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How to Integrate Excel in a Windows Form Application using the WebBrowser

, 1 Oct 2006 CPOL
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Another approach to integrate Office documents in your Windows C# .NET applications

Sample Image - Embedding_Excel.jpg


With Automation, you are able to drive any Office application from your .NET application. This is really powerful. It may happen that one time, you would like to integrate such an application (Excel, for example) in your own application, and handle it like a control. A first approach has already been published on The Code Project (see the Background section in this article). The other method I will describe here uses the Microsoft WebBrowser control as a host for the document.


You can study Anup Shinde's article. His method works fine. Instead of the WebBrowser control, it is based on Windows Win32 API.

If you are interested in the original publication of the WebBrowser method, you can see the Microsoft KB.

Starting from scratch

Create a new form MyForm, and add a new WebBrowser control, named webBrowser1. Add the m_ExcelFileName field :

// Contains the path to the workbook file
private string m_ExcelFileName="test.xls"; // Replace here with an existing file

Then create a function OpenFile like this :

public void OpenFile(string filename) 
    // Check the file exists
    if(!System.IO.File.Exists(filename)) throw new Exception();
    // Load the workbook in the WebBrowser control

You can try and run your application, giving the filename an existing excel file path. You'll see that it works perfectly. Really easy, don't you think?

In fact, you will quickly get into trouble if you try to run the application a second time with the same Excel file. An error message tells you that your file is already in use. This may be strange because you think that you closed your application, and you did. So where is the problem?

Let's see what happened in the background. While the WebBrowser was navigating, it opened an invisible Excel application, and loaded the workbook inside it. And when you closed your application, the WebBrowser didn't close either its Excel application or the workbook. So we must do it, and this is the most difficult part of our job.

Solving the problem step by step

Before further reading, you have to load the following Office COM library references for Office Automation :

  • Microsoft Excel 11.0 Object Library
  • Microsoft Office 11.0 Object Library

and use them in your file :

using Microsoft.Office.Core;
using Microsoft.Office.Interop.Excel;

You'll need these assemblies too :

using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
using System.Reflection;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices.ComTypes;

Declare these two Excel fields :

// Contains a reference to the hosting application
private Microsoft.Office.Interop.Excel.Application m_XlApplication=null;
// Contains a reference to the active workbook
private Workbook m_Workbook=null;

Before trying to close the workbook, we need a handle on it. For convenience, the best moment to do this is just after the document has been loaded in the WebBrowser. So we have to generate a webBrowser1_Navigated event handler and its matching function, like this :

private void webBrowser1_Navigated(object sender,WebBrowserNavigatedEventArgs e) 
    // Creation of the workbook object
    // Create the Excel.Application

Then we define the RetrieveWorkbook function. It is based on two imported Win32 API functions, that retrieve all the programs that are running on our computer. Our job is to search among them the one that is working with the workbook that names xlfile. The code is like this :

[DllImport("ole32.dll")] static extern int GetRunningObjectTable
                (uint reserved,out IRunningObjectTable pprot);
[DllImport("ole32.dll")] static extern int CreateBindCtx(uint reserved,out IBindCtx pctx);

public Workbook RetrieveWorkbook(string xlfile) 
        IRunningObjectTable prot=null;
        IEnumMoniker pmonkenum=null;
            IntPtr pfetched=IntPtr.Zero;
            // Query the running object table (ROT)
            if(GetRunningObjectTable(0,out prot)!=0||prot==null) return null;
            prot.EnumRunning(out pmonkenum); pmonkenum.Reset();
            IMoniker[] monikers=new IMoniker[1];
                IBindCtx pctx; string filepathname;
                CreateBindCtx(0,out pctx);
                 // Get the name of the file
                 monikers[0].GetDisplayName(pctx,null,out filepathname);
                 // Clean up
                 // Search for the workbook
                     object roval;
                     // Get a handle on the workbook
                     prot.GetObject(monikers[0],out roval);
                     return roval as Workbook;
             return null;
             // Clean up
             if(prot!=null) Marshal.ReleaseComObject(prot);
             if(pmonkenum!=null) Marshal.ReleaseComObject(pmonkenum);
         return null;

Now we can write the code involved to close the background Excel application, while overriding the OnClose() event :

protected override void OnClosed(object sender, EventArgs e) 
        // Quit Excel and clean up.
        MessageBox.Show("Failed to close the application");

Using the code

You can use the code as written upper. Otherwise, it may be interesting to embed all the stuff in a .NET control. You'll be able to manage CommandBars, Menus, etc. inside the control. You will find some code in the downloadable package section.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

