Convert SpreadSheets to CSV files with Python and pyuno, Part 1v2


Some months back I developed some pyuno code for converting spreadsheets into CSV files from the command line. Pyuno being the Python interface to the OpenOffice runtime. One of the enhancement suggestions I got was to add the ability to extract all the sheets and/or a specific sheet rather than always extracting the first sheet. The following update to the code does just that.

By way of refreshing our memory, the converter program takes pairs of input and output files, for example:

$ python file1.xls file1.csv file2.ods file2.csv

Each input file is a spreadsheet and it is converted into the corresponding output file as a CSV file. The new version has been enhanced so that you can append a sheet name or number to the end of the input file name to specify a particular sheet to extract, for example:

$ python file1.xls:1      file1.csv
$ python file1.xls:Sheet1 file1.csv
$ python file2.ods@1      file2.csv
$ python file2.ods@Sheet2 file2.csv

The sheet name or number (starting at 1) is appended to the input file name separated by a colon (:) or an at sign (@).

In addition, you can convert all the sheets in one pass by specifing a %d or a %s format specifier in the output file name:

$ python file1.xls file1-%d.csv
$ python file1.xls file1-%s.csv

If the format specifier is %d, then the sheet number is formatted into the output file name, if %s is specified then the sheet name is used. The %d specifier can include zero pad and width specifiers (eg %04d).

The new code has three main changes over the the original code. The first change is to check for an input file sheet specification:

        # Check for sheet specification in input file name.
        match ='^(.*)[@:](.*)$', inputFile)
        if os.path.exists(inputFile) or not match:
            inputUrl   = uno.systemPathToFileUrl(os.path.abspath(inputFile))
            inputSheet = '1'   # Convert fist sheet.
            inputUrl   = uno.systemPathToFileUrl(os.path.abspath(
            inputSheet =

The regular expression search checks to see if the input file name can be broken into a file name part and a sheet name part. If it can, and only if the original unbroken input file name does not refer to an existing file, the pieces are used as the input file and sheet specification. Checking to see if the original unbroken input file name refers to an existing file allows you to specify input files that have colons and at signs in their names, and it continues to work even in the case where you have an input file with a colon or at sign in its name and you want to extract a particular sheet, for example:

$ python this:month.xls:sales output.csv

will correctly recognize that the sheet name is "sales" and that the file name is "this:month.xls". Since the regular expression search is be default greedy the break will occur at the last colon and since "this:month.xls:sales" does not refer to an existing file the match will be used.

The second main change, is related to how the document is loaded. After getting the rest of the code to the point where I thought it ought to be working I discovered while testing that OpenOffice was always converting the first sheet. After some flailing at the code failed to fix the problem I started looking at a few other examples of pyuno code and the only thing I really noted was that many did not use the Hidden property when loading the document. So, I gave that a shot and sure enough it fixed the problem. The accompanying comment has a few more notes:

        #   Sheet activation does not work properly when Hidden is specified.
        #   Although the sheet does become the active sheet, it's not the sheet that
        #   gets saved if the spreadsheet is loaded with Hidden=True.
        #   Removing Hidden=True doesn't seem to change anything: nothing appears
        #   on the screen regardless of the Hidden value.
        # document  = self.desktop.loadComponentFromURL(inputUrl, "_blank", 0, ooutils.oo_properties(Hidden=True))
        document  = self.desktop.loadComponentFromURL(inputUrl, "_blank", 0, ooutils.oo_properties())

The third change is the one where the sheet or sheets are extracted. If a particular sheet is specified the sheet is activated first then saved to the output file:

                # Activate the sheet to be converted.
                if'^\d+$', inputSheet):
                    sheet = sheets.getByIndex(int(inputSheet)-1)
                    sheet = sheets.getByName(inputSheet)

                outputUrl = uno.systemPathToFileUrl(os.path.abspath(outputFile))
                document.storeToURL(outputUrl, props)

The regular expression here checks to see if the sheet name is a number or a string (sheet number or sheet name).

