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Folding spreadsheets into neat shapes.

Project description

Laundry: Folding spreadsheets into neat shapes

Spreadsheets are easy to record and manipulate data with but do a poor job of displaying the data in an easy to read way. Laundry provides a simple way of converting spreadsheet data into Word files by by specifying the output document's format within the spreadsheet itself.

Laundry provides two modes in which to generate the Word files:

  • Single file mode, where details of a single output file are defined and passed at the CLI, and
  • Multi file mode. where multiple output files can be defined and batched from a worksheet within the original Excel spreadsheet.

While spreadsheets are, in many aspects, similar to database tables, Laundry is only a formatting tool and not a database.


A general overview of how Laundry operates is:

  1. Having a spreadsheet containing some organised data stored in the data_worksheet. There is no restriction on how the data stored is the data_worksheet other than it must be a flat table.

  2. Defining the output structure within a separate worksheet contained within the spreadsheet. This is known as the structure_worksheet.

  3. The structure_worksheet references data to be formatted by using the the data's column names, the styles contained within the template_file, and how the data will be arranged, for example, as a table, paragraph or photo. The structure_worksheet does have a specific format that must be used to ensure that the conversion process takes place.

  4. A template_file Word document (.docx file) is used as the basis of the output file. This file will contain the styles that will be used to format the output file.

  5. If a batch process is desired a batch_worksheet will be required to define the above requirements.

  6. The app is run using the command line interface (CLI). This is as easy as:

    • laundry single -t <template_file> <input_file> <output_file>, or
    • laundry multi <input_file>

Running the App

Laundry is operated from the command line, so if you're not familiar with command line then you'll need to familarise yourself with it first.

There are two ways of running Laundry, single mode and and multi mode.

Single mode will convert a single data_worksheet into a output_file based on the template_file using the structure defined in the structure_worksheet. You may need to define the data-header if the data is not in the first row of the data_worksheet.

Multi mode allows one or more output_files based on information defined in the format_worksheet. This mode still requires the same information as single mode but it is stored within a worksheet in the input_file.


Input File

The input_file is the spreadsheet that contains the data to be formatted and exported to the output_file.

The input_file must contain worksheets that contain:

  • The structure or output formatting requirements of the output file: this is the structure_worksheet.
  • When the multi sub-command a format_worksheet is required to allow the batch operation to take place.

The input_file's data is stored in the data_worksheet. This worksheet can be given any name provided it doesn't clash with the structure_worksheet name.

Structure Worksheet

A structure worksheet must be defined for each output file that will be produced. In single mode the worksheet is assumed to be associated with the data worksheet that is passed to the app. In multi mode a single structure worksheet can be used for multiple output files, however it must be explicitly referenced for each output file.

The following column names must implemented in the structure_worksheet. If they are not used the app will not work.


This defines the type of section that will be inserted with the output document. The top-to-bottom order will determine the order of the types in the output_file. The options that are currently supported are:

  • para: This will insert a paragraph with the column header being the paragraph title styled using the style defined in section_style.

  • table: Will insert a table that contains the data contained in section_contains cell with the table column containing the same column heading as the original data (with any underscores removed).

  • heading: Will use the data contained within the cell as a section heading made up of a title (column heading) and a paragraph (cell contents).

  • photo: Inserts one or more photos (images) into the paragraph. Multiple images can be added by including them in the section_contains column. The photo column heading is used to provide a file path to the directory containing the files. Including the photo's file extension is not required. The app will sequence through a number of popular formats before providing an error message to the standard output and adding the error message to the output document.


This contains one or more of the column names used in the data worksheet. Multiple column names can be used with table using section_type provided the are separated by new lines (alt + enter) in the cell, or commas. new lines are the preferred method.


This Word style contained within the template_file's .docx file. If this style is not in the template_file then Word's default styles will be used. This is a limitation of Word.


The Word formatting style to be used for titles within the document. This column does not apply to tables.


Must be either True or False. If True it will insert an empty paragraph provide a visual break between it and the following paragraph.


Must be either True or False. If True it will insert a page break (that is, start a new page) after the paragraph. This is useful for clearly separating information that is related to different data_worksheet rows.


This defines the relative file path to the directory (folder) containing the photos. All photos referenced in the cell must be stored in the same directory.

section_type Limits

Each of the section_type types have some limit regarding their operation.

  • Where heading is used it should be a single column heading per paragraph.

  • Where paragraph is used it should be a single column heading per paragraph.

  • table can use any number of columns headings. Each column heading should be separated by a newline (\n) (preferred option) or by a comma (,).

