How To Use ADO.NET to Retrieve and Modify Records in an Excel Workbook With Visual Basic .NET

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SUMMARY

This article discusses how you can use ADO.NET to retrieve data from a Microsoft Excel workbook, modify data in an existing workbook, or add data to a new workbook. To access Excel workbooks with ADO.NET, you can use the Jet OLE DB provider; this article provides the information that you need so that you can use the Jet OLE DB provider when Excel is the target data source.

How to Use the Jet OLE DB Provider With Microsoft Excel Workbooks

The Microsoft Jet database engine can access data in other database file formats, such as Excel workbooks, through installable Indexed Sequential Access Method (ISAM) drivers. To open external formats supported by the Microsoft Jet 4.0 OLE DB Provider, specify the database type in the extended properties for the connection. The Jet OLE DB Provider supports the following database types for Microsoft Excel workbooks:
Excel 3.0
Excel 4.0
Excel 5.0
Excel 8.0
NOTE: Use the Excel 5.0 source database type for Microsoft Excel 5.0 and 7.0 (95) workbooks and use the Excel 8.0 source database type for Microsoft Excel 8.0 (97), 9.0 (2000) and 10.0 (2002) workbooks. The examples in this article use Excel workbooks in the Excel 2000 and Excel 2002 format.

Connection String

To access an Excel workbook by using the Jet OLE DB Provider, use a connection string that has the following syntax:
Provider=Microsoft.Jet.OLEDB.4.0;Data Source=C:\Book1.xls;Extended Properties="Excel 8.0;HDR=YES;"
In the connection string, specify the full path and file name for the workbook in the Data Source parameter. The Extended Properties parameter may contain two properties: a property for the ISAM version and a property to indicate whether or not the table(s) include headers.

With Excel workbooks, the first row in a range is the header row (or field names) by default. If the first range does not contain headers, you can specify HDR=NO in the extended properties in your connection string. If you specify HDR=NO in the connection string, the Jet OLE DB provider automatically names the fields for you (F1 represents the first field, F2 represents the second field, and so on).

Data Types

Unlike a traditional database, there is no direct way to specify the data types for columns in Excel tables. Instead, the OLE DB provider scans eight rows in a column to guess the data type for the field. You can change the number of rows to scan by specifying a value between one (1) and sixteen (16) for the MAXSCANROWS setting in the extended properties of your connection string.

Table Naming Conventions

There are several ways you can reference a table (or range) in an Excel workbook:
  • Use the sheet name followed by a dollar sign (for example, [Sheet1$] or [My Worksheet$]). A workbook table that is referenced in this manner includes the whole used range of the worksheet.
    Select * from [Sheet1$]
  • Use a range with a defined name (for example, [MyNamedRange]):
    Select * from [MyNamedRange]
  • Use a range with a specific address (for example, [Sheet1$A1:B10]):
    Select * from [Sheet1$A1:B10]
NOTE: The dollar sign following the worksheet name is an indication that the table exists. If you are creating a new table, as discussed in the Create New Workbooks and Tables section of this article, do not use the dollar sign.

How to Use Excel Workbooks as ADO.NET Data Sources

Retrieve Records

You can retrieve records from a database by using one of two approaches in ADO.NET: with a Dataset or with a DataReader.

A Dataset is a cache of records retrieved from a data source. The data in the Dataset is usually a much-reduced version of what is in the database. However, you can work with it in the same way that you work with the actual data and remain disconnected from the actual database. Besides data retrieval, you can also use a Dataset to perform update operations on the underlying database.

Alternatively, you can use a DataReader to retrieve a read-only, forward-only stream of data from a database. When you use the DataReader program, performance increases and system overhead is decreases because only one row at a time is ever in memory. If you have a large quantity of data to retrieve and you do not intend to make changes to the underlying database, a DataReader is a better choice than a Dataset.