If all the sheets are being saved then the sheets are activated one by one, the output file name is formatted and the sheet is saved:

            # Use the sheet number if the format is %d, otherwise the sheet name.
            dfmt ='%[0-9]*d', outputFile)
            sfmt ='%s', outputFile)

            if dfmt  or  sfmt:
                i = 0
                while i < sheets.getCount():
                    # Activate the sheet.
                    sheet = sheets.getByIndex(i)

                    # Create output file name.
                    if dfmt:
                        ofile = outputFile % (i+1)
                        ofile = outputFile % sheet.getName().replace(' ', '_')

                    if verbose: print "    %s" % ofile

                    # Save the sheet to the output file.
                    outputUrl = uno.systemPathToFileUrl(os.path.abspath(ofile))
                    document.storeToURL(outputUrl, props)
                    i += 1

The code in its entirety appears below:

  1 #!/usr/bin/python
  2 #
  3 # Convert spreadsheet to CSV file.
  4 #
  5 # Based on:
  6 #   PyODConverter (Python OpenDocument Converter) v1.0.0 - 2008-05-05
  7 #   Copyright (C) 2008 Mirko Nasato <>
  8 #   Licensed under the GNU LGPL v2.1 - or any later version.
  9 #
 10 #
 12 import os
 13 import re
 14 import ooutils
 16 import uno
 17 from import ErrorCodeIOException
 21 class SSConverter:
 22     """
 23     Spreadsheet converter class.
 24     Converts spreadsheets to CSV files.
 25     """
 27     def __init__(self, oorunner=None):
 28         self.desktop  = None
 29         self.oorunner = None
 32     def convert(self, inputFile, outputFile, verbose=False):
 33         """
 34         Convert the input file (a spreadsheet) to a CSV file.
 36         The input file name can contain a sheet specification to specify a particular sheet.
 37         The sheet specification is either a number or a sheet name.
 38         The sheet specification is appended to the file name separated by a colon
 39         or an at sign: ":" or "@".
 41         If the output file name contains a %d or %s format specifier, then all the sheets
 42         in the input file are converted, otherwise only the first sheet is converted.
 44         If the output file name contains a %d format specifier then the sheet number
 45         is used when formatting the output file name.
 46         The format can contain a width specifier (eg %02d).
 48         If the output file name contains a %s specifier then the sheet name is used
 49         when formatting the output file name.
 50         """
 52         # Start openoffice if needed.
 53         if not self.desktop:
 54             if not self.oorunner:
 55                 self.oorunner = ooutils.OORunner()
 57             self.desktop = self.oorunner.connect()
 59         # Check for sheet specification in input file name.
 60         match ='^(.*)[@:](.*)$', inputFile)
 61         if os.path.exists(inputFile) or not match:
 62             inputUrl   = uno.systemPathToFileUrl(os.path.abspath(inputFile))
 63             inputSheet = '1'   # Convert fist sheet.
 64         else:
 65             inputUrl   = uno.systemPathToFileUrl(os.path.abspath(
 66             inputSheet =
 69         # NOTE:
 70         #   Sheet activation does not work properly when Hidden is specified.
 71         #   Although the sheet does become the active sheet, it's not the sheet that
 72         #   gets saved if the spreadsheet is loaded with Hidden=True.
 73         #
 74         #   Removing Hidden=True doesn't seem to change anything: nothing appears
 75         #   on the screen regardless of the Hidden value.
 76         #
 77         # document  = self.desktop.loadComponentFromURL(inputUrl, "_blank", 0, ooutils.oo_properties(Hidden=True))
 78         document  = self.desktop.loadComponentFromURL(inputUrl, "_blank", 0, ooutils.oo_properties())
 80         try:
 81             props = ooutils.oo_properties(FilterName="Text - txt - csv (StarCalc)")
 82             #
 83             # Another useful property option:
 84             #   FilterOptions="59,34,0,1"
 85             #     59 - Field separator (semicolon), this is the ascii value.
 86             #     34 - Text delimiter (double quote), this is the ascii value.
 87             #      0 - Character set (system).
 88             #      1 - First line number to export.
 89             #
 90             # For more information see:
 91             #
 93             # To convert a particular sheet, the sheet needs to be active.
 94             # To activate a sheet we need the spreadsheet-view, to get the spreadsheet-view
 95             # we need the spreadsheet-controller, to get the spreadsheet-controller
 96             # we need the spreadsheet-model.
 97             #
 98             # The spreadsheet-model interface is available from the document object.
 99             # The spreadsheet-view interface is available from the controller.
100             #
101             controller = document.getCurrentController()
102             sheets     = document.getSheets()
104             # If the output file name contains a %d or %s format specifier, convert all sheets.
105             # Use the sheet number if the format is %d, otherwise the sheet name.
106             dfmt ='%[0-9]*d', outputFile)
107             sfmt ='%s', outputFile)
109             if dfmt  or  sfmt:
110                 i = 0
111                 while i < sheets.getCount():
112                     # Activate the sheet.
113                     sheet = sheets.getByIndex(i)
114                     controller.setActiveSheet(sheet)
116                     # Create output file name.
117                     if dfmt:
118                         ofile = outputFile % (i+1)
119                     else:
120                         ofile = outputFile % sheet.getName().replace(' ', '_')
122                     if verbose: print "    %s" % ofile
124                     # Save the sheet to the output file.
125                     outputUrl = uno.systemPathToFileUrl(os.path.abspath(ofile))
126                     document.storeToURL(outputUrl, props)
127                     i += 1
129             else:
130                 # Activate the sheet to be converted.
131                 if'^\d+$', inputSheet):
132                     sheet = sheets.getByIndex(int(inputSheet)-1)
133                 else:
134                     sheet = sheets.getByName(inputSheet)
136                 controller.setActiveSheet(sheet)
137                 outputUrl = uno.systemPathToFileUrl(os.path.abspath(outputFile))
138                 document.storeToURL(outputUrl, props)
139         finally:
140             if document: document.close(True)
143 if __name__ == "__main__":
144     from sys import argv
145     from os.path import isfile
147     if len(argv) == 2  and  argv[1] == '--shutdown':
148         ooutils.oo_shutdown_if_running()
149     else:
150         if len(argv) < 3  or  len(argv) % 2 != 1:
151             print "USAGE:"
152             print "  python %s INPUT-FILE[:SHEET] OUTPUT-FILE ..." % argv[0]
153             print "OR"
154             print "  python %s --shutdown" % argv[0]
155             exit(255)
157         try:
158             i = 1
159             converter = SSConverter()
161             while i+1 < len(argv):
162                 print '%s => %s' % (argv[i], argv[i+1])
163                 converter.convert(argv[i], argv[i+1], True)
164                 i += 2
166         except ErrorCodeIOException, exception:
167             print "ERROR! ErrorCodeIOException %d" % exception.ErrCode
168             exit(1)
ssconverter.py_.txt6.26 KB
ooutils.py_.txt4.61 KB