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Comments and Discussions

QuestionWorkbook opened in web browser. But workbook assigned as null Pin
Madhavan Maddy29-Aug-13 3:10
memberMadhavan Maddy29-Aug-13 3:10 
QuestionExcel opens outside the WebBrowser control Pin Pin
tieuqui905-May-13 23:58
membertieuqui905-May-13 23:58 
AnswerRe: Excel opens outside the WebBrowser control Pin Pin
acesxx21-May-13 16:00
memberacesxx21-May-13 16:00 
GeneralRe: Excel opens outside the WebBrowser control Pin Pin
SabrinaY8-Aug-13 17:42
professionalSabrinaY8-Aug-13 17:42 
AnswerRe: Excel opens outside the WebBrowser control Pin Pin
Member 817452617-Sep-13 23:50
memberMember 817452617-Sep-13 23:50 
QuestionWhen I integrate this in WPF Usercontrol the Excel Opens in new window where your example(Win forms) opening in web browser Pin
Member 99615323-Apr-13 4:41
memberMember 99615323-Apr-13 4:41 
AnswerRe: When I integrate this in WPF Usercontrol the Excel Opens in new window where your example(Win forms) opening in web browser Pin
SabrinaY15-Aug-13 21:43
professionalSabrinaY15-Aug-13 21:43 
QuestionCommand Bar not working Pin
Arvind50214-Mar-13 6:15
memberArvind50214-Mar-13 6:15 
I am using VS 2010 to view the project,I had to delete the reference for "Microsoft.Office.Core" and add the reference for "Microsoft Office 12.0 Object Library" version 2.4 to run the application without errors. Application works fine. it opens up excel within the windows form.

But, the command bar doesn't show up (even if i check the CommandBarVisible Checkbox). any ideas on how to fix this problem?

Also, i am using this application to open excel connected to SSAS Cube. is there a way to display the "pivot table field list" within the application? so that users can browse the cube. all other pivot table options work great.

Any help is appreciated.
QuestionExcel opens directly instead of opening in Web Browser!!!!! Pin
Member 765864611-Feb-13 19:54
memberMember 765864611-Feb-13 19:54 
BugExcel opens outside the WebBrowser control Pin
nilesh Karekar7-Jan-13 23:33
membernilesh Karekar7-Jan-13 23:33 
BugRe: Excel opens outside the WebBrowser control Pin
Mirco Feliziani8-Jan-13 4:19
memberMirco Feliziani8-Jan-13 4:19 
GeneralRe: Excel opens outside the WebBrowser control Pin
LostMan_11-Jan-13 0:41
memberLostMan_11-Jan-13 0:41 
GeneralRe: Excel opens outside the WebBrowser control Pin
SuperShade14-Jan-13 8:44
memberSuperShade14-Jan-13 8:44 
QuestionHow to save the excel opened in web browser??? Pin
Adie151123-Dec-12 17:50
memberAdie151123-Dec-12 17:50 
Questionhow can we implement search functionality programatically while it was loading Pin
V G S Naidu A16-Dec-12 18:41
memberV G S Naidu A16-Dec-12 18:41 
QuestionHow to Integrate Excel in WebForm Pin
Xuan Dung Phu Yen25-Aug-12 23:08
memberXuan Dung Phu Yen25-Aug-12 23:08 
Generalthanks a lot Pin
atul don19-Jun-12 18:02
memberatul don19-Jun-12 18:02 
QuestionThis article is outdated and doesn't work using IE9... Pin
xzz01958-Jun-12 11:15
memberxzz01958-Jun-12 11:15 
AnswerRe: This article is outdated and doesn't work using IE9... Pin
Alejandro Miralles18-Oct-16 2:39
memberAlejandro Miralles18-Oct-16 2:39 
QuestionIn VS2008 Pin
natmanju6-Oct-11 3:39
membernatmanju6-Oct-11 3:39 
QuestionDisplay excel in winform with c# Pin
kienhv_875-Oct-11 23:01
memberkienhv_875-Oct-11 23:01 
AnswerRe: Display excel in winform with c# Pin
Jayaprakash Subramanian17-Feb-12 4:25
memberJayaprakash Subramanian17-Feb-12 4:25 
GeneralRe: Display excel in winform with c# Pin
Alejandro Miralles18-Oct-16 2:46
memberAlejandro Miralles18-Oct-16 2:46 
QuestionReading Cells Pin
akshay238629-Sep-11 2:28
memberakshay238629-Sep-11 2:28 
AnswerPlease note that: A new window opens when you try to view a 2007 Microsoft Office program document in Windows Internet Explorer 7 or Internet Explorer 8 Pin
suicideas30-Jun-11 7:31
membersuicideas30-Jun-11 7:31 

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