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SpreadsheetML is the XML format used by Microsoft Excel 2007 and that is part of the Office Open XML specification.

SpreadsheetML Basics


A SpreadsheetML document is described at the top level by a workbook part ( /xl/workbook.xml ). The type of the work book type is


The workbook part contains document's metadata and one or more sheets. Each sheet can be a worksheet, a chart sheet, or a dialog sheet.

Both strings and formulas are stored in shared tables to avoid redundant storage and speed file I/O's.

Sample Files

One convenient location to download sample files is in gnumeric repository.

Code Organization

Source files for handling the SpreadsheetML format are located in inc/oox/xls and source/xls under module oox. A good place to start tracing the code would be ExcelFilter::Import and follow the calls it makes.

A substream in the XML package is called "fragment", and each fragment has an associated *fragment.hxx header file. For instance, the code for loading of the workbook.xml fragment is found in workbookfragment.hxx, and so on.

A nested element is called "context", and, like the fragments, each context has an associated *context.hxx. For instance, the code for parsing the <sheetData> element is found in sheetdatacontext.hxx.

The term workbook in this context refers to an entire document which includes worksheets and other document metadata, whereas the term worksheet refers to each individual sheet in the workbook.

Global data

Workbook-wide global data are stored in GlobalData (struct), and handled by GlobalDataHelper (class) which holds reference to the GlobalData instance. All major classes should be derived from GlobalDataHelper to ensure availability of globals in all places.

GlobalData holds reference to ImportBase instance in order to be able to create new fragments.

Different buffers hold the imported data from the fragments if it is needed later, e.g. the SharedStringsBuffer (sharedstringsbuffer.hxx) and the StylesBuffer (stylesbuffer.hxx). These buffers are always part of the GlobalDataHelper.

Relation (class)

Holds three string data for ID, Type and Target (need more info).

ContextHelper (class), FragmentBase (class), ContextBase (class)

In most cases the fragment handler will handle all nested contexts by itself to increase performance. For this, some helper classes have been implemented that do all needed work to deal with nested contexts (contexthelper.hxx, excelfragmentbase.hxx, and excelcontextbase.hxx). In general, for implementing new fragment or context handlers, the interface of the ContextHelper class from contexthelper.hxx has to be implemented. The classes FragmentBase (excelfragmentbase.hxx) and ContextBase (excelcontextbase.hxx) already provide default implementations of all functions.

WorkbookFragment (class)

Handles loading of workbook.xml fragment. It loads the associated relationship file (xl/_rels/workbook.xml.rels) in the constructor.

AddressConverter (class)

converts strings to addresses and ranges, and tracks invalid addresses (e.g. a not-importable cell at address ZZZ1000000). Later, this information will be used to generate a "Imported document contains data outside of sheet limits" warning box after loading. Header: addressconverter.hxx

UnitConverter (class)

provides basic unit conversion, including font dependent stuff such as calculating column width from a specific number of characters. Header: unitconverter.hxx

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