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OOoPy: Modify documents in Python

Project description


Ralf Schlatterbeck <> (OOo) documents are ZIP archives containing several XML files. Therefore it is easy to inspect, create, or modify OOo documents. OOoPy is a library in Python for these tasks with OOo documents. To not reinvent the wheel, OOoPy uses an existing XML library, ElementTree by Fredrik Lundh. OOoPy is a thin wrapper around ElementTree using Python’s ZipFile to read and write OOo documents.

In addition to being a wrapper for ElementTree, OOoPy contains a framework for applying XML transforms to OOo documents. Several Transforms for OOo documents exist, e.g., for changing OOo fields (OOo Insert-Fields menu) or using OOo fields for a mail merge application. Some other transformations for modifying OOo settings and meta information are also given as examples.

Applications like this come in handy in applications where calling native OOo is not an option, e.g., in server-side Web applications.

If the mailmerge transform doesn’t work for your document: The OOo format is well documented but there are ordering constraints in the body of an OOo document. I’ve not yet figured out all the tags and their order in the OOo body. Individual elements in an OOo document (like e.g., frames, sections, tables) need to have their own unique names. After a mailmerge, there are duplicate names for some items. So far I’m renumbering only frames, sections, and tables. See the renumber objects at the end of ooopy/ So if you encounter missing parts of the mailmerged document, check if there are some renumberings missing or send me a bug report.

There is currently not much documentation except for a python doctest in and and the command-line utilities. For running these test, after installing ooopy (assuming here you installed using python into /usr/local):

cd /usr/local/share/ooopy
python /usr/local/lib/python2.X/site-packages/ooopy/
python /usr/local/lib/python2.X/site-packages/ooopy/

Both should report no failed tests. For running the doctest on python2.3 with the metaclass trickery of autosuper, see the file For later versions of python the bug in doctest is already fixed.


There were some slight changes to the API when supporting the open document format introduced with OOo 2.0. See below if you get a traceback when upgrading from an old version.

See the online documentation, e.g.:

% python
>>> from ooopy.OOoPy import OOoPy
>>> help (OOoPy)
>>> from ooopy.Transformer import Transformer
>>> help (Transformer)

Help, I’m getting an AssertionError traceback from Transformer, e.g.:

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "./", line 17, in ?
    t = Transformer(Field_Replace(replace = replace_dictionary))
  File "/usr/local/lib/python2.4/site-packages/ooopy/", line 1226, in __init__
    assert (mimetype in mimetypes)

The API changed slightly when implementing handling of different versions of OOo files. Now the first parameter you pass to the Transformer constructor is the mimetype of the document you intend to transform. The mimetype can be fetched from another opened OOo document, e.g.:

ooo = OOoPy (infile = 'test.odt', outfile = 'test_out.odt')
t = Transformer(ooo.mimetype, ...

Usage of Command-Line Utilities

A, well, there are command-line utilities now:

  • ooo_cat for concatenating several OOo files into one

  • ooo_grep to do equivalent of grep -l on OOo files – only runs on Unix-like operating systems, probably only with the GNU version of grep (it’s a shell-script using ooo_as_text)

  • ooo_fieldreplace for replacing fields in an OOo document

  • ooo_mailmerge for doing a mailmerge from a template OOo document and a CSV (comma separated values) input

  • ooo_as_text for getting the text from an OOo-File (e.g., for doing a “grep” on the output).

  • ooo_prettyxml for pretty-printing the XML nodes of one of the XML files inside an OOo document. Mainly useful for debugging.

All utilities take a --help option.


Project information and download from Sourceforge main page

You need at least version 2.3 of python.

For using OOoPy with Python versions below 2.5, you need to download and install the ElementTree Library by Fredrik Lundh. For documentation about the OOo XML file format, see the book by J. David Eisenberg called OASIS OpenDocument Essentials which is under the Gnu Free Documentation License and is also available in print. For a reference document you may want to check out the XML File Format Specification (PDF) by

A german page for OOoPy exists at

Reporting Bugs

Please use the Sourceforge Bug Tracker and

  • attach the OOo document that reproduces your problem

  • give a short description of what you think is the correct behaviour

  • give a description of the observed behaviour

  • tell me exactly what you did.


Version 1.11: Small Bug fix ooo_mailmerge

Now ooo_mailmerge uses the delimiter option, it was ignored before. Thanks to Bob Danek for report and test.

  • Fix setting csv delimiter in ooo_mailmerge

Version 1.10: Fix table styles when concatenating

Now ooo_cat fixes tables styles when concatenating (renaming): We optimize style usage by re-using existing styles. But for some table styles the original names were not renamed to the re-used ones. Fixes SF Bug 10, thanks to Claudio Girlanda for reporting.

  • Fix style renaming for table styles when concatenating documents

  • Add some missing namespaces (ooo 2009)

Version 1.9: Add Picture Handling for Concatenation

Now ooo_cat supports pictures, thanks to Antonio Sánchez for reporting that this wasn’t working.

  • Add a list of filenames + contents to Transformer

  • Update this file-list in Concatenate

  • Add Manifest_Append transform to update META-INF/manifest.xml with added filenames

  • Add hook in OOoPy for adding files

  • Update tests

  • Update ooo_cat to use new transform

  • This is the first release after migration of the version control from Subversion to GIT

Version 1.8: Minor bugfixes

Distribute a missing file that is used in the doctest. Fix directory structure. Thanks to Michael Nagel for suggesting the change and reporting the bug.

