Working with VBA Macros

This section explains how to add a VBA file containing functions or macros to an XlsxWriter file.


Note: This feature should be considered as experimental.

The Excel XLSM file format

An Excel xlsm file is exactly the same as a xlsx file except that is contains an additional vbaProject.bin file which contains functions and/or macros. Excel uses a different extension to differentiate between the two file formats since files containing macros are usually subject to additional security checks.

How VBA macros are included in XlsxWriter

The vbaProject.bin file is a binary OLE COM container. This was the format used in older xls versions of Excel prior to Excel 2007. Unlike all of the other components of an xlsx/xlsm file the data isn’t stored in XML format. Instead the functions and macros as stored as pre-parsed binary format. As such it wouldn’t be feasible to define macros and create a vbaProject.bin file from scratch (at least not in the remaining lifespan and interest levels of the author).

Instead a workaround is used to extract vbaProject.bin files from existing xlsm files and then add these to XlsxWriter files.

The vba_extract utility

The vba_extract utility is used to extract the vbaProject.bin binary from an Excel 2007+ xlsm file. The utility is included in the XlsxWriter examples directory and is also installed as a standalone executable file:

$ macro_file.xlsm
Extracted: vbaProject.bin

Adding the VBA macros to a XlsxWriter file

Once the vbaProject.bin file has been extracted it can be added to the XlsxWriter workbook using the add_vba_project() method:


If the VBA file contains functions you can then refer to them in calculations using write_formula():

worksheet.write_formula('A1', '=MyMortgageCalc(200000, 25)')

Excel files that contain functions and macros should use an xlsm extension or else Excel will complain and possibly not open the file:

workbook = xlsxwriter.Workbook('macros.xlsm')

It is also possible to assign a macro to a button that is inserted into a worksheet using the insert_button() method:

import xlsxwriter

# Note the file extension should be .xlsm.
workbook = xlsxwriter.Workbook('macros.xlsm')
worksheet = workbook.add_worksheet()

worksheet.set_column('A:A', 30)

# Add the VBA project binary.

# Show text for the end user.
worksheet.write('A3', 'Press the button to say hello.')

# Add a button tied to a macro in the VBA project.
worksheet.insert_button('B3', {'macro':   'say_hello',
                               'caption': 'Press Me',
                               'width':   80,
                               'height':  30})


It may be necessary to specify a more explicit macro name prefixed by the workbook VBA name as follows:

worksheet.insert_button('B3', {'macro': 'ThisWorkbook.say_hello'})

See Example: Adding a VBA macro to a Workbook from the examples directory for a working example.


Button is the only VBA Control supported by Xlsxwriter. Due to the large effort in implementation (1+ man months) it is unlikely that any other form elements will be added in the future.

Setting the VBA codenames

VBA macros generally refer to workbook and worksheet objects. If the VBA codenames aren’t specified then XlsxWriter will use the Excel defaults of ThisWorkbook and Sheet1, Sheet2 etc.

If the macro uses other codenames you can set them using the workbook and worksheet set_vba_name() methods as follows:

# Note: set codename for workbook and any worksheets.

You can find the names that are used in the VBA editor or by unzipping the xlsm file and grepping the files. The following shows how to do that using libxml’s xmllint to format the XML for clarity:

$ unzip myfile.xlsm -d myfile
$ xmllint --format `find myfile -name "*.xml" | xargs` | grep "Pr.*codeName"

  <workbookPr codeName="MyWorkbook" defaultThemeVersion="124226"/>
  <sheetPr codeName="MySheet"/>


This step is particularly important for macros created with non-English versions of Excel.

What to do if it doesn’t work

As stated at the start of this section this feature is experimental. The Xlsxwriter test suite contains several tests and there is a working example as shown above. However, there is no guarantee that it will work in all cases. Some effort may be required and some knowledge of VBA will certainly help. If things don’t work out here are some things to try:

  1. Start with a simple macro file, ensure that it works and then add complexity.

  2. Try to extract the macros from an Excel 2007 file. The method should work with macros from later versions (it was also tested with Excel 2010 macros). However there may be features in the macro files of more recent version of Excel that aren’t backward compatible.

  3. Check the code names that macros use to refer to the workbook and worksheets (see the previous section above). In general VBA uses a code name of ThisWorkbook to refer to the current workbook and the sheet name (such as Sheet1) to refer to the worksheets. These are the defaults used by XlsxWriter. If the macro uses other names then you can specify these using the workbook and worksheet set_vba_name() methods:

    # Note: set codename for workbook and any worksheets.