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Where to get binary format of Excel

Posted on 1999-11-16
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2011-10-03
  I want to read from a excel file and save the data in
  a different file in the format [known to me].

  One way of doing this would be,
   if the binary format of the excel file is known the required
   information can be read and saved in different format.
   Is there any other way of converting the excel database ?
   From where can i get the binary format of excel file.
   Thanks in advance
Question by:akhila75

Accepted Solution

vboukhar earned 600 total points
ID: 2210934
Hi, akhila
Look at this link:
(http://www.wotsit.org/ - very useful site for developers).
And you can find it on MSDN and MS KB:

Microsoft Excel
The Microsoft Excel binary file format is supported. There is available
documentation is on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) under "Microsoft
Excel File Format." There is a helpful tool for analyzing the contents of
Microsoft Excel files called BiffView.exe that comes with the Microsoft Excel
SDK listed in the REFERENCES section of this article. For additional information
about Microsoft Excel binary file format, please click the article number(s)
below to view the article(s) in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
   Q224518 HOWTO: Determine If an Excel Workbook Contains Macros
   Q178605 HOWTO: Determine the Version of a Microsoft Excel Workbook
   Q150447 SAMPLE: How To Create a BIFF5 File
   Q147732 Records Needed to Make a BIFF5 File Microsoft Excel Can Use
   Q187919 INFO: BIFF8 BOUNDSHEET Record Data for Uncompressed Unicode
   Q198253 DOC: Excel BIFF8 CONTINUE Record Information is Incomplete
But, IMHO - knowledge of BIFF is only one part - you have to know OLE compound file structure (because BIFF is stored into OLE compound file) and (!) MS doesn't provide any information about binary structure of OLE compound file! I spent some time on this question, so you have to follow link from Wotsit about Laola and read it very carefully.
I'm very intersting in Excel binary format too. If you have any additional information and/or question - my e-mail is into my profile.
What language do you plan to use for development of you conversion tool?

Expert Comment

ID: 2211561
Hi vboukhar!

You have almost answered the question.


If you have MSDN look for Excel file format. There is a detailed article.
LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 2212296
Does it have to be binary ? Could you use the delimited file format (*.csv etc) to export from Excel and parse/write it in your program ? I take you want the data only and not the overhead.
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Expert Comment

ID: 2213871
I have an excellent book called Microsoft Excel97 Developer's Kit from Microsoft Press, that gives the record format in full detail. I have used this book for a similar purpose in the past.

I guess an edition should be available for Excel 2000 too.

Would it not be better for you to just get a third-party API that handles reading of Excel file and give you whatever info you need?

Several exist(ed) for sure - I have used them. Check out Adobe's site for a product called "Word for Word", which is (was?) also available in API form at least until 1996. This was earlier belonging to a company called MasterSoft which was later acquired by Adobe. Don't know the current status of availability, though.

You could also look for something like QuickView / QuickView Plus available in API form. These are generally called as "Viewers" (that's logical) and "Filters" (beats me why!).

You may also consider third-party grid / workbook like component products, some of which are capable of opening Excel file into their own object, and then giving you an API to access things. One example: "Formula One" from "Visual Components" (It's now become "Tidestone Technologies"!! Damn these acquisitions and mergers :-) ) But I think the URL should be correct: http://www.visualcomp.com which will ask you to redirect to www.tidestone.com.

Cri's solution will work if you have the opportunity of first saving the Excel file in some other format.

Hope this helps. Vboukhar, maybe you will find this useful too (can't help thinking that for you this is all probably old news!)

Will Ture (the Excel MVP expert!) care to comment?

- stochastic

Expert Comment

ID: 2213877
the book I mentioned - forgot to give reference. ISBN 1-57231-498-2

Expert Comment

ID: 2214313
Thanks for interesting links, but main target of my interest in Excel binary format is to find way to recover brocken files (unaccessible with any MS tools (like BiffView) and methods of STGStorage C++ class (MS way to read/write compound files). All third-party API are based on this C++ classes, I guess (in any case all that I see can't handle with brocken files and return MFC STGStorage error messages)...
Though, maybe, for akhila your links could be more useful.
About Developer's Kit MS Press book - could you tell me, if it contains OLE compound file binary strucure description? If yes, I'll buy it immideately! (but I very doubt in it! - I think, there is only BIFF structure there).
Good luck!

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