Add and Update Records

With ADO.NET, you can insert and update records in a workbook in one of three ways:
  • Directly run a command to insert or update records one at a time. To do this, you can create an OLEDbCommand object on your connection and set its CommandText property to a valid command to insert records

    INSERT INTO [Sheet1$] (F1, F2) values ('111', 'ABC')
    or a command to update records

    UPDATE [Sheet1$] SET F2 = 'XYZ' WHERE F1 = '111'
    and then call the ExecuteNonQuery method.
  • Make changes to a DataSet that you have filled with a table/query from an Excel workbook and then call the Update method of the DataAdapter to resolve changes from the DataSet back to the workbook. However, to use the Update method for change resolution you must set parameterized commands for the DataAdapter's InsertCommand
    INSERT INTO [Sheet1$] (F1, F2) values (?, ?)
    and UpdateCommand:
    UPDATE [Sheet1$] SET F2 = ? WHERE F1 = ?
    Parameterized INSERT and UPDATE commands are required because the OleDbDataAdapter does not supply key/index information for Excel workbooks; without key/index fields, the CommandBuilder cannot automatically generate the commands for you.
  • Export data from another data source into an Excel workbook provided that the other data source can be used with the Jet OLE DB Provider. Data sources that you can use with the Jet OLE DB Provider in this manner include Text files, Microsoft Access databases, and, of course, other Excel workbooks. With a single INSERT INTO command, you can export data from another table/query into your workbook:
    INSERT INTO [Sheet1$] IN 'C:\Book1.xls' 'Excel 8.0;' SELECT * FROM MyTable"
    INSERT INTO requires that the target table (or worksheet) already exist; data is appended to the target table.

    You may also use SELECT..INTO to export your table/query to a workbook:
    SELECT * INTO [Excel 8.0;Database=C:\Book1.xls].[Sheet1] FROM [MyTable]
    When you use SELECT..INTO, if the target table or workbook does not exist, it will be created for you. If the table already exists before the SELECT..INTO command is issued, you will receive an error.
The Sample Code section later in this article illustrates each of these approaches to add and update records in a workbook.

Delete Records

Although the Jet OLE DB Provider allows you to insert and update records in an Excel workbook, it does not allow DELETE operations. If you try to perform a DELETE operation on one or more records, you receive the following error message:
Deleting data in a linked table is not supported by this ISAM.
This limitation is inherent in the treatment of Excel workbooks as databases.

Create Workbooks and Tables

To create a table in an Excel workbook, run the CREATE TABLE command:
CREATE TABLE Sheet1 (F1 char(255), F2 char(255))
When you run this command, a new worksheet is created with the name of the table you specify in the command. If the workbook for the connection does not exist, it too will be created.

The Sample Code section illustrates how you can use the CREATE TABLE command to create a new workbook and table.

Step-by-Step

Sample Code

  1. Start a new Visual Basic .NET Windows Application project.

    Form1 is created by default.
  2. Add six RadioButton controls and a Button control to Form1.
  3. Select all of the RadioButton controls and set the Size property to 200,24.
  4. On the View menu, click Code.
  5. Add the following line to the very beginning of the code module:
    Imports System.Data.OleDb
  6. Insert the following code into the Form class:
    Private m_sConn1 As String = "Provider=Microsoft.Jet.OLEDB.4.0;" & _
                   "Data Source=C:\ExcelData1.xls;" & _
                   "Extended Properties=""Excel 8.0;HDR=YES"""
    
    Private m_sConn2 As String = "Provider=Microsoft.Jet.OLEDB.4.0;" & _
                   "Data Source=C:\ExcelData2.xls;" & _
                   "Extended Properties=""Excel 8.0;HDR=YES"""
    
    Private m_sNorthwind = _
          "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office10\Samples\Northwind.mdb"
    
    Private m_sAction As String
    
    Private Sub Form1_Load(ByVal sender As System.Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles MyBase.Load
          RadioButton1.Text = "Create_Workbook"
          RadioButton2.Text = "Retrieve_Records"
          RadioButton3.Text = "Add_Records"
          RadioButton4.Text = "Update_Records"
          RadioButton5.Text = "Update_Individual_Cells"
          RadioButton6.Text = "Use_External_Source"
          Button1.Text = "Go!"
    End Sub
    
    Private Sub RadioButtons_Click(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) _
          Handles RadioButton1.Click, RadioButton2.Click, RadioButton3.Click, _
          RadioButton4.Click, RadioButton5.Click, RadioButton6.Click
          m_sAction = sender.Text'Store the text for the selected radio button
    End Sub
    
