Common Lisp OpenDocument spreadsheet export library

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Jussi Lahdenniemi <>


Jussi Lahdenniemi <>




It is sometimes necessary to offer users of e.g. a web service the option to export their data from your application to the outside world. Often, a good format would be a spreadsheet document, as it offers a simple way of displaying and editing tabular data, and people have over the years become quite familiar in misusing Excel for a variety of things Excel was not designed for.

clods-export helps you by writing out OpenDocument Spreadsheet files. It does not try to implement functionality needed by proper spreadsheet applications and it does not support reading in ODS formatted data, but it tries to make creation of ODS files straightforward and easy.

For a quick start, look at example.lisp. A short API reference is given below, but to fully understand how all parameters work I recommend studying the OpenDocument XML format specification as well.

Caveat! Different software (Excel, LibreOffice, OpenOffice) handle ODS data in a different manner, and are a bit incompatible. So, you should check your generated data on all of the applicable programs in order to see that all formatting goes through as you intended.

Document structure

An ODS document consists of three parts: Definitions for fonts, definitions for styles, and the actual data content. These parts must be specified, in this order, to clods-export as well.

Start by wrapping your export functionality inside a with-spreadsheet form. The name of the generated ODS file is given as an argument, along with metadata (name of the application generating the document and the human creator of the data). Inside the spreadsheet, you then define fonts, styles and content:

(clods:with-spreadsheet ("my.ods" :generator "My app" :creator "Me")
  (clods:using-fonts ()
  (clods:using-styles (:locale ...)
  (clods:with-body ()
    (clods:with-table ("Sheet one")
    (clods:with-table ("Sheet two")

Specifying fonts

Fonts are specified using the clods:font function inside a clods:using-fonts form. clods:font takes the name of the font definition as its first argument, and a number of optional key arguments describing the font properties:

  • :family (string), for example as "Arial"
  • :family-generic (keyword), from clods:font-generic-families
  • :size (string), length value such as "12pt" or "0.8cm"
  • :style (keyword), from clods:font-styles
  • :weight (keyword), from clods:font-weights
  • :variant (keyword), from clods:font-variants
  • :stretch (keyword), from clods:font-stretches
  • :adornments (string).

Note that certain font details can be specified along with text properties when defining cell styles, as well.

Excel understands the name of the font definition as a synonym for the font family. That is, if you want to be Excel compatible, you must match the font's name argument with the :family argument:

;; works on LibreOffice and OpenOffice but not on Excel:
(clods:font "normal" :family "Arial")
;; works on all three:
(clods:font "Arial" :family "Arial")

Specifying styles

ODS defines formatting on several levels. On the lowest level, there are data styles (number styles) that specify how data is formatted into strings to be displayed. Then, cell styles specify formatting inside a single cell. Column and row styles define the width/height of the column/row as well as the default cell style to be applied.

Styles are defined hierarchically, so that styles can inherit properties from other styles. However, this inheritance fails spectacularly on LibreOffice and OpenOffice (but does seem to work on Excel), so it is probably a good idea to define every style from the bottom up.

Both data styles and cell styles also contain text properties that define visual aspects of the displayed text.


Locale, as defined by clods-export, is a simple object that contains the following four slots:

  • country (string) the associated ISO 3166 country code
  • grouping-separator (base-char) the character inserted between number groups
  • grouping-count (integer) length of a single number group
  • decimal-separator (base-char) the character between integer and decimal parts of a real number.

Locales can be created with the function clods:make-locale. For example, the Finnish locale, where a large decimal number is written as "1 234 567,89", would be defined as follows:

(clods:make-locale "FI" #\space 3 #\,)

Text properties

Text property definitions are lists containing pairs of keywords and values. The set of supported keywords is listed in clods:*text-properties* and they map directly to those defined in the OpenDocument specification.

