Simple Excel Export with EPPlus


Anyone I’ve ever met who works with an application that sits in front of a lot of data loves it when they can get that data exported to an Excel file for them to mess around with offline. As both developer and end user of a little website project that I’ve been working on, I found myself wanting to be able to get a bunch of the data that the application was collecting into an Excel file. The great thing about being both an end user and a developer on a project is that you can build the features that you really want! While putting this feature together I came across the fantastic EPPlus library. This library is certainly very well known and popular, but I was so impressed with it that I thought it was worth a quick blog post.

This library is extremely powerful; it lets you create and manipulate Excel 2007/2010 spreadsheets in .NET code with a high degree of flexibility. My only gripe with the project is that they are not touting how insanely easy it is to build a basic Excel workbook from a simple data source. If I were running this project the approach I’m about to demonstrate in this post would be front and center on the landing page for the project because it shows how easy it really is to get started and serves as a good way to ease yourself in to some of the more advanced features.

The website in question uses RavenDB, which means that we’re dealing with POCOs to model the data throughout all layers of the application. I love working like this so when it came time to figure out how to export some of this data to an Excel spreadsheet I wanted to find a way to take an IEnumerable<T> and just have it dumped to Excel with each item in the collection being modeled as a single row in the Excel worksheet. Consider the following class:

public class Employee
{
    public int Id { get; set; }
    public string Name { get; set; }
    public decimal HourlyRate { get; set; }
    public DateTime HireDate { get; set; }
}

Now let’s say we have a collection of these represented as an IEnumerable<Employee> and we want to be able to output it to an Excel file for offline querying/manipulation. As it turns out, this is dead simple to do with EPPlus. Have a look:

public void ExportToExcel(IEnumerable<Employee> employees, FileInfo targetFile)
{
    using (var excelFile = new ExcelPackage(targetFile))
    {
        var worksheet = excelFile.Workbook.Worksheets.Add("Sheet1");
        worksheet.Cells["A1"].LoadFromCollection(Collection: employees, PrintHeaders: true);
        excelFile.Save();
    }
}

That’s it. Let’s break down what’s going on here:

  • Create a ExcelPackage to model the workbook (Excel file). Note that the ‘targetFile’ value here is a FileInfo object representing the location on disk where I want the file to be saved.
  • Create a worksheet within the workbook.
  • Get a reference to the top-leftmost cell (addressed as A1) and invoke the ‘LoadFromCollection’ method, passing it our collection of Employee objects. Behind the scenes this is reflecting over the properties of the type provided and pulling out any public members to become columns in the resulting Excel output. The ‘PrintHeaders’ parameter tells EPPlus to grab the name of the property and put it in the first row.
  • Save the Excel file

All of the heavy lifting here is being done by the ‘LoadFromCollection’ method, and that’s a good thing. Now, this was really easy to do, but it has some limitations. Using this approach you get a very plain, un-styled Excel worksheet. The column widths are all set to the default. The number format for all cells is ‘General’ (which proves particularly interesting if you have a DateTime property in your data source). I’m a “no frills” guy, so I wasn’t bothered at all by trading off simplicity for style and formatting. That said, EPPlus has tons of samples that you can download that illustrate how to apply styles and formatting to cells and a ton of other advanced features that are way beyond the scope of this post.

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