    Private Sub Button1_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Button1.Click
          Try
             ' Call the associated routine to add/update/modify the workbook.
             Select Case m_sAction
                Case "Create_Workbook" : Create_Workbook()
                Case "Retrieve_Records" : Retrieve_Records()
                Case "Add_Records" : Add_Records()
                Case "Update_Records" : Update_Records()
                Case "Update_Individual_Cells" : Update_Individual_Cells()
                Case "Use_External_Source" : Use_External_Source()
             End Select
    
          Catch ex As OleDbException
             Dim er As OleDbError
             For Each er In ex.Errors
                MsgBox(er.Message)
             Next
          Catch ex2 As System.InvalidOperationException
             MsgBox(ex2.Message)
          End Try
    
    
    End Sub
    
    Public Sub Create_Workbook()
    
          ' If the workbooks already exist, prompt to delete.
          Dim answer As MsgBoxResult
          If Dir("C:\ExcelData1.xls") <> "" Or Dir("C:\ExcelData2.xls") <> "" Then
              answer = MsgBox("Delete existing workbooks (C:\ExcelData1.xls and " & _
                       "C:\ExcelData2.xls)?", MsgBoxStyle.YesNo)
              If answer = MsgBoxResult.Yes Then
                  If Dir("C:\ExcelData1.xls") <> "" Then Kill("C:\ExcelData1.xls")
                  If Dir("C:\ExcelData2.xls") <> "" Then Kill("C:\ExcelData2.xls")
              Else
                  Exit Sub
              End If
          End If
    
    '==========================================================================
          ' Create a workbook with a table named EmployeeData. The table has 3 
          ' fields: ID (char 255), Name (char 255) and Birthdate (date).  
    '==========================================================================
          Dim conn As New OleDbConnection()
          conn.ConnectionString = m_sConn1
          conn.Open()
          Dim cmd1 As New OleDbCommand()
          cmd1.Connection = conn
          cmd1.CommandText = "CREATE TABLE EmployeeData (Id char(255), Name char(255), BirthDate date)"
          cmd1.ExecuteNonQuery()
          cmd1.CommandText = "INSERT INTO EmployeeData (Id, Name, BirthDate) values ('AAA', 'Andrew', '12/4/1955')"
          cmd1.ExecuteNonQuery()
          conn.Close()
    
    '==========================================================================
          ' Create a workbook with a table named InventoryData. The table has 3 
          ' fields: Product (char 255), Qty (float) and Price (currency). 
    '==========================================================================
    
          conn.ConnectionString = m_sConn2
          conn.Open()
          Dim cmd2 As New OleDbCommand()
          cmd2.Connection = conn
          cmd2.CommandText = "CREATE TABLE InventoryData (Product char(255), Qty float, Price currency)"
          cmd2.ExecuteNonQuery()
          cmd2.CommandText = "INSERT INTO InventoryData (Product, Qty, Price) values ('Cola', 200, 1.35)"
          cmd2.ExecuteNonQuery()
          cmd2.CommandText = "INSERT INTO InventoryData (Product, Qty, Price) values ('Chips', 550, 0.89)"
          cmd2.ExecuteNonQuery()
          conn.Close()
    
          ' NOTE: You can ALTER and DROP tables in a similar fashion.
    
    End Sub
    
    Public Sub Retrieve_Records()
    
          '==========================================================
          'Use a DataReader to read data from the EmployeeData table.
          '==========================================================
    
          Dim conn1 As New System.Data.OleDb.OleDbConnection(m_sConn1)
          conn1.Open()
          Dim cmd1 As New System.Data.OleDb.OleDbCommand("Select * From [EmployeeData$]", conn1)
          Dim rdr As OleDbDataReader = cmd1.ExecuteReader
    
          Debug.WriteLine(vbCrLf & "EmployeeData:" & vbCrLf & "=============")
          Do While rdr.Read()
             Debug.WriteLine(System.String.Format("{0,-10}{1, -15}{2}", _
                rdr.GetString(0), rdr.GetString(1), _
                rdr.GetDateTime(2).ToString("d")))
          Loop
          rdr.Close()
          conn1.Close()
    
