How to create an Excel (.XLS and .XLSX) file in C# without installing Microsoft Office?

You can use a library called ExcelLibrary. It’s a free, open source library posted on Google Code:

ExcelLibrary

This looks to be a port of the PHP ExcelWriter that you mentioned above. It will not write to the new .xlsx format yet, but they are working on adding that functionality in.

It’s very simple, small and easy to use. Plus it has a DataSetHelper that lets you use DataSets and DataTables to easily work with Excel data.

ExcelLibrary seems to still only work for the older Excel format (.xls files), but may be adding support in the future for newer 2007/2010 formats.

You can also use EPPlus, which works only for Excel 2007/2010 format files (.xlsx files). There’s also NPOI which works with both.

There are a few known bugs with each library as noted in the comments. In all, EPPlus seems to be the best choice as time goes on. It seems to be more actively updated and documented as well.

Here some example code for ExcelLibrary:

Here is an example taking data from a database and creating a workbook from it. Note that the ExcelLibrary code is the single line at the bottom:

//Create the data set and table
DataSet ds = new DataSet("New_DataSet");
DataTable dt = new DataTable("New_DataTable");

//Set the locale for each
ds.Locale = System.Threading.Thread.CurrentThread.CurrentCulture;
dt.Locale = System.Threading.Thread.CurrentThread.CurrentCulture;

//Open a DB connection (in this example with OleDB)
OleDbConnection con = new OleDbConnection(dbConnectionString);
con.Open();

//Create a query and fill the data table with the data from the DB
string sql = "SELECT Whatever FROM MyDBTable;";
OleDbCommand cmd = new OleDbCommand(sql, con);
OleDbDataAdapter adptr = new OleDbDataAdapter();

adptr.SelectCommand = cmd;
adptr.Fill(dt);
con.Close();

//Add the table to the data set
ds.Tables.Add(dt);

//Here's the easy part. Create the Excel worksheet from the data set
ExcelLibrary.DataSetHelper.CreateWorkbook("MyExcelFile.xls", ds);

Creating the Excel file is as easy as that. You can also manually create Excel files, but the above functionality is what really impressed me.

How to create an Excel (.XLS and .XLSX) file in C# without installing Microsoft Office?

If you are happy with the xlsx format, try my library, EPPlus. It started with the source from ExcelPackage, but since became a total rewrite.

It supports ranges, cell styling, charts, shapes, pictures, named ranges, AutoFilter, and a lot of other stuff.

You have two options:

  • EPPlus 4, licensed under LGPL (original branch, developed until 2020)
  • EPPlus 5, licensed under Polyform Noncommercial 1.0.0 (since 2020).

From the EPPlus 5 readme.md:

With the new license EPPlus is still free to use in some cases, but will require a commercial license to be used in a commercial business.

EPPlus website: https://www.epplussoftware.com/

Answer #3:

And what about using Open XML SDK 2.0 for Microsoft Office?

A few benefits:

  • Doesn’t require Office installed
  • Made by Microsoft = decent MSDN documentation
  • Just one .Net dll to use in project
  • SDK comes with many tools like diff, validator, etc

Links:

Answer #4:

An extremely lightweight option may be to use HTML tables. Just create head, body, and table tags in a file, and save it as a file with an .xls extension. There are Microsoft specific attributes that you can use to style the output, including formulas.

I realize that you may not be coding this in a web application, but here is an example of the composition of an Excel file via an HTML table. This technique could be used if you were coding a console app, desktop app, or service.

How to create an Excel (.XLS and .XLSX) file in C# without installing Microsoft Office?

You actually might want to check out the interop classes available in C# (e.g. Microsoft.Office.Interop.Excel. You say no OLE (which this isn’t), but the interop classes are very easy to use. Check out the C# Documentation here (Interop for Excel starts on page 1072 of the C# PDF).

You might be impressed if you haven’t tried them.

Please be warned of Microsoft’s stance on this:

Microsoft does not currently recommend, and does not support, Automation of Microsoft Office applications from any unattended, non-interactive client application or component (including ASP, ASP.NET, DCOM, and NT Services), because Office may exhibit unstable behavior and/or deadlock when Office is run in this environment.

Hope you learned something from this post. The primary source of this article is StackOverflow.

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