWorkbook to workbook theWorkbookName
end tell
--> workbook "My Workbook.xls" of application "Microsoft Excel"

Another way that this can be achieved is by referencing the active workbook property of Excel's application class, once the workbook has been opened. This property references the currently active workbook, which should be the newly opened document.

set theWorkbookFile to choose file with prompt "Please select an Excel workbook file:"
set theWorkbookName to name of (info for theWorkbookFile)
tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   open theWorkbookFile
   set theWorkbook to active workbook
end tell
--> active workbook of application "Microsoft Excel"

When referencing the active workbook property, one thing to keep in mind is that, if another workbook is brought to the front, then your script may reference the incorrect workbook. Because of this, it is recommended to reference workbooks by name.

Saving a Workbook

To save an opened workbook to its existing path, use the save command, referencing the workbook to be saved. For example, the following code will save the currently active workbook to its current path.

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   save active workbook
end tell

Excel also has a save workbook as command, which may be used to save a workbook into a new location, or in a different file format. The following example code makes use of this command, as well as some of its optional parameters, in order to save the currently active workbook to the desktop in comma separated format.

set theOutputPath to (path to desktop folder as string) & "My Saved Workbook.csv"
tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell active workbook
      save workbook as filename theOutputPath file format CSV file format
   end tell
end tell

Take some time to explore some of the other optional parameters for the save workbook as command, as well as some of the other available file formats, which can be found in Excel's AppleScript dictionary.

Working with Sheets

As previously mentioned, a workbook itself does not contain data in Excel. Rather, a workbook contains sheets, which contain the data. Most often, you will find yourself writing a script that will interact with a worksheet, a specific type of sheet in Excel. That's what we will be discussing here. Another type of sheet, which we will not discuss at this time, is a chart sheet.

Making a Worksheet

Like a workbook, a worksheet is created by using the make command. When using this command, be sure to specify a location for the new worksheet to be created, such as beginning, end, before worksheet 1, and so forth. For example, this code will create a new worksheet at the end of the existing worksheets within the currently active workbook.

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell active workbook
      make new worksheet at end
   end tell
end tell
--> sheet "Sheet2" of active workbook of application "Microsoft Excel"

Selecting a Worksheet

At times, you may want to navigate to a specific worksheet in an Excel workbook. To do this, use the activate object command, and target the worksheet that you want to be displayed. For example:

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell active workbook
      activate object worksheet "Sheet1"
   end tell
end tell

Working with Data

In an Excel worksheet, data is contained within cells, which are organized into rows and columns. Cells can be accessed by referencing the cell, row, column, or range class.

The Cell Class

To access a specific cell, use the cell class. For example, the following code references the first cell of a worksheet, found in column A, row 1.

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook
      cell "A1"
   end tell
end tell
--> cell "A1" of worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook of application "Microsoft Excel" 

The Row Class

To access an entire row of cells, use the row class. For example, the following code references the first row of cells in a worksheet.

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook
      row 1
   end tell
end tell
--> row "$1:$1" of worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook of application "Microsoft Excel"

The Column Class

To access an entire column of cells, use the column class. For example, the following code references the first column of cells in a worksheet.

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook
      column 1
   end tell
end tell
--> column "$A:$A" of worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook of application "Microsoft Excel"

The Range Class

Regardless of how you reference cells within a worksheet, you are really referencing what is known as a range. A range refers to either a single cell, or multiple cells within a worksheet, and the cell, row, and column classes all inherit the properties of the range class. There are numerous ways to directly reference a range. The following are some examples.

This code demonstrates how to reference a range that represents a single cell in a worksheet, in this case, the first cell in the first row, i.e. the intersection of column 1 and row 1.

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook
      range "A1"
   end tell
end tell
--> cell "A1" of worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook of application "Microsoft Excel"

This next example demonstrates how to reference a range that represents multiple cells within a worksheet, in this case, cells 2 through 5 of the first two rows.

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook
       range "B1:F2"
   end tell
end tell
--> range "B1:F2" of worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook of application "Microsoft Excel"

Again, there are numerous ways to reference a range of cells, and Excel is pretty flexible. For a chart that outlines different methods, take a look at the AppleScript Reference Guide for Excel, mentioned later in this column.

The Used Range

In some cases, you may not know specifically which range you want to reference. For example, you may just want to reference all of the data contained within a specified worksheet. To do this, you can reference the used range property of the worksheet.