          '========================================================
          'Use a DataSet to read data from the InventoryData table.
          '========================================================
          Dim conn2 As New OleDbConnection(m_sConn2)
          Dim da As New OleDbDataAdapter("Select * From [InventoryData$]", conn2)
          Dim ds As DataSet = New DataSet()
          da.Fill(ds)
          Debug.WriteLine(vbCrLf & "InventoryData:" & vbCrLf & "==============")
          Dim dr As DataRow
          For Each dr In ds.Tables(0).Rows'Show results in output window
             Debug.WriteLine(System.String.Format("{0,-15}{1, -6}{2}", _
                dr("Product"), dr("Qty"), dr("Price")))
          Next
          conn2.Close()
    
    End Sub
    
    Public Sub Add_Records()
    
    '==========================================================================
          ' Run an INSERT INTO command to add new records to the workbook. 
    '==========================================================================
          Dim conn1 As New System.Data.OleDb.OleDbConnection(m_sConn1)
          conn1.Open()
          Dim cmd As New System.Data.OleDb.OleDbCommand()
          cmd.Connection = conn1
          cmd.CommandText = "INSERT INTO [EmployeeData$] (ID, Name, BirthDate) values ('CCC', 'Charlie', '10/14/48')"
          cmd.ExecuteNonQuery()
          cmd.CommandText = "INSERT INTO [EmployeeData$] (ID, Name, BirthDate) values ('DDD', 'Deloris', '7/19/98')"
          cmd.ExecuteNonQuery()
          conn1.Close()
    
          '====================================================================
          'Use the InsertCommand object to add new records to the InventoryData
          'table.
          '====================================================================
          Dim conn2 As New OleDbConnection(m_sConn2)
          Dim da As New OleDbDataAdapter("Select * From [InventoryData$]", conn2)
          Dim ds As DataSet = New DataSet()
          da.Fill(ds, "MyExcelTable")
    
          ' Generate the InsertCommand and add the parameters for the command.
          da.InsertCommand = New OleDbCommand( _
             "INSERT INTO [InventoryData$] (Product, Qty, Price) VALUES (?, ?, ?)", conn2)
          da.InsertCommand.Parameters.Add("@Product", OleDbType.VarChar, 255, "Product")
          da.InsertCommand.Parameters.Add("@Qty", OleDbType.Double).SourceColumn = "Qty"
          da.InsertCommand.Parameters.Add("@Price", OleDbType.Currency).SourceColumn = "Price"
    
          ' Add two new records to the dataset.
          Dim dr As DataRow
          dr = ds.Tables(0).NewRow
          dr("Product") = "Bread" : dr("Qty") = 390 : dr("Price") = 1.89 : ds.Tables(0).Rows.Add(dr)
          dr = ds.Tables(0).NewRow
          dr("Product") = "Milk" : dr("Qty") = 99 : dr("Price") = 2.59 : ds.Tables(0).Rows.Add(dr)
    
          ' Apply the dataset changes to the actual data source (the workbook).
          da.Update(ds, "MyExcelTable")
          conn2.Close()
    
    End Sub
    
    Public Sub Update_Records()
    
    '==========================================================================
          ' Run an UPDATE command to change a record in the EmployeeData
          ' table.
    '==========================================================================
          Dim conn1 As New System.Data.OleDb.OleDbConnection(m_sConn1)
          conn1.Open()
          Dim cmd As New System.Data.OleDb.OleDbCommand()
          cmd.Connection = conn1
          cmd.CommandText = "UPDATE [EmployeeData$] " & _
                        "SET NAME = 'Aaron', BirthDate = '5/4/1975' WHERE ID = 'AAA'"
          cmd.ExecuteNonQuery()
          conn1.Close()
    
          '====================================================================
          ' Use the UpdateCommand object to modify records in the InventoryData
          ' table.
          '====================================================================
          Dim conn2 As New OleDbConnection(m_sConn2)
          Dim da As New OleDbDataAdapter("Select * From [InventoryData$]", conn2)
          Dim ds As DataSet = New DataSet()
          da.Fill(ds, "MyInventoryTable")
    
          ' Generate the UpdateCommand and add the parameters for the command.
          da.UpdateCommand = New OleDbCommand( _
             "UPDATE [InventoryData$] SET Qty = ?, Price=? WHERE Product = ?", conn2)
          da.UpdateCommand.Parameters.Add("@Qty", OleDbType.Numeric).SourceColumn = "Qty"
          da.UpdateCommand.Parameters.Add("@Price", OleDbType.Currency).SourceColumn = "Price"
          da.UpdateCommand.Parameters.Add("@Product", OleDbType.VarChar, 255, "Product")
    
          ' Update the first two records.
          ds.Tables(0).Rows(0)("Qty") = 1000
          ds.Tables(0).Rows(0)("Price") = 10.1
          ds.Tables(0).Rows(1)("Qty") = 2000
          ds.Tables(0).Rows(1)("Price") = 20.2
    
          ' Apply the dataset changes to the actual data source (the workbook).
          da.Update(ds, "MyInventoryTable")
          conn2.Close()
    
    End Sub
    
    Public Sub Update_Individual_Cells()
    
    '==========================================================================
          ' Update individual cells on the EmployeeData worksheet; 
          ' specifically, cells F3, G3, and I4 are modified.
    '==========================================================================
    
          ' NOTE: The connection string indicates that the table does *NOT* 
          ' have a header row.
          Dim conn As New System.Data.OleDb.OleDbConnection(m_sConn1.Replace("HDR=YES", "HDR=NO"))
          conn.Open()
          Dim cmd As New System.Data.OleDb.OleDbCommand()
          cmd.Connection = conn
          cmd.CommandText = "UPDATE [EmployeeData$F3:G3] SET F1 = 'Cell F3', F2 = 'Cell G3'"
          cmd.ExecuteNonQuery()
          cmd.CommandText = "UPDATE [EmployeeData$I4:I4] SET F1 = 'Cell I4'"
          cmd.ExecuteNonQuery()
          conn.Close()
    
    End Sub
    
    Public Sub Use_External_Source()
    
          ' Open a connection to the sample Northwind Access database.
          Dim conn As New System.Data.OleDb.OleDbConnection( _
                "Provider=Microsoft.Jet.OLEDB.4.0;Data Source=" & m_sNorthwind & ";")
          conn.Open()
          Dim cmd As New System.Data.OleDb.OleDbCommand()
          cmd.Connection = conn
    
    '=======================================================================
          ' Run an INSERT..INTO command on the Northwind database to append 
          ' the records from a table/query to an existing table in the Excel 
          ' workbook.
    '=======================================================================
          cmd.CommandText = "INSERT INTO [EmployeeData$] IN 'C:\ExcelData1.xls' 'Excel 8.0;'" & _
             "SELECT EmployeeID AS ID, FirstName AS Name, BirthDate FROM Employees"
          cmd.ExecuteNonQuery()
    
    '==========================================================================
          ' Run a SELECT..INTO command on the Northwind database to insert 
          ' all the records from a table/query into a new sheet in the Excel 
          ' workbook.
    '==========================================================================
          cmd.CommandText = "SELECT * INTO [Excel 8.0;Database=C:\ExcelData2.xls].[ProductSales]" & _
                          "FROM [Product Sales for 1997]"
          cmd.ExecuteNonQuery()
    
          conn.Close()
    
    End Sub
  7. Modify the path to the sample Access database, Northwind, for the m_sNorthwind member in the code, if necessary.

Try It Out

  1. On the View menu, point to Other Windows, and then click Output to display the Output window.
  2. Press F5 to build and run the program.
  3. Click Create_Workbook and then click Go. The Create_Workbook procedure runs CREATE TABLE commands to create two new workbooks: C:\ExcelData1.xls and C:\ExcelData2.xls. ExcelData1.xls contains one sheet (table) named EmployeeData and ExcelData2.xls contains one sheet (table) named InventoryData. The tables are filled with records.

    NOTE: At each remaining step in this test, open the workbooks in Excel to examine the results. Or, click Retrieve_Records to view the contents of the table(s) in the Output Window of Visual Studio .NET.
  4. Click Retrieve_Records and then click Go. The Retrieve_Records procedure extracts the records from the tables and displays them in the Output window, similar to this:
    EmployeeData:
    =============
    AAA       Andrew         12/4/1955
    
    InventoryData:
    ==============
    Cola           200   1.35
    Chips          550   0.89
  5. Click Add_Records and then click Go. The Add_Records routine adds two records to each table:
    EmployeeData:
    =============
    AAA       Andrew         12/4/1955
    CCC       Charlie        10/14/1948
    DDD       Deloris        7/19/1998
    
    InventoryData:
    ==============
    Cola           200   1.35
    Chips          550   0.89
    Bread          390   1.89
    Milk           99    2.59
  6. Click Update_Records and then click Go. The Update_Records routine updates two records in each workbook:
    EmployeeData:
    =============
    AAA       Aaron          5/4/1975
    CCC       Charlie        10/14/1948
    DDD       Deloris        7/19/1998
    
    InventoryData:
    ==============
    Cola           1000  10.1
    Chips          2000  20.2
    Bread          390   1.89
    Milk           99    2.59
  7. Click Update_Individual_Cells and then click Go. The Update_Individual_Cells routine modifies specific cells on the EmployeeData worksheet in ExcelData1.xls; specifically, cells F3, G3, and I4 are updated.
  8. Click Use_External_Source and then click Go. When you use an INSERT..INTO command, the Use_External_Source routine appends records from the Northwind table 'Employees' to the EmployeeData worksheet in ExcelData1.xls. And, Use_External_Source uses a SELECT..INTO command to create a new table (or sheet) in ExcelData2.xls that contains all of the records from the Northwind table 'Products'.

    NOTE: If you click Use_External_Source more than one time, the Employees list will be appended multiple times because the primary key is not recognized or enforced.

Cell Formatting

If you are using ADO.NET to add or update records in an existing workbook, you can apply cell formatting to the workbook that will be used with the new or updated records. When you update an existing record (or row) in a workbook, the cell formatting is retained. And when you insert a new record (or row) in a workbook, the new record inherits formatting from the row above it.

The following procedure shows how you can use formatting in a workbook with the sample code:
  1. Press F5 to build and run the sample.
  2. On Form1, click Create_Workbook and then click Go.
  3. Start Microsoft Excel and open C:\ExcelData1.xls.
  4. Apply a bold font style to cell A2.
  5. Apply an italic, underline style to cell B2 and align center.
  6. Apply a long date format to cell C2.
  7. Save and close C:\ExcelData1.xls.
  8. On Form1, click Add_Records and then click Go.
  9. Open C:\ExcelData1.xls in Excel and notice that the two new rows have inherited the formatting from the first row.

Limitations

The following are some limitations of the Jet OLE DB Provider in regard to Excel data sources:
  • You cannot insert formulas in cells using ADO.NET.
  • The Jet OLE DB Provider is unable to provide key/index information for tables in an Excel workbook. For this reason, you cannot use the CommandBuilder to automatically generate updates and insertions for records in an Excel workbook.

REFERENCES

For additional information, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
316756 PRB: Error Occurs When You Use ADO.NET OLEDbDataAdapter to Modify Excel Workbook
257819 How To Use ADO with Excel Data from Visual Basic or VBA
306022 How To Transfer Data to an Excel Workbook by Using Visual Basic .NET
306023 How To Transfer Data to an Excel Workbook Using Visual C# .NET
311731 How To Query and Display Excel Data by Using ASP.NET, ADO.NET and Visual Basic .NET
306572 How To Query and Display Excel Data by Using ASP.NET, ADO.NET, and Visual C# .NET
278973 SAMPLE: ExcelADO Demonstrates How to Use ADO to Read and Write Data in Excel Workbooks

Properties

Article ID: 316934 - Last Review: September 23, 2011 - Revision: 8.0
APPLIES TO
  • Microsoft Excel 2002 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Excel 2000 Standard Edition
  • Microsoft Visual Basic .NET 2002 Standard Edition
Keywords: 
kbhowtomaster KB316934

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