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OOoPy: Modify documents in Python

Project description (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.

Don’t be alarmed by the Alpha-Status of the Software: Reading and writing of OOo documents is stable as well as most transforms.

The only problematic transform is mailmerge: 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. Another known shortcoming of OOoPys mailmerge is the renumbering of body parts of an OOo document. Individual parts (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.

Another reason for the Alpha-Status is stability of the API. I may still change the API slightly. There were some slight changes to the API when supporting the open document format introduced with OOo 2.0.

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 python2.4 into /usr/local):

cd /usr/local/share/ooopy
python2.4 /usr/local/lib/python2.4/site-packages/ooopy/
python2.4 /usr/local/lib/python2.4/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.


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, ...

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

  • ooo_cat for concatenating several OOo files into one
  • 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).


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 will probably be printed soon. 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 1.4: 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

Project details

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