robust_excel_ole helps to automate modifying and reading Excel files. This is done by sending VBA methods via Win32OLE. Moreover, robust_excel_ole implements a management system of Excel files and Excel instances and keeps track of all workbooks.


  • support both fully automated operations as well as simultaneous user interactions during the automation

  • be able to cope with all cases of Excel (and user) behaviour, encapsulate errors

  • provide convenient methods for frequent (common) tasks

  • support the use of simultaneously running Excel instances

  • allow the presence of referenced libraries and provide some support for that

  • support EXCEL 2010, EXCEL 2007

This is work in progress.


  • Ruby 1.8.6 or higher


gem install robust_excel_ole


Opening a workbook.


include RobustExcelOle
book ='workbook.xls')

Opening a workbook with a block. The semantics is similar to, e.g.,'workbook.xls') do |book|
  # do something

Options are

+:default_excel+, +:force_excel+, +:if_absent+, +:if_unsaved+, +:if_obstructed+, 
+:read_only+, +:visible+, +:displayalerts+.

Valid values for :default_excel are :reuse, :new or some Excel instance, for :force_excel : :new or some Excel instance, for :if_unsaved : :raise, :accept, :forget, :alert and :new_excel, for :if_obstructed : :raise, :save, :close_if_saved, :forget, :alert and :new_excel , for :if_absent : :raise and :create.

Here are a few examples:

Opening a workbook in the Excel instance where it was opened before, or opening the workbook in a new Excel instance if it was not opened before.

book ='workbook.xls', :default_excel => :new)

Opening a workbook in a new Excel instance and make it visible.

book ='workbook.xls', :force_excel => :new, :visible => true)

If a workbook contains unsaved changes and a workbook with the same filename shall be opened, then Excel gives an alert message. The option :if_unsaved manages this case. For example, :if_unsaved => :accept indicates that the workbook remains open, but no error is raised, i.e. the program can continue.

book ='workbook.xls', :if_unsaved => :accept)

If a workbook is open and a workbook with the same name but in different path shall be opened, then the first workbook blocks opening the other workbook. The option :if_obstructed handles this situation. For example, :if_obstructed => :forget causes the old workbook to close and to open the new workbook.

book ='path/workbook.xls', :if_obstructed => :forget)

Opening linked workbooks for EXCEL 2007 is supported

Closing a workbook.


There is one option: : :if_unsaved. Valid values for this option are :raise, :save, :forget, :alert and :keep_open. Example:

Closing the workbook and saving it before if it has unsaved changes.

book.close(:if_unsaved => :save)

Reopening a workbook.

A special feature of robust_excel_ole is that it allows to reopen workbooks after closing them.

book ='workbook.xls')

The closed workbook is now alive again, i.e. is open and responds to Excel methods. This feature is a result of providing identity transparence and storing the file name.

The Book objects and transperence identity

An Excel file (or workbook) is represented by a Book object. A Book object is defined by the full name of the workbook and the Excel instance in which it is opened. RobustExcelOle aims to ensure identity transperency. Identity transparence means that the same Book objects refer to the same Excel files, and vice versa. In other words, a Book objects is a proxy of an Excel file.

Casting a workbook to a Book object

A Book object can be created when giving an Excel workbook.

book =

Saving a workbook.

Saving a workbook with a file name.


The options are :if_exists and if_obstructed.

Saving a workbook and overwriting the file if it exists before.

book.save_as('another_workbook.xls', :if_exists => :overwrite)

If a workbook is blocking the workbook that should be saved, then the former one can be saved and closed before.

book ='workbook.xls')
book2 ='another_workbook.xls')
book2.save_as('dir/workbook.xls', :if_exists => :overwrite, :if_obstructed => :save)

Unobtrusively opening a workbook

The method unobtrusively enables the user to read or modify a workbook, no matter if it is open in some Excel instance, if it is saved or unsaved, and if it is writable or not. When opening a workbook unobtrusively, its status remains unchanged. This status includes, whether the workbook is opened or closed, saved or unsaved, readonly or writable.

Some options determine the Excel instance in which a closed workbook is opened. The options +:reuse (default) indicates that the closed workbook is opened in the Excel instance where the workbooks is opened, if such an Excel instance exists, otherwise that another Excel instance is reused. The option :hidden provokes that the closed workbook is opened in a separate Excel instance that is not visible and has no DisplayAlerts. Any following closed workbook would be opened in this Excel instance as well when using this option. Moreover, an Excel instance can be given directly where to open the closed workbook.

