5 Best Ways to Perform Excel Spreadsheet Operations in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: Python users often face the challenge of manipulating Excel spreadsheets, such as reading, writing, or modifying data. This article aims to solve this problem by detailing how to perform various operations on Excel files using Python libraries. For instance, a user may need to input a product inventory Excel sheet and output the summation of stock for each item.

Method 1: Using pandas

Pandas is a powerful data analysis toolkit in Python that can handle Excel files. It provides the read_excel() and to_excel() functions which make reading and writing to Excel a breeze. Pandas is perfectly suited for situations where complex data manipulation is required before rendering the results back to an Excel format.

Here’s an example:

import pandas as pd

# Reading an Excel file
df = pd.read_csv('products.xlsx')

# Sum by column 'Stock'
stock_sum = df['Stock'].sum()

# Exporting to a new Excel file
df['Stock_Sum'] = stock_sum

Output: An updated Excel file named ‘updated_products.xlsx’ with an additional ‘Stock_Sum’ column containing the total.

This code snippet first reads an Excel file using pandas, sums up the ‘Stock’ column, and writes the total back into a new column within the same dataset. It then writes the updated DataFrame back to a new Excel file. Pandas handles the intricacies of interacting with Excel files under the hood, allowing for straightforward spreadsheet manipulation.

Method 2: Using openpyxl

Openpyxl is a library dedicated to reading and writing Excel 2010 files. It’s a great choice for manipulating Excel files like adding formulas or changing cell styles because it supports these Excel-specific features well.

Here’s an example:

from openpyxl import load_workbook

# Load workbook
wb = load_workbook('products.xlsx')
ws = wb.active

# Calculate sum of stock in Python
stock_sum = sum(cell.value for cell in ws['B'])

# Write it in a new cell
ws['C1'] = 'Total Stock'
ws['C2'] = stock_sum

# Save the workbook

Output: An Excel file ‘updated_products.xlsx’ with a new column ‘Total Stock’ displaying the sum of the stock values in column ‘B’.

This script leverages the openpyxl library to load an Excel workbook, iterate through the values of a specific column to calculate a sum, write the result into a new cell, and save the changes. Openpyxl provides granular control over workbook elements, which is especially beneficial for more complex Excel manipulations.

Method 3: Using xlrd and xlwt

The xlrd and xlwt libraries are two of the oldest libraries for reading and writing Excel files without the need for Excel itself. Though they are not actively developed and support only the .xls format, they are a good option for legacy systems.

Here’s an example:

import xlrd
import xlwt

# Read workbook
in_book = xlrd.open_workbook('products.xls')
in_sheet = in_book.sheet_by_index(0)

# Write workbook
out_book = xlwt.Workbook()
out_sheet = out_book.add_sheet('Sum of Stock')

# Compute and write sum
stock_sum = sum(in_sheet.col_values(1))
out_sheet.write(0, 0, 'Total Stock')
out_sheet.write(0, 1, stock_sum)

# Save the workbook

Output: A new Excel file ‘updated_products.xls’ containing the total stock calculated from the ‘products.xls’ file.

This example uses xlrd to read data from an Excel (.xls) file and xlwt to write it to a new workbook. The code sums up values in the second column (index 1) and writes the resulting sum to a new sheet, demonstrating a straightforward approach to Excel manipulation in older formats.

Method 4: Using pyexcel

Pyexcel is a lightweight library that abstracts out the functionalities of other Python Excel manipulation libraries. It allows you to switch between different file formats seamlessly. Pyexcel is ideal if you’re looking for simplicity and quick Excel tasks.

Here’s an example:

import pyexcel as pe

# Read an Excel file
records = pe.iget_records(file_name='products.xlsx')
stock_sum = sum(record['Stock'] for record in records)

# Write the sum to a new file
pe.save_as(array=[['Total Stock', stock_sum]], dest_file_name='stock_summary.xlsx')

Output: A new Excel file ‘stock_summary.xlsx’ containing the summed value of the ‘Stock’ from ‘products.xlsx’.

In this snippet, pyexcel is used to read ‘products.xlsx’ and iterate over its records to calculate the sum of the ‘Stock’ column. The result is saved into a new file ‘stock_summary.xlsx’ with minimal fuss. Pyexcel simplifies the file operations and data extraction, but may not be suitable for more complex tasks.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using one-liners with pandas

For those seeking the simplest yet powerful one-liner solutions, pandas allows you to read, manipulate, and write Excel files with minimal code.

Here’s an example:


Output: A new Excel file ‘stock_summary.xlsx’ that contains the total sum of stock.

This one-liner uses pandas to read an Excel file, calculate the sum of the ‘Stock’ column, and then immediately writes the sum to a new file. It showcases both pandas’ simplicity and power, but assumes a certain comfort level with method chaining and succinct coding practices.


  • Method 1: pandas. Versatile and feature-rich. Strengths include handling complex data manipulation and a wide community support. Weaknesses involve a steep learning curve for new users and potentially high memory usage for large Excel files.
  • Method 2: openpyxl. Ideal for Excel-specific operations. Strengths include detailed control over workbook elements and formula support. Weaknesses are limited to newer Excel file formats (xlsx) and larger memory usage for big files.
  • Method 3: xlrd and xlwt. Good for older Excel file formats. Strengths include simplicity and established legacy use. Weaknesses include lack of ongoing development and support only for the older xls file format.
  • Method 4: pyexcel. Lightweight and straightforward. Strengths include its ease of use and format-agnostic approach. Weaknesses include lesser control and features for complex tasks.
  • Bonus Method 5: pandas one-liner. Quick and powerful for single operations. Strengths include conciseness and efficiency. Weaknesses may include readability issues for those who prefer more explicit code.