Number formatting

Numbers can be displayed in three different representations: standard numbers, scientific numbers and fractions. The representation to be used is deduced from the arguments in the number format specification, which is a list of keyword-value pairs. The following keywords are supported:

  • :min-integer-digits specifies the minimum number of digits in the integer part of the number. Supported by all number representations.
  • :decimal-places specifies the minimum number of decimal digits after the decimal separator. Supported by standard and scientific numbers.
  • :decimal-replacement specifies the string to be added (instead of zeros) as the decimal part of an integer number, if :decimal-places is specified as well.
  • :display-factor scales down the number for displaying. Supported by standard numbers only.
  • :number-grouping groups the integer part of the number according to the locale. Supported by standard numbers only.
  • :min-exponent-digits specifies the minimum number of exponent digits to be shown. Supported by scientific numbers only; adding this flag forces scientific representation.
  • :denominator-value forces the use of a specific denominator in the fraction. Supported by fractions only; adding this flag forces fractional representation.
  • :min-denominator-digits specifies the minimum number of digits on the denominator of the fractional number. Supported by fractions only; adding this flag forces fractional representation.
  • :min-numerator-digits specifies the minimum number of digits on the numerator of the fractional number. Supported by fractions only; adding this flag forces fractional representation.

Note that LibreOffice and OpenOffice require quite complete number specifications in order to display numbers correctly. Thus, you should specify things like :min-integer-digits 1 even though they seem superfluous, if you wish these applications to show your data correctly.

Data styles

There are several different data formatting types. In addition to the type-specific arguments described below, they all accept the keyword arguments :locale (of type locale) and :text-properties (a list that contains text property definitions).

  • (number-boolean-style name true false &key prefix suffix) formats data that must be one of the keywords :true and :false into the textual representations given on the true and false (string) arguments. An optional prefix or suffix can be added.
  • (number-time-style name format) formats a local-time:timestamp into a textual representation given in format. format must be a list that contains strings (which will be formatted as such) and keywords from the following set: :long-hours, :short-hours, :long-minutes, :short-minutes, :long-seconds, :short-seconds and :am-pm. If the :am-pm keyword is present, hours will be formatted in 12-hour format, otherwise in 24-hour format. The long versions will format the data in two digits, short versions using one or two digits.
  • (number-date-style name format) formats a local-time:timestamp in a similar manner to the number-time-style. All the formatting directives specified above work here as well, with the addition of the following keywords: :long-day, :short-day, :long-month, :short-month, :long-year, :short-year, :long-era, :short-era, :short-day-of-week, :long-day-of-week, :short-week-of-year, :long-week-of-year, :short-quarter and :long-quarter. However, clods-export does not currently support formatting era, day-of-week and week-of-year.
  • (number-number-style name format &key prefix suffix) is the main number formatting facility. The format argument is a list as defined above in the Number formatting section. Additionally, arbitrary strings given in the prefix and suffix arguments can be prefixed or appended to the formatting result.
  • (number-percentage-style name format &key prefix suffix) formats a number as a percentage value. In essence, this means that the value is multiplied by 100 before being displayed. Also, suffix defaults to the string " %".
  • (number-currency-style name format) formats a number as a monetary value. The format here is a list of keyword-value pairs. The keyword :number precedes a list that specifies number formatting as in the previous number styles, and the keywords :symbol and :text should be followed by strings that are printed verbatim. The difference between :symbol and :text values is semantic; visually, they produce similar results.
  • (number-text-style name &key prefix suffix) simply formats a string input by preceding it with the optional prefix and appending the optional suffix.

Cell styles

For a cell style, you can define text properties, and a set of other formatting keyword arguments:

(clods:cell-style name parent-style text-properties &key ...)

Cell styles support inheritance, so you can build your styles on top of each other by using the parent-style argument. Note, though, that not all applications obey the inheritance.

The available keyword arguments are:

  • :horizontal-align (one of :start, :center, :end, :justify, :left, :right)
  • :vertical-align (one of :top, :middle, :bottom, :automatic)
  • :text-align-source (one of :fix, :value-type)
  • :background (:transparent or a string color definition "#xxxxxx")
  • :border, :border-left, :border-top, :border-right, :border-bottom specify a list of three elements: (width style color), where width is one of :auto, :normal, :bold, :thin, :medium, :thick; style is one of :none :solid :dotted :dash :long-dash :dot-dash :dot-dot-dash :wave, and color is a string color definition "#xxxxxx". Specifying :border applies the same border to all edges.
  • :wrap takes a generalized boolean defining if the cell's contents wrap or not.
  • :rotation-angle takes an angle as a number or a string.