Further options are :read_only, :readonly_excel, and +:keep_open. The option :readonly_excel chooses whether a book that is opened in read only mode. If the workbook is opened as read only, then the option :readonly_excel determines whether to close the workbook and open it as writable in the Excel instance where it was open so far, or to open it as writable in another running Excel instance, if such an instance exists, or to open it in a new Excel instance.

Book.unobtrusively('workbook.xls', :reuse, :read_only => false, :keep_open => false) do |book|
  # some modification
  sheet = book[0]
  sheet[1,1] = "c" 

The methods for_reading and for_modifying are methods for unobtrusively reading or modifying.

Book.for_modifying('workbook.xls') do |book|
  # some modification
  sheet = book[0]
  sheet[1,1] = "c" 

Checking whether the workbook is alive.

This method finds out whether the Excel workbook that is referenced by the Book object responds to methods.

if book.alive? then sheet = book[0] end

Setting and getting the contents of a range.


book["name"] = "value"


book.set_nvalue("name") = "value"


=> "value"


=> "value"

Activating a workbook.

Bring the window of a workbook to the foreground, make it available for keyboard inputs, and make the Excel instance visible.


Making a workbook visible or invisible

Open a workbook and make the Excel instance visible.

book ='workbook.xls', :visivble => true)

Make the workbook invisible.

book.visible = false

Make the workbook visible

book.visible = true

Making an Excel visible or invisible, and enable and disable DisplayAlerts.

Make an Excel visible

book.excel.visible = true

Enable DisplayAlerts.

book.excel.displayalerts = true

Accessing a sheet.

A sheet object can be accessed with a Book#[] method via an integer number.

sheet = book[0]

Accessing a sheet object with the sheet name.

sheet = book['Sheet1']

Accessing sheet objects using the methods Book#each.

book.each do |sheet|               
  # do something with sheet

Accessing a row or a column.

A sheet object is enumerable. Use the methods Sheet#each_column, Sheet#each_row or Sheet#each.

sheet.each do |cell|
  # do something with cell
  # read every row every column

sheet.each_row do |row|
  # do something with row

sheet.each_column do |column|
  # do something with column

Accessing a cell.

Reading a cell from a sheet object.

sheet[1, 1]  => first cell (first row, first column).

Reading a cell from a range object.

row_range[0]  => first cell in row_range
column_range[1] => second cell in column_range

Methods to a cell are just delegated. Example:

Reading the value of a cell.

cell = sheet[1,1]
cell.Value  => value of the cell.

Writing a cell

sheet[1,1] = "new_value"

Accessing a range of a row or column.

Accessing a range of a row.

sheet.row_range(1)  => first row
sheet.row_range(1, 1..3 )  => first three cells of the first row

Accessing a range of a column.

sheet.col_range(3)  => third column
sheet.col_range(3, 1..2)  => first two cells of the third column

Naming a cell

Naming or renaming a cell range given its address.


Reading and modifying a Value of a named range

Returning the value of a range, e.g. a cell, that has a with a defined name.




Setting the value of a range, e.g. a cell, that has a with a defined name.



book[name] = value

Adding a sheet.

Adding a new sheet.


Adding a new sheet with a name.

book.add_sheet(:as => 'new_sheet')

Adding a new sheet with a name before another sheet.

book.add_sheet(:as => 'new_sheet2', :before => another_sheet)

Adding a copy of a sheet with a name after another sheet.

book.add_sheet(sheet, :as => 'sheet_copy', :after => another_sheet)

Value of a named cell or range

Returning the value of a cell or range that has a with a defined name.


Creating and reusing an Excel instance.

Creating a new Excel.

excel1 = Excel.create

Getting a running Excel instance and reusing it.

excel2 = Excel.current

Reusing a running Excel instance, making it visible and turning on displayalerts.

excel2 = => true, :visible => true, :displayalerts => true).

Casting an Excel instance represented as WIN32OLE object to an Excel object

excel = => win32ole_object)

Making Excel visible or invisible

Making Excel visible.

excel = Excel.create
excel.visible = true

Making Excel invisible

excel.visible = false

Turning on or off Displayalerts.

Turning DisplayAlerts on.

excel = Excel.create
excel.displayalerts = true

Turning DisplayAlerts off.

excel.displayalerts = false

Turning on and off in a block.

excel = Excel.create
excel.with_displayalerts true do
  book ='workbook.xls')

Closing an Excel

excel = Excel.current

The options are :if_unsaved and :hard . Example:

Closing the Excel instance, saving unsaved wrkbooks and terminating the Excel process

excel.close(:if_unsaved => :save, :hard => true)

Closing all Excel instances.


