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Posted 6 Jan 2009
Licenced CPOL

Output DataSet to Excel

, 21 Jan 2009
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Allows for outputting multiple tables, and marking text columns appropriately. Uses Excel's XML format.


I did this when I wanted to do a quick export of an entire DataSet (multiple tables) to Excel. I didn't add any additional customization to the fields, but I did want to make sure that dates, boolean, numbers, and text were all formatted correctly.

This code does that.

At some point, I'd like to make a GridView type component that would allow me to detail more about each item. For example, my latest project required me to make a column formatted with a given barcode font ("Free 3 of 9") that required that I put an * before and after the item number. The solution below doesn't make this easy to do, though... So yeah, not perfect. If anyone else has done something like this, let me know :)

For importing Excel to XML, see this post.

NOTE: This method does NOT require Excel to be installed on the Server.


I prefer to see each table in the DataSet to be named.

ds.Tables[0].TableName = "Colors";
ds.Tables[1].TableName = "Shapes";

I changed it to allow you to pass in a List<Table> in case you don't put them in a DataSet. No big deal either way.

Why did I use an XmlTextWriter when I seem to be only using the WriteRaw? I wanted to be able to have it fix any special characters with the "x.WriteString(row[i].ToString());". Note, this still may have problems with certain characters, since I haven't tested it much.

Using the Code

using System;
using System.Collections;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Data;
using System.Text;
using System.Xml;

public void Convert(DataSet ds, string fileName) {
    Convert(ds.Tables, fileName);
public void Convert(IEnumerable tables, string fileName) {
    Response.Buffer = true;
    Response.Charset = "";
    Response.ContentType = "application/";
             "attachment; filename=" + fileName + ".xls");

    using (XmlTextWriter x = new XmlTextWriter(Response.OutputStream, Encoding.UTF8)) {
        int sheetNumber = 0;
        x.WriteRaw("<?xml version=\"1.0\"?><?mso-application progid=\"Excel.Sheet\"?>");
        x.WriteRaw("<Workbook xmlns=\"urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:spreadsheet\" ");
        x.WriteRaw("xmlns:o=\"urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office\" ");
        x.WriteRaw("<Styles><Style ss:ID='sText'>" + 
                   "<NumberFormat ss:Format='@'/></Style>");
        x.WriteRaw("<Style ss:ID='sDate'><NumberFormat" + 
                   " ss:Format='[$-409]m/d/yy\\ h:mm\\ AM/PM;@'/>");
        foreach (DataTable dt in tables) {
            string sheetName = !string.IsNullOrEmpty(dt.TableName) ? 
                   dt.TableName : "Sheet" + sheetNumber.ToString();
            x.WriteRaw("<Worksheet ss:Name='" + sheetName + "'>");
            string[] columnTypes = new string[dt.Columns.Count];

            for (int i = 0; i < dt.Columns.Count; i++) {
                string colType = dt.Columns[i].DataType.ToString().ToLower();

                if (colType.Contains("datetime")) {
                    columnTypes[i] = "DateTime";
                    x.WriteRaw("<Column ss:StyleID='sDate'/>");

                } else if (colType.Contains("string")) {
                    columnTypes[i] = "String";
                    x.WriteRaw("<Column ss:StyleID='sText'/>");

                } else {
                    x.WriteRaw("<Column />");

                    if (colType.Contains("boolean")) {
                        columnTypes[i] = "Boolean";
                    } else {
                        //default is some kind of number.
                        columnTypes[i] = "Number";

            //column headers
            foreach (DataColumn col in dt.Columns) {
                x.WriteRaw("<Cell ss:StyleID='sText'><Data ss:Type='String'>");
            bool missedNullColumn = false;
            foreach (DataRow row in dt.Rows) {
                for (int i = 0; i < dt.Columns.Count; i++) {
                    if (!row.IsNull(i)) {
                        if (missedNullColumn) {
                            int displayIndex = i + 1;
                            x.WriteRaw("<Cell ss:Index='" + displayIndex.ToString() + 
                                       "'><Data ss:Type='" + 
                                       columnTypes[i] + "'>");
                            missedNullColumn = false;
                        } else {
                            x.WriteRaw("<Cell><Data ss:Type='" + 
                                       columnTypes[i] + "'>");

                        switch (columnTypes[i]) {
                            case "DateTime":
                            case "Boolean":
                                x.WriteRaw(((bool)row[i]) ? "1" : "0");
                            case "String":

                    } else {
                        missedNullColumn = true;


  • Jan 7, 2009: Added link about importing (see Introduction).
  • Jan 8, 2009: Updated link about importing (see Introduction).
  • Jan 21, 2009: Added note about Excel not being required on the server


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


About the Author

Software Developer
United States United States
likes boardgames, computer games, and enjoys his .net programming job.

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralGetting Error Message Pin
trantrum13-Jan-09 3:01
professionaltrantrum13-Jan-09 3:01 
GeneralRe: Getting Error Message Pin
ColinBashBash13-Jan-09 4:15
memberColinBashBash13-Jan-09 4:15 
RantXmlTextWriter Pin
jonnyroyster13-Jan-09 0:03
memberjonnyroyster13-Jan-09 0:03 
GeneralGood work Pin
Dr.Luiji12-Jan-09 23:16
professionalDr.Luiji12-Jan-09 23:16 
GeneralYou can also use Transform function of XslCompliedTransform class in .Net Framework to complete this work Pin
songjietoo6-Jan-09 19:57
membersongjietoo6-Jan-09 19:57 
GeneralRe: You can also use Transform function of XslCompliedTransform class in .Net Framework to complete this work Pin
ColinBashBash7-Jan-09 3:19
memberColinBashBash7-Jan-09 3:19 
GeneralRe: You can also use Transform function of XslCompliedTransform class in .Net Framework to complete this work Pin
Cstruter20-Oct-10 19:55
memberCstruter20-Oct-10 19:55 

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