How to automate Microsoft Excel from Visual Basic .NET


This article demonstrates how to create an Automation client for Microsoft Excel by using Microsoft Visual Basic .NET.

More Information

Automation is a process that allows applications that are written in languages such as Visual Basic to programmatically control other applications. Automation to Excel allows you to perform actions such as creating a new workbook, adding data to the workbook, or creating charts. With Excel and other Microsoft Office applications, virtually all of the actions that you can perform manually through the user interface can also be performed programmatically by using Automation.

Excel exposes this programmatic functionality through an object model. The object model is a collection of classes and methods that serve as counterparts to the logical components of Excel. For example, there is an Application object, a Workbook object, and a Worksheet object, each of which contain the functionality of those components of Excel. To access the object model from Visual Basic .NET, you can set a project reference to the type library.

This article demonstrates how to set the proper project reference to the Excel type library for Visual Basic .NET and provides sample code to automate Excel.

Create an automation client for Microsoft Excel

  1. Start Microsoft Visual Studio .NET.
  2. On the File menu, click
    New, and then click Project. Select
    Windows Application from the Visual Basic Project types. Form1 is created by default.
  3. Add a reference to Microsoft Excel Object Library. To do this, follow these steps:
    1. On the Project menu, click Add Reference.
    2. On the COM tab, locate
      Microsoft Excel Object Library, and then click

      Note Microsoft Office 2003 includes Primary Interop Assemblies (PIAs). Microsoft Office XP does not include PIAs, but they can be downloaded.
      For more information about Office XP PIAs, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
      328912 Microsoft Office XP primary interop assemblies (PIAs) are available for download

    3. Click OK in the Add References dialog box to accept your selections.
  4. On the View menu, select
    Toolbox to display the Toolbox, and then add a button to Form1.
  5. Double-click Button1. The code window for the form appears.
  6. In the code window, locate the following code:
        Private Sub Button1_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, _
    ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Button1.Click

    End Sub
    Replace the previous code with the following code:
        Private Sub Button1_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, _
    ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Button1.Click
    Dim oXL As Excel.Application
    Dim oWB As Excel.Workbook
    Dim oSheet As Excel.Worksheet
    Dim oRng As Excel.Range

    ' Start Excel and get Application object.
    oXL = CreateObject("Excel.Application")
    oXL.Visible = True

    ' Get a new workbook.
    oWB = oXL.Workbooks.Add
    oSheet = oWB.ActiveSheet

    ' Add table headers going cell by cell.
    oSheet.Cells(1, 1).Value = "First Name"
    oSheet.Cells(1, 2).Value = "Last Name"
    oSheet.Cells(1, 3).Value = "Full Name"
    oSheet.Cells(1, 4).Value = "Salary"

    ' Format A1:D1 as bold, vertical alignment = center.
    With oSheet.Range("A1", "D1")
    .Font.Bold = True
    .VerticalAlignment = Excel.XlVAlign.xlVAlignCenter
    End With

    ' Create an array to set multiple values at once.
    Dim saNames(5, 2) As String
    saNames(0, 0) = "John"
    saNames(0, 1) = "Smith"
    saNames(1, 0) = "Tom"
    saNames(1, 1) = "Brown"
    saNames(2, 0) = "Sue"
    saNames(2, 1) = "Thomas"
    saNames(3, 0) = "Jane"

    saNames(3, 1) = "Jones"
    saNames(4, 0) = "Adam"
    saNames(4, 1) = "Johnson"

    ' Fill A2:B6 with an array of values (First and Last Names).
    oSheet.Range("A2", "B6").Value = saNames

    ' Fill C2:C6 with a relative formula (=A2 & " " & B2).
    oRng = oSheet.Range("C2", "C6")
    oRng.Formula = "=A2 & "" "" & B2"

    ' Fill D2:D6 with a formula(=RAND()*100000) and apply format.
    oRng = oSheet.Range("D2", "D6")
    oRng.Formula = "=RAND()*100000"
    oRng.NumberFormat = "$0.00"

    ' AutoFit columns A:D.
    oRng = oSheet.Range("A1", "D1")

    ' Manipulate a variable number of columns for Quarterly Sales Data.
    Call DisplayQuarterlySales(oSheet)