The options are :if_unsaved and :hard . Values for :if_unsaved+ are raise, save, and forget. Example:

Closing all Excel instances, not saving unsaved workbooks and terminating the Excel processes

Excel.close_all(:if_unsaved => :forget, :hard => :true)

Terminating all Excel processes


Recreating an Excel instance

Reopening the closed Excel instance. This includes reopening all workbooks that were open in that Excel instance.


The options are :reopen_workbooks, :visible and :displayalerts.

excel.recreate(:reopen_workbooks => true, :visible => true, :displayalerts => true)

Providing Excel instances

Providing all Excel instances (opened via RobustExcelOle) as objects of the class Excel



Example 1

Opening a book.

book ='workbook.xls')

Accessing a sheet via its name.

sheet = book['Sheet1']

Changing the first cell.

sheet[0,0] = "new"

Saving the book.

Saving the book with a different name, and overwrite if a file with this name exists.

book.save_as('different_workbook.xls', :if_exists => :overwrite)

Closing the book.


Example 2

Opening a workbook.

book ='workbook.xls')

Opening the book in a new Excel instance and make it visible.

new_book ='workbook.xls', :force_excel => :new, :visible => true)

Opening the book in a given Excel instance.

another_book ='workbook.xls', :force_excel => book.excel)

Closing the books.


Reopening the workbook.

reopened_book = book.reopen

The writable workbook is being prefered.

reopened_book === book
=> true

Opening another workbook. Since the workbook was not open before, reopening the workbook fails and the :default_excel option applies. According to :default_excel => :new a new Excel is created, and the workbook is opened there.

different_book ='different.xls', :default_excel => :new)

Example 3

Opening a workbook.

book ='workbook.xls')

Adding a copy of the first sheet after the second sheet.

book.add_sheet(book[0], :as => 'Sheet1_copy', :after => book[1])

Opening a new workbook with the same name in a new Excel. Leave the workbook that contains unsaved changes in the old Excel.

new_book ='workbook.xls', :if_unsaved => :new_excel)

Accessing a sheet and change a cell.

sheet = new_book[0]
sheet[1,1] = "another"

Opening another workbook with the same name in the running Excel. The book that contains unsaved changes will be closed before.

third_book ='workbook.xls', :if_unsaved => :forget)

Adding a sheet.


Closing the workbook without saving it.

third_book.close(:if_unsaved => :forget)

Closing the first workbook and saving it before.

book.close(:if_unsaved => :save)

Example 4

Opening a workbook.

book1 ='workbook.xls')

Opening a book with the same name in a different path. Close the old workbook.

book2 ='more/workbook.xls', :if_obstructed => :forget)

Changing its cell.

sheet = book2[0]
sheet[1,1] = "new"

Opening a workbook with the same name in a different path. The old workbook that was modified will be saved and closed before.

book3 ='workbook.xls', :if_obstructed => :save)

Opening a workbook with the same name in a different path. The other workbook will be closed, because it does not contain unsaved changes.

book4 ='more/workbook.xls', :if_obstructed => :close_if_unsaved)

Closing the workbook.


Example 5

Opening a workbook.

book ='workbook.xls')

Printing its first cell.

sheet = book[0]
p "1st cell: #{sheet[1,1].Value}"

Unobtrusively modify the workbook.

Book.unobtrusively('workbook.xls') do |book|
  sheet = book[0]
  sheet[1,1] = 'simple'

The workbook is modified, but its status is unchanged.

new_sheet = book[0]
not (new_sheet[1,1].Value == sheet[1,1].Value) 
=> true

=> true

More Details

For more details about usage: see


robust_excel_ole started as a simple fork from tomiacannondale's wrap_excel adapted to Ruby 1.8.6. The functionality of wrap_excel is optimised and extended by new features. Most notable extensions include:

  • workbooks can be opened in already running Excel instances (instead of opening a new Excel whenever a book is opened)

  • a workbook management system stores all workbooks that have been open. This workbook store is being used, e.g., for reopening a workbook that has been closed before. It provides transparency identity, i.e., equal Excel workbooks correspond to equal Book objects of RobustExcelOle.

Some features in robust_excel_ole that are not compatible with wrap_excel:

  • open uses by default a running Excel instance instead of creating a new one, and opens a workbook by default in writable mode instead of read_only

  • close closes the workbook instead of closing all workbooks and the Excel instance.

  • save_as instead of save.

Want to do more things

If you want to do something that not provide a function, you can use win32ole methods.


This is work in progress. Please contact us and to report issues and feature requests to github Issues.


Please pull request on github.


thomas [email protected]


MIT License. For more imformation, please see LICENSE.