Mitch Frazier is an Associate Editor for Linux Journal.


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Memory leak update

Thierry T's picture

After investigating deeper, this script does shutdown OpenOffice. This works around the OpenOffice memory leak problems. Good.

The memory leak issue I saw appears if OpenOffice is already started BEFORE calling this script (headless instance started on the same port). Uno seems to be confused with what instance of OpenOffice to use and close. I ended up with hundreds of openoffice processes.

Not prestarting OpenOffice removed the confusion.


Memory leak: known issue -> Restart OO

Thierry T's picture

About my previous memory leak report.

It seems that this is a known issue. JODConverter does restart OO for each conversion as a workaround.


Memory leak when running multiple times?

Thierry T's picture

Thanks for showing us your code.

I tried to call your code on a few hundreds of spreasheets (1 call per 1 spreadsheet) and I noticed that the conversion (Excel to CSV) became slower after each call. In fact, something was eating more and more memory. My server eventually ran out of memory/swap and stopped.

With the calling code on my side, I had previously tried JODConvertor and Roo. I did not have such memory issues.

BTW, JODConverter worked fine but it does not support multiple sheets.
Roo has support for multiple sheets but it has two major issues for me. Limited support for Asian encoded characters. And silent crash for lines containings Merged cells (the lines are just skipped in the CSV output).

Problems with in Debian/Ubuntu

cerezo's picture


I have a problem using this script in Ubuntu,
NameError: global name 'OPENOFFICE_BIN' is not defined
in order to solve it, edit, go to line 19 and add this path:

Many thanks for share your code,

Convert SpreadSheets to CSV files.

ilde giron's picture

Thanks for listening. I posted a request for this functionality some time ago. As I couldn't figure out how to do it, I resourced to xls2csv, a Perl module. As to date it has worked fine, specially since sometimes the files to convert are large, say 200+ cols and 1500+ rows. Only complaint is that the installation is not as easy as installing with a simple apt-get install.

I will give it a try early next week.