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook
      used range
   end tell
end tell
--> used range of active sheet of active workbook ¬
of application "Microsoft Excel"

Properties of Ranges

We have discussed numerous ways to reference ranges of cells in Excel. However, what can you do with a range once you have constructed a reference to it? Well, one thing you can do is access its properties. Ranges have numerous properties, but perhaps the two that you may find most useful are the value and formula properties.

By referencing the value property of a range, you can retrieve the value of a specified set of cells in a worksheet. For example, the following code retrieves the values of the used range in a specified worksheet. Notice that the value is returned as a list of lists. Each list represents a row, and each list item represents a cell.

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook
      value of used range
   end tell
end tell
--> {{1.0, 2.0, 3.0}, {4.0, 5.0, 6.0}}

The formula property of a range returns a similar result. For example:

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook
      formula of used range
   end tell
end tell
--> {{"1", "2", "3"}, {"4", "5", "6"}}

Of course, these properties are not read-only properties. So, it is also possible to modify them, if desired. For example, the following code demonstrates how to set the value of a single cell.

tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook
      set value of cell "A1" to "A"
   end tell
end tell
Likewise, the following code will set the value of a range of cells.
tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   tell worksheet "Sheet1" of active workbook
      set value of range "A1:C2" to {{"a", "b", "c"}, {"d", "e", "f"}}
   end tell
end tell

Pulling Things Together

Now, let's take a brief look at some sample code that makes use of several of the topics that we have discussed throughout this month's column. The following example code will retrieve the names of any visible items on the desktop. It will then create a workbook, and insert the list of item names into the active worksheet.

— Retrieve a list of items on the desktop
set theFileNames to list folder (path to desktop) without invisibles
— Convert the list of items to a list of lists
repeat with a from 1 to length of theFileNames
   set item a of theFileNames to {item a of theFileNames}
end repeat
— Build a new workbook in Excel, and add the data to the current worksheet
tell application "Microsoft Excel"
   set theWorkbook to make new workbook
   tell active sheet of theWorkbook
      set value of range ("A1:A" & (length of theFileNames)) to theFileNames
   end tell
end tell

In Closing

It may seem like we've only scratched the surface of scripting Excel, and we have. As mentioned at the beginning of this month's column, Excel contains quite an extensive AppleScript dictionary, and there is a lot that you can do with it from a scripting perspective. However, using the techniques we have discussed in this month's column, you should be able to piece together a script that can construct a workbook, create a worksheet, retrieve data from a range of cells in a worksheet, and more.

For more information about scripting Excel, be sure to download the Excel AppleScript Reference Guide that I mentioned earlier. This can be found on the Mactopia website at http://www.microsoft.com/mac/. It is located in the Resources > Developer Center > AppleScript Resources for Office 2004 section.

Until next time, keep scripting!


Ben Waldie is the author of the best selling books "AppleScripting the Finder" and the "Mac OS X Technology Guide to Automator", available from http://www.spiderworks.com, as well as an AppleScript Training CD, available from http://www.vtc.com. Ben is also president of Automated Workflows, LLC, a company specializing in AppleScript and workflow automation consulting. For years, Ben has developed professional AppleScript-based solutions for businesses including Adobe, Apple, NASA, PC World, and TV Guide. For more information about Ben, please visit http://www.automatedworkflows.com, or email Ben at ben@automatedworkflows.com.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Duplicate Annihilator 5.7.5 - Find and d...
Duplicate Annihilator takes on the time-consuming task of comparing the images in your iPhoto library using effective algorithms to make sure that no duplicate escapes. Duplicate Annihilator... Read more
BusyContacts 1.0.2 - Fast, efficient con...
BusyContacts is a contact manager for OS X that makes creating, finding, and managing contacts faster and more efficient. It brings to contact management the same power, flexibility, and sharing... Read more
Capture One Pro 8.2.0.82 - RAW workflow...
Capture One Pro 8 is a professional RAW converter offering you ultimate image quality with accurate colors and incredible detail from more than 300 high-end cameras -- straight out of the box. It... Read more
Backblaze 4.0.0.872 - Online backup serv...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac.With unlimited storage available for $5 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
Little Snitch 3.5.2 - Alerts you about o...
Little Snitch gives you control over your private outgoing data. Track background activity As soon as your computer connects to the Internet, applications often have permission to send any... Read more
Monolingual 1.6.4 - Remove unwanted OS X...
Monolingual is a program for removing unnecesary language resources from OS X, in order to reclaim several hundred megabytes of disk space. If you use your computer in only one (human) language, you... Read more
CleanApp 5.0 - Application deinstaller a...
CleanApp is an application deinstaller and archiver.... Your hard drive gets fuller day by day, but do you know why? CleanApp 5 provides you with insights how to reclaim disk space. There are... Read more
Fantastical 2.0 - Create calendar events...
Fantastical is the Mac calendar you'll actually enjoy using. Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun: Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke Type in your event details... Read more
Cocktail 8.2 - General maintenance and o...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
Direct Mail 4.0.4 - Create and send grea...
Direct Mail is an easy-to-use, fully-featured email marketing app purpose-built for OS X. It lets you create and send great looking email campaigns. Start your newsletter by selecting from a gallery... Read more