  • The file testenum.odt was missing from

  • All OOo files and other files needed for testing are now in the subdirectory testfiles.

  • All command line utilities are now in subdirectory bin.

Version 1.7: Minor feature additions

Add –newlines option to ooo_as_text: With this option the paragraphs in the office document are preserved in the text output. Fix assertion error with python2.7, thanks to Hans-Peter Jansen for the report. Several other small fixes for python2.7 vs. 2.6.

  • add –newlines option to ooo_as_text

  • fix assertion error with python2.7 reported by Hans-Peter Jansen

  • fix several deprecation warnings with python2.7

  • remove zip compression sizes from regression test: the compressor in python2.7 is better than the one in python2.6

Version 1.6: Minor bugfixes

Fix compression: when writing new XML-files these would be stored instead of compressed in the OOo zip-file resulting in big documents. Thanks to Hans-Peter Jansen for the patch. Add copyright notice to command-line utils (SF Bug 2650042). Fix mailmerge for OOo 3.X lists (SF Bug 2949643).

  • fix compression flag, patch by Hans-Peter Jansen

  • add regression test to check for compression

  • now release ooo_prettyxml – I’ve used this for testing for quite some time, may be useful to others

  • Add copyright (LGPL) notice to command-line utilities, fixes SF Bug 2650042

  • OOo 3.X adds xml:id tags to lists, we now renumber these in the mailmerge app., fixes SF Bug 2949643

Version 1.5: Minor feature enhancements

Add ooo_grep to search for OOo files containing a pattern. Thanks to Mathieu Chauvinc for the reporting the problems with modified manifest.xml. Support python2.6, thanks to Erik Myllymaki for reporting and anonymous contributor(s) for confirming the bug.

  • New shell-script ooo_grep (does equivalent to grep -l on OOo Files)

  • On deletion of an OOoPy object close it explicitly (uses __del__)

  • Ensure mimetype is the first element in the resulting archive, seems OOo is picky about this.

  • When modifying the manifest the resulting .odt file could not be opened by OOo. So when modifying manifest make sure the manifest namespace is named “manifest” not something auto-generated by ElementTree. I consider this a bug in OOo to require this. This now uses the _namespace_map of ElementTree and uses the same names as OOo for all namespaces. The META-INF/manifest.xml is now in the list of files to which Transforms can be applied.

  • When modifying (or creating) archive members, we create the OOo archive as if it was a DOS system (type fat) and ensure we use the current date/time (UTC). This also fixes problems with file permissions on newer versions of pythons ZipFile.

  • Fix for python2.6 behavior that __init__ of object may not take any arguments. Fixes SF Bug 2948617.

  • Finally – since OOoPy is in production in some projects – change the development status to “Production/Stable”.

Version 1.4: Minor bugfixes

Fix Doctest to hopefully run on windows. Thanks to Dani Budinova for testing thoroughly under windows.

  • Open output-files in “wb” mode instead of “w” in doctest to not create corrupt OOo documents on windows.

  • Use double quotes for arguments when calling system, single quotes don’t seem to work on windows.

  • Dont use redirection when calling system, use -i option for input file instead. Redirection seems to be a problem on windows.

  • Explicitly call the python-interpreter, running a script directly is not supported on windows.

Version 1.3: Minor bugfixes

Regression-test failed because some files were not distributed. Fixes SF Bugs 1970389 and 1972900.

  • Fix to include all files needed for regression test (doctest).

Version 1.2: Major feature enhancements

Add ooo_fieldreplace, ooo_cat, ooo_mailmerge command-line utilities. Fix ooo_as_text to allow specification of output-file. Note that handling of non-seekable input/output (pipes) for command-line utils will work only starting with python2.5. Minor bug-fix when concatenating documents.

  • Fix _divide (used for dividing body into parts that must keep sequence). If one of the sections was empty, body parts would change sequence.

  • Fix handling of cases where we don’t have a paragraph (only list) elements

  • Implement ooo_cat

  • Fix ooo_as_text to include more command-line handling

  • Fix reading/writing stdin/stdout for command-line utilities, this will work reliably (reading/writing non-seekable input/output like, e.g., pipes) only with python2.5

  • implement ooo_fieldreplace and ooo_mailmerge

Version 1.1: Minor bugfixes

Small Documentation changes

  • Fix css stylesheet

  • Link to SF logo for Homepage

  • Link to other information updated

  • Version numbers in documentation fixed

  • Add some checks for new API – first parameter of Transformer is checked now

  • Ship files needed for running the doctest and explain how to run it

  • Usage section

Version 1.0: Major feature enhancements

Now works with version 2.X of Minor API changes.

  • Tested with python 2.3, 2.4, 2.5

  • OOoPy now works for OOo version 1.X and version 2.X

  • New attribute mimetype of OOoPy – this is automatically set when reading a document, and should be set when writing one.

  • renumber_all, get_meta, set_meta are now factory functions that take the mimetype of the open office document as a parameter.

  • Since renumber_all is now a function it will (correctly) restart numbering for each new Attribute_Access instance it returns.

  • Built-in elementtree support from python2.5 is used if available

  • Fix bug in optimisation of original document for concatenation

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