  • section_style can only be a single value. This is a string (text) that can contain spaces. Make sure that the spelling and capitalisation is correct.

  • title_style can only be a single value. This is a string (text) that can contain spaces. Make sure that the spelling and capitalisation is correct.

  • page_break is a True/False value.

Arranging Spreadsheet Data

The following applies to the both single and multi sub-commands.


The data_worksheet contains the data that will be formatted into the output_file.

  1. The column headers should be in row 0 (that is, the first row) in the worksheet. If not,

    • When using single sub-command the --data-head option must to be used, and the row number specified. For example if the column headers start on row 5:

    laundry single -df=5 -t <template-file> <input-file> <output-file>

    • When using multi mode the row must be recorded in the header row column.

    laundry multi -f <format-worksheet> <input-file>

  2. Do not use numbers for column header names. This will cause problems.

  3. Column header names should avoid spaces, and either use underscores (_) or use camel case (ThisIsAnExampleOfCamelCase). Stick numbers at the end of the names if you need numbers in the name.

  4. If you want multiple paragraphs or bullet points, or more than one image, then use alt-enter in an Excel cell to allow this to take place.

  5. Include the file extension (for example .jpg, .png) when entering including images in the cell. File extensions are part of the file name and the app expects them to be included.


  1. The column headers must be in row 0 (that is, the first row) in the worksheet. If not, the app will not work.

  2. The section_type must be one of the following:

    • photo
    • para
    • table
    • heading
  3. table sections do not require a value for title_style.

  4. photo sections do not require a value for title_style or section_style, however they do require path to be completed.

  5. section_break and page_break must be TRUE or FALSE.


The batch_worksheet defines the requirements for each of the output files. The spreadsheet will require a row for each file that is to be output.

data_worksheet requirements

This is the name of the data_worksheet that contains the data to be exported as described above.

structure_worksheet requirements

Thestructure_worksheetdefines how the output file will be structured. This is the same as described above.

header_row requirements

The number of the row that defines the header row in the data_worksheet. This functionally identical to the -dh flag used with the single sub-command as described above.

drop_empty_columns requirements

Not currently used.

template_file requirements

The name of the .docxfile being used as the template for the output file. Different template files can be used provided that the are all stored in the directory that the laundry command is run from.


This allows rows to be filtered from the output file by only including the rows that meet the criteria defined in the filter. More than one row can be specified to filter by.

The row requires a particular format <row_heading>:<criteria1,...,criteriaN>. The heading row must be separated from the filter criteria by a colon (:). The filters criteria must be separated by commas (,), and each row must be separated by a newline (alt-enter in Excel).

The filter criteria must be identical to the cell values. If the criteria can take different forms, that either:

  • All forms must be included in the filter, or
  • Correct all the values so that they take common form (probably the better option).


The name of the file that is produced by the app. The file will be saved in the directory that the app is run from. The file name can be a relative or absolute file path.


The following is a list of commonly experienced issues.

I get something containing KeyError and what looks like a column header

The likely culprit is an incorrectly spelt column header in the structure_worksheet or you haven't allowed for the conversion of underscores (_) replacing spaces within the column headers.

Something like No sheet named <[some_worksheet_name]>

Check the data_worksheet and structure_worksheet names that you've used when running the app from the CLI. Check for spelling mistakes.

Error: Invalid value for "input_file" appears

Check the spelling of the input_file's name and that the file path is correct. The app will check that the input_file exists before attempting to run the app.

AttributeError: 'int' object has no attribute 'lower'

The likely issue here is the column headers are not contained in the first row of the data_worksheet. Also check that none of the column headers are numbers.

Error: Invalid value for "--template" / "-t": Path "[some_path_&_filename].docx" does not exist.

The template_file filename is incorrect. This could also be the path to the file. Check both.

I have a heap of formatted empty pages at the bottom of my converted_file.

For each row of your data_worksheet that contains some data the app will produce a formatted section. By removing all the rows that you don't want at the bottom of the data_worksheet you can prevent this from occurring. There is a way to drop rows that are missing data, however this requires some work to enable this feature.

KeyError: "no style with name '[some_Word_style]'"

The Word formatting style is not present in the template_file. Check that the style name matches exactly its name in Word.

Some Word styles appear to be concatenations of other styles within Word, e.g. 'Heading 3, List'. These styles don't work as expected and the reason for this has not been determined.

How do I use a specific Word style?

Due to limitations with Word user specific styles need to be saved to the template_file for them to be available. If the specified name is not present in the template_file then the app will not function.

I want to create a single table from the data but every row has the header details: how do I remove the header details without using Word?

This is a known problem, currently without a solution. A solution is being considered.

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