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.

 
AAPL
$101.63
Apple Inc.
-0.03
MSFT
$46.24
Microsoft Corpora
-0.46
GOOG
$573.10
Google Inc.
-2.52

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

OS X Yosemite 10.10 DP8 - Developer Prev...
Note: This is a Developer Preview. You must be a registered Apple Mac Developer to download this update. You can also sign up for the free OS X Beta Program to download and preview public beta... Read more
FotoMagico 4.5 - Powerful slideshow crea...
FotoMagico lets you create professional slideshows from your photos and music with just a few, simple mouse clicks. It sports a very clean and intuitive yet powerful user interface. High image... Read more
Screenshot Path 1.2.1 - Change the defau...
Screenshot Path lets you change the folder where OS X saves screenshots. Screenshots are saved by default to the user’s desktop. This is handy for the occasional screenshot but those looking to take... Read more
Fantastical 1.3.16 - Create calendar eve...
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
GIMP 2.8.14 - Powerful, free image editi...
GIMP is a multi-platform photo manipulation tool. GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. The GIMP is suitable for a variety of image manipulation tasks, including photo retouching,... Read more
HoudahSpot 3.9.3 - Advanced front-end fo...
HoudahSpot is an advanced file search tool built upon MacOS X Spotlight. Spotlight unleashed Create detailed queries to locate the exact file you need Narrow down searches. Zero in on files Save... Read more
djay 4.2.3 - Transform your Mac into a f...
djay transforms your Mac into a full-fledged DJ system, allowing you to mix your iTunes music library on a hyper-realistic turntable interface. Perform live, record mixes on-the-go, or enable... Read more
iDefrag 2.2.8 - Disk defragmentation and...
iDefrag helps defragment and optimize your disk for improved performance. Features include: Supports HFS and HFS+ (Mac OS Extended). Supports case sensitive and journaled filesystems. Supports... Read more
Bookends 12.2.3 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more
Copy 1.47.0410 - Cloud storage and file...
Note: You must first sign up to use Copy (get a 5GB sign-up bonus through our 'Download' link above). Copy lets you sync, protect, and share. Everywhere. Want to bring some files home? No problem!... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

The Sleeping Prince Review
The Sleeping Prince Review By Jennifer Allen on September 15th, 2014 Our Rating: :: RESTRICTIVE KINGDOM SAVINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad The Sleeping Prince looks and feels great to play, but its lack of peril and... | Read more »
It Came From Canada: Terra Battle
In some way or another, most Japanese RPGs owe something to Final Fantasy. But with Terra Battle, the now-common mix of Western medieval fantasy with Eastern anime aesthetic feels earned. After all, its developer, Mistwalker, was founded by the... | Read more »
Five Nights at Freddy’s Review
Five Nights at Freddy’s Review By Rob Thomas on September 15th, 2014 Our Rating: :: FIVE FRIGHTS AT FREDDY'SUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Can you survive five nights as the new night watchman of Freddy Fazbear’s... | Read more »
Phantom Rift Review
Phantom Rift Review By Nadia Oxford on September 15th, 2014 Our Rating: :: FRIENDLY PHANTOMUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Despite a snag here and there, Phantom Rift is a well-crafted and imaginative adventure RPG.   | Read more »
Phantom Rift – Tips, Tricks, Strategies,...
Hello, Wanderers: | Read more »
Meet the Newest Character for Temple Run...
Meet the Newest Character for Temple Run 2, from National Geographic Kids’ Action-Adventure Book Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 15th, 2014 [ | Read more »
Battle Riders Review
Battle Riders Review By Jordan Minor on September 15th, 2014 Our Rating: :: UNTWISTED METALUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad BattleRiders has cool car combat, but it could be crazier.   | Read more »
Rapture - World Conquest (Games)
Rapture - World Conquest 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: The End is coming! Bombard the globe with devastating miracles and decimate the enemy civilizations. Guide your... | Read more »
Toonia Jelly: Music Review
Toonia Jelly: Music Review By Amy Solomon on September 15th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CUTE MUSICAL EXPLORATIONUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Toonia Jelly: Music is a charming exploratory app for young children with a... | Read more »
CounterSpy Review
CounterSpy Review By Lee Hamlet on September 15th, 2014 Our Rating: :: AN EXCELLENT PORTUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Shaken or stirred, CounterSpy is simply the best stealth action game to sneak its way onto the App... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

10% off iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Otterbox cases
Get 10% off on popular Otterbox iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus cases at MacMall through September 19th. Use code OTTERBOX10 to see the discount. Read more
15-inch MacBook Pros on sale for up to $125 o...
Amazon has the new 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $125 off MSRP including free shipping: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1899.99 save $100 - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $2374... Read more
27-inch 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1698, $101 o...
Abt has the 27″ 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1698 including free shipping. Their price is $101 off MSRP. Read more
More To Making A Larger iPad Than Expanded Sc...
CNET’s Ross Rubin has posted a thoughtful analysis of prospects for a larger display iPad Pro, noting that Microsoft and Samsung currently have the large-display touchscreen tablet category to... Read more
SwiftKey Keyboard Finally Coming To iPhone An...
At the TechCrunch Disrupt event in San Francisco, Swiftkey unveiled the first details about SwiftKey Keyboard for iPhone, iPad & iPod touch. SwiftKey’s philosophy is that you should be able to... Read more
Save $75 on the 16GB iPad mini with Retina Di...
Best Buy has the 16GB iPad mini with Retina Display on sale for $324.99 on their online store for a limited time. Their price is $75 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this mini.... Read more
21-inch 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $979, $120 of...
B&H Photo has the new 21″ 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $979.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP. B&H will also include free copies of Parallels Desktop... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished 21-inch 1.4GHz iMa...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished 21″ 1.4GHz iMacs for $929 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is $170 off the cost of new models,... Read more
13-inch 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pro on sa...
Adorama has the 13″ 2.6GHz/256GB Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1379 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for... Read more
Macally iPhone 6 Cases
Macally has introduced a Line of Snap-On Shell Cases, Frame Bumper Cases and a Rugged Protective Case for iPhone 6 with 4.7inch Screen, such as the SNAP case in a variety of brilliant metallic... 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
*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
*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
*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
*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
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.