Appy to Have Known You - Lee Hamlet Look...
Being at 148Apps these past 2 years has been an awesome experience that has taught me a great deal, and working with such a great team has been a privilege. Thank you to Rob Rich, and to both Rob LeFebvre and Jeff Scott before him, for helping me... | Read more »
MLB Manager 2015 (Games)
MLB Manager 2015 5.0.14 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 5.0.14 (iTunes) Description: Guide your favorite MLB franchise to glory! MLB Manager 2015, officially licensed by MLB.com and based on the award-... | Read more »
Breath of Light (Games)
Breath of Light 1.0.1421 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.1421 (iTunes) Description: Hold a quiet moment. Breath of Light is a meditative and beautiful puzzle game with a hypnotic soundtrack by... | Read more »
WWE WrestleMania Tags into the App Store
Are You ready to rumble? The official WWE WrestleMania app, by World Wrestling Entertainment, is now available. Now you can get all your WrestleMania info in one place before anyone else. The app offers details on superstar signings, interactive... | Read more »
Bio Inc's New Expansion is Infectin...
Bio Inc., by DryGin Studios, is the real time strategy game where you infect a human body with the worst virus your evil brain can design. Recently, the game was updated to add a whole lot of new features. Now you can play the new “Lethal”... | Read more »
The Monocular Minion is Here! Despicable...
Despicable Me: Minion Rush, by Gameloft, is introducing a new runner to the mix in their latest update. Now you can play as Carl, the prankster minion. Carl has a few new abilities to play with, including running at a higher speed from the start.... | Read more »
Dungeon of Madness (Games)
Dungeon of Madness 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Dungeon of Madness is an action game where you rotate tiles to create our own route. Help the hero by connecting the... | Read more »
Filters for iPhone (Photography)
Filters for iPhone 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Jump'N'Shoot Attack (Games)
Jump'N'Shoot Attack 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A mobile game for gamers! Join Louise Lightfoot, the legendary "Master of Jumping and Shooting", on her mission to save... | Read more »
Space Bounties Inc. (Games)
Space Bounties Inc. 1.4 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.4 (iTunes) Description: SuperGameDroid: 4/5 "Satisfying futuristic RPG combat, high replay value, and a heavy dose of nostalgia make Space... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.... Read more
Save up to $80 on iPad Air 2s, NY tax only, f...
 B&H Photo has iPad Air 2s on sale for $80 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $469.99 $30 off - 64GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $549.99 $50 off - 128GB iPad... Read more
iMacs on sale for up to $205 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ and 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $205 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 21″ 1.4GHz iMac: $1019 $80 off - 21″ 2.7GHz iMac: $1189 $110 off - 21″ 2.9GHz... Read more
Färbe Technik Offers iPhone Battery Charge LI...
Färbe Technik, which manufactures and markets of mobile accessories for Apple, Blackberry and Samsung mobile devices, is offering tips on how to keep your iPhone charged while in the field: •... Read more
Electronic Recyclers International CEO Urges...
Citing a recent story on CNBC about concerns some security professionals have about the forthcoming Apple Watch, John Shegerian, Chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), the... Read more
Save up to $380 with Apple refurbished iMacs
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $380 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac – $2119 $... Read more
Mac minis on sale for up to $75 off, starting...
MacMall has Mac minis on sale for up to $75 off MSRP including free shipping. Their prices are the lowest available for these models from any reseller: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $459.99 $40 off - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
College Student Deals: Additional $50 off Mac...
Take an additional $50 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through April 11, 2015. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take advantage... Read more
Mac Pros on sale for up to $260 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for up to $260 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2799, $200 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3719.99... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $100 o...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
Lead *Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail...
**Job Summary** Job Summary The Lead ASC is an Apple employee who serves as the Apple business manager and influencer in a hyper-business critical Reseller's store Read more
*Apple* Pay - Site Reliability Engineer - Ap...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.