Row styles

Row styles are defined as follows:

(clods:row-style name parent-style &key ...)

The available keyword arguments are:

  • :height (string) height of the row, as a length value (e.g. "16pt" or "12mm")
  • :min-height (string) as above
  • :use-optimal-height (generalized boolean) allow the application to automatically set the row's height according to content
  • :background (:transparent or a string color definition "#xxxxxx")

Column styles

Column styles are defined as follows:

(clods:column-style name parent-style &key ...)

The available keyword arguments are:

  • :width (string) width of the row, as a length value (e.g. "90pt" or "5.5cm")
  • :rel-width (string) as above
  • :use-optimal-width (generalized boolean) allow the application to automatically set the column's width according to content

Table styles

Table styles are included for the sake of completeness.

(clods:table-style name parent-style &key ...)

The available keyword arguments are:

  • :width
  • :rel-width
  • :align
  • :background.

Table content

Each worksheet on the document are defined inside a clods:with-table form. The sheet's name, usually shown on a tab at the bottom of the spreadsheet application's view, is given as an argument. Inside the with-table form first the table's columns are defined, followed by the rows containing the actual data in cells:

(clods:with-table ("Table name")
  (clods:with-header-columns ()
    (clods:column ...)
  (clods:with-header-rows ()
    (clods:with-row (...)
      (clods:cell ...)
  (clods:with-row (...)
    (clods:cell ...)

The semantic grouping of certain columns and rows into the header columns/rows groups is optional and has no visual effect on the table.

Defining columns

(clods:column &key repeat style visibility cell-style)

  • If the :repeat argument is specified, the column is repeated the specified number of times, making it easy to define a table with many similarly formatted columns.
  • :style refers to a previously defined column-style.
  • :visibility is one of :visible, :collapse and :filter.
  • :cell-style refers to a previously defined cell-style, and defines the default style to be applied for all cells in this column.

Defining rows

(clods:with-row (&key repeat style visibility cell-style) ...)

The keyword arguments are similar to those given to clods:column.

Defining cells

(clods:cell content &key style formula span-columns span-rows link)

Cells contain the actual data on the table. The content of each cell is given in the content argument that may be nil if the cell is empty. The keyword arguments are as follows:

  • :style refers to a previously defined cell-style.
  • :formula is a string that contains a formula for the cell. Formulas are not understood or processed by clods-export; they are simply written to the document as-is.
  • :span-columns and :span-rows can be used to make the cell span several adjacent cells in either direction. Horizontally spanned cells (:span-columns) are automatically marked as covered, but vertically covered cells must be handled by the application (see clods:covered-cell below).
  • If :link is specified, the cell is made into a hyperlink with the link argument as the target.

If the cell contains a :style argument, that style is used for formatting. Otherwise, if the current row has specified a :cell-style, that is used. If not, but the current column specifies a :cell-style, it takes effect. Otherwise, only string content is supported.

In addition to the data style specified by the active cell style, the formatting of the cell's content depends on the type of the content argument.

  • null content means an empty cell.
  • real numbers are written using a number formatter. The active data style must be one of number-number-style, number-currency-style and number-percentage-style.
  • local-time:timestamp specify dates and times. The active data style must be one of number-time-style and number-date-style.
  • keyword, one of :true and :false, means boolean content. The active data style must be a number-boolean-style.
  • string content is written out as-is, regardless of the active data style. However, if the active data style is number-text-style, the possible prefix and suffix information are used in the formatting.

(clods:cells &rest content)

For convenience, a set of adjacent cells on the same row requiring no special formatting can be written out in a single function call to clods:cells.

(clods:covered-cell &optional n)

When a cell has a :span-rows argument larger than 1, the adjacent cells on the following rows in the same column (that is, those cells covered by the spanning cell) have to be marked as covered. clods-export does not take care of this; it is left to the application.

Contact information

If you have a bug to report, or an enhancement to suggest, you can reach me at

Dependencies (6)

  • alexandria
  • cl-fad
  • cxml
  • iterate
  • local-time
  • zip

Dependents (0)

    • GitHub
    • Quicklisp