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

Merlin Project 4.2.0 - Project managemen...
Merlin Project is the leading professional project management software for OS X. If you plan complex projects on your Mac, you won’t get far with a simple list of tasks. Good planning raises... Read more
Skim 1.4.28 - PDF reader and note-taker...
Skim is a PDF reader and note-taker for OS X. It is designed to help you read and annotate scientific papers in PDF, but is also great for viewing any PDF file. Skim includes many features and has a... Read more
RapidWeaver 7.3.2 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
Together 3.8.1 - Store and organize all...
Together helps you organize your Mac, giving you the ability to store, edit and preview your files in a single clean, uncluttered interface. Features Smart storage. With simple drag-and-drop... Read more
Apple MainStage 3.3 - Live performance t...
Apple MainStage makes it easy to bring to the stage all the same instruments and effects that you love in your recording. Everything from the Sound Library and Smart Controls you're familiar with... Read more
Apple iOS 10.3 - The latest version of A...
iOS 10 is the biggest release of iOS ever. A massive update to Messages brings the power of the App Store to your conversations and makes messaging more personal than ever. Find your route with... Read more
Postbox 5.0.12 - Powerful and flexible e...
Postbox is a new email application that helps you organize your work life and get stuff done. It has all the elegance and simplicity of Apple Mail, but with more power and flexibility to manage even... Read more
Apple Keynote 7.1 - Apple's present...
Easily create gorgeous presentations with the all-new Keynote, featuring powerful yet easy-to-use tools and dazzling effects that will make you a very hard act to follow. The Theme Chooser lets you... Read more
Apple Pages 6.1 - Apple's word proc...
Apple Pages is a powerful word processor that gives you everything you need to create documents that look beautiful. And read beautifully. It lets you work seamlessly between Mac and iOS devices, and... Read more
Apple Numbers 4.1 - Apple's spreads...
With Apple Numbers, sophisticated spreadsheets are just the start. The whole sheet is your canvas. Just add dramatic interactive charts, tables, and images that paint a revealing picture of your data... Read more

The best deals on the App Store this wee...
Deals, deals, deals. We're all about a good bargain here on 148Apps, and luckily this was another fine week in App Store discounts. There's a big board game sale happening right now, and a few fine indies are still discounted through the weekend.... | Read more »
The best new games we played this week
It's been quite the week, but now that all of that business is out of the way, it's time to hunker down with some of the excellent games that were released over the past few days. There's a fair few to help you relax in your down time or if you're... | Read more »
Orphan Black: The Game (Games)
Orphan Black: The Game 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Dive into a dark and twisted puzzle-adventure that retells the pivotal events of Orphan Black. | Read more »
The Elder Scrolls: Legends is now availa...
| Read more »
Ticket to Earth beginner's guide: H...
Robot Circus launched Ticket to Earth as part of the App Store's indie games event last week. If you're not quite digging the space operatics Mass Effect: Andromeda is serving up, you'll be pleased to know that there's a surprising alternative on... | Read more »
Leap to victory in Nexx Studios new plat...
You’re always a hop, skip, and a jump away from a fiery death in Temple Jump, a new platformer-cum-endless runner from Nexx Studio. It’s out now on both iOS and Android if you’re an adventurer seeking treasure in a crumbling, pixel-laden temple. | Read more »
Failbetter Games details changes coming...
Sunless Sea, Failbetter Games' dark and gloomy sea explorer, sets sail for the iPad tomorrow. Ahead of the game's launch, Failbetter took to Twitter to discuss what will be different in the mobile version of the game. Many of the changes make... | Read more »
Splish, splash! The Pokémon GO Water Fes...
Niantic is back with a new festival for dedicated Pokémon GO collectors. The Water Festival officially kicks off today at 1 P.M. PDT and runs through March 29. Magikarp, Squirtle, Totodile, and their assorted evolved forms will be appearing at... | Read more »
Death Road to Canada (Games)
Death Road to Canada 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Get it now at the low launch price! Price will go up a dollar every major update. Update news at the bottom of this... | Read more »
Bean's Quest Beginner's Guide:...
Bean's Quest is a new take on both the classic platformer and the endless runner, and it's free on the App Store for the time being. Instead of running constantly, you can't stop jumping. That adds a surprising new level of challenge to the game... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch MacBook Airs, Apple refurbished, in s...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $849. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free: - 13″ 1.6GHz/8GB/128GB MacBook Air: $... Read more
12-inch Retina MacBooks on sale for $1199, sa...
B&H has 12″ 1.1GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1199 $100 off MSRP - 12″ 1.1GHz... Read more
Save up to $260 with Apple refurbished 12-inc...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 12″ Retina MacBooks available for $200-$260 off MSRP. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping is free. The following... Read more
13-inch 2.7GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2015 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina Apple MacBook Pro on sale for $170 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro (MF839LL/A): $... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2015 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro (MJLQ2LL/A) on sale for $1799.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $200 off MSRP. Read more
Save up to $160 with Apple refurbished 9-inch...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 9″ and 12″ Apple iPad Pros available for up to $160 off the cost of new iPads. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 32GB 9″... Read more
Apple Chip Foundry TSMC To Begin A11 System-o...
Digitimes’ Steve Shen is reporting today that according to the Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN), chipmaker and major Apple supplier foundery Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC... Read more
MacX MediaTrans 3.5 iOS Data Transfer Spring...
MacXDVD Software has announced general availability of the latest MacX MedTrans 3.5, featuring a new user interface (UI). MacX MediaTrans is ann iPhone manager that enables free data transfer between... Read more
Regular Price $19.95 DupeZap 4 Finder For OS...
Hyperbolic Software has announced the release of DupeZap 4.0.2, their modern duplicate finder developed exclusively for macOS. DupeZap 4 is an utility for Mac owners seeking to reclaim disk space... Read more
B-Eng Releases SSD Health Check for MVNe for...
Fehraltorf, Switzerland based B-Eng has announced the release and immediate availability of SSD Health Check for MVNe for MacBook Pro, their app that delivers important data and insights for MVNe... Read more

Jobs Board

Fulltime aan de slag als shopmanager in een h...
Ben jij helemaal gek van Apple -producten en vind je het helemaal super om fulltime shopmanager te zijn in een jonge en hippe elektronicazaak? Wil jij werken in Read more
*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
**492889BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobile Master **Location Number:** 000886-Norwalk-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Mobile Master do?** Read more
*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
**492472BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobile Master **Location Number:** 000470-Seattle-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Mobile Master do?** Read more
*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
**492562BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobile Master **Location Number:** 000853-Jackson-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Mobile Master do?** Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.