    ' Make sure Excel is visible and give the user control
    ' of Excel's lifetime.
    oXL.Visible = True
    oXL.UserControl = True

    ' Make sure that you release object references.
    oRng = Nothing
    oSheet = Nothing
    oWB = Nothing
    oXL = Nothing

    Exit Sub
    MsgBox(Err.Description, vbCritical, "Error: " & Err.Number)
    End Sub

    Private Sub DisplayQuarterlySales(ByVal oWS As Excel.Worksheet)
    Dim oResizeRange As Excel.Range
    Dim oChart As Excel.Chart
    Dim oSeries As Excel.Series
    Dim iNumQtrs As Integer
    Dim sMsg As String
    Dim iRet As Integer

    ' Determine how many quarters to display data for.
    For iNumQtrs = 4 To 2 Step -1
    sMsg = "Enter sales data for" & Str(iNumQtrs) & " quarter(s)?"
    iRet = MsgBox(sMsg, vbYesNo Or vbQuestion _
    Or vbMsgBoxSetForeground, "Quarterly Sales")
    If iRet = vbYes Then Exit For
    Next iNumQtrs

    ' Starting at E1, fill headers for the number of columns selected.
    oResizeRange = oWS.Range("E1", "E1").Resize(ColumnSize:=iNumQtrs)
    oResizeRange.Formula = "=""Q"" & COLUMN()-4 & CHAR(10) & ""Sales"""

    ' Change the Orientation and WrapText properties for the headers.
    oResizeRange.Orientation = 38
    oResizeRange.WrapText = True

    ' Fill the interior color of the headers.
    oResizeRange.Interior.ColorIndex = 36

    ' Fill the columns with a formula and apply a number format.
    oResizeRange = oWS.Range("E2", "E6").Resize(ColumnSize:=iNumQtrs)
    oResizeRange.Formula = "=RAND()*100"
    oResizeRange.NumberFormat = "$0.00"

    ' Apply borders to the Sales data and headers.
    oResizeRange = oWS.Range("E1", "E6").Resize(ColumnSize:=iNumQtrs)
    oResizeRange.Borders.Weight = Excel.XlBorderWeight.xlThin

    ' Add a Totals formula for the sales data and apply a border.
    oResizeRange = oWS.Range("E8", "E8").Resize(ColumnSize:=iNumQtrs)
    oResizeRange.Formula = "=SUM(E2:E6)"
    With oResizeRange.Borders(Excel.XlBordersIndex.xlEdgeBottom)
    .LineStyle = Excel.XlLineStyle.xlDouble
    .Weight = Excel.XlBorderWeight.xlThick
    End With

    ' Add a Chart for the selected data.
    oResizeRange = oWS.Range("E2:E6").Resize(ColumnSize:=iNumQtrs)
    oChart = oWS.Parent.Charts.Add
    With oChart
    .ChartWizard(oResizeRange, Excel.XlChartType.xl3DColumn, , Excel.XlRowCol.xlColumns)
    oSeries = .SeriesCollection(1)
    oSeries.XValues = oWS.Range("A2", "A6")
    For iRet = 1 To iNumQtrs
    .SeriesCollection(iRet).Name = "=""Q" & Str(iRet) & """"
    Next iRet
    .Location(Excel.XlChartLocation.xlLocationAsObject, oWS.Name)
    End With

    ' Move the chart so as not to cover your data.
    With oWS.Shapes.Item("Chart 1")
    .Top = oWS.Rows(10).Top
    .Left = oWS.Columns(2).Left
    End With

    ' Free any references.
    oChart = Nothing
    oResizeRange = Nothing
    End Sub
  7. Add the following code to the top of Form1.vb:
    Imports Microsoft.Office.Core

Test the automation client

  1. Press F5 to build and to run the program.
  2. On the form, click Button1. The program starts Excel and populates data on a new worksheet.
  3. When you are prompted to enter quarterly sales data, click
    Yes. A chart that is linked to quarterly data is added to the worksheet.


For more information, visit the following Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Web site:
Microsoft Office Development with Visual Studio
For more information about Excel and Visual Basic, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
219151 How to automate Microsoft Excel